People may think athletes don't get caught up in body image issues, but many athletes are perfectionists who push themselves hard to be the best. Unfortunately, it is easy to misdirect that energy toward striving for what they deem to be perfect bodies.
Here's the thing: The perfect body is not a universal thing; your perfect body should be a healthy body that lets you do the things you want to do, like cheering. If you feel like you do not have a strong, healthy body, then talk to your doctor and your coach about steps you can take to improve your health and fitness. Focus on implementing lifestyle changes that will make you feel good, not on looking like a cover model, to help you keep things in perspective.
We are all human and it's unlikely that you'll never struggle with body image again. But it's a shame to waste even a minute of your life being unhappy with a perfectly healthy body, so remember these things to help you bounce back to enjoying and appreciating your health:
- What other people say and think about you says more about them than it does about you. This goes both ways, so be kind!
- But, that being said, people probably aren't thinking or saying bad things about you. People are worrying about themselves and how they look and what everyone else thinks about them. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all just be easy on ourselves and easy on each other and get on with more important things—like nailing stunts and mastering routines?
- Don't hold yourself to meaningless, subjective standards. Remind yourself that you are smart, you are loyal, you are kind, you are a hard worker, and you are a good cheerleader and teammate. Hold yourself to those standards, not some magazine picture that's probably fake anyway.
- Think of your body with gratitude and appreciation, not criticism. Just breathing and thinking and moving are pretty amazing, but your body does even more than the basics. Cheerleading isn't easy. Why would you dislike your legs or arms for not looking like you think they should when they help you do incredible things? Take care of them, don't hate on them!
- Think of your future self. In 10 or 20 years, you are going to look back at a picture of yourself now and think, "Wow, I looked great. I wish I would have realized that and enjoyed it instead of being so negative." You can avoid having the regret right now by accepting yourself, appreciating your body, and using your brain space for more fun and important things than holding negative thoughts.
Occasional body image concerns are normal, but if you can't shake bad thoughts about yourself or find yourself going to extremes to get your body to look a certain way, like excessive exercise or dieting, seek help from your friends and family. Talk to your coach, a parent or relative, a school counselor, or a friend. You can get better, and you will be so much happier if you overcome it rather than spending another minute of your life being too hard on yourself and believing lies.