Every woman I know has at least one crippling fear related to her appearance. One of my crippling fears: compression pants.
Even when I’m feeling good about my body, nothing will possess me to put on compression pants to go run or work out. If it’s 40 degrees, I’ll put shorts over leggings so I can hide everything that I think needs to be hidden, or not work out at all to avoid it altogether. While my body in a shirt or dress can be manipulated to make me appear “thin enough,” the same can’t be said for my body in compression pants.
Put another way, Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls” is my personal anthem. While that asset of my body can be beneficial at times, the bouncing, jiggling movement of exercise is not one of those times.
In a 2014 study, Glamour magazine found that 54 percent of women ages 18 to 40 are unhappy with their body, 13 percent higher than a similar study done in 1984. The study also revealed that 80 percent of women say the mirror makes them feel bad. Whether it’s a big forehead, stubby fingers or tree trunk legs, we all have a hangup.
A few weeks ago, I decided to battle a hangup. Over the past few months, I’ve enjoyed running outside too much to let slightly brisk temperatures push me to the treadmill just yet. So I started toying around with the petrifying notion of buying compression pants. I chose a pair of capris off the clearance rack at Target last week, unsure of how often I would melt myself down and pour myself into them.
Knowing the Saturday weather would be chilly, I donned a sweatshirt and the compression pants that morning. To say I was afraid to look in the mirror would be an understatement, but look, I did.
And I liked what I saw.
It’s likely no surprise that a big part of my body insecurities – and others’ insecurities – is the perceived judgements of others. According to Psychology Today, “In general, women are much more concerned about their appearance than men are. The key reason is that their appearance is central to how they’re evaluated by others.”
But the thoughts of the few people I passed during my run didn’t occur to me. All I could think about was how warm my legs were and how proud I was of myself for braving the biting chill and oncoming drizzle to continue toward my fitness goals. In fact, I felt so at ease that I went to Meijer to pick up some things, putting myself in a public space in compression pants. I might have checked myself out as I passed the mirrors in the home goods section.
I considered including a photo of me in the compression pants (what better way to prove my confidence, right?), but then I recalled that it has done me no good – and probably did harm instead – to see other women strutting their stuff in a sports bra, cutout dress, etc. By no means am I belittling their confidence or accomplishments, but I know what I do when I see those pictures; I immediately compare myself to her.
“The truth is that women’s insecurity about their appearance is driven by competition with other women,” according to PT. No matter a woman’s appearance, another woman looking at her will find something to covet. (That’s another blog for another time.)
So instead of looking at me in my compression pants, I urge you to tackle your own “compression pants” fear. I can’t guarantee you’ll get over your fear the same day you broach it, but I can guarantee that pushing yourself will make you feel more alive. That in itself is worth something.