Influencer: A word used by Instagram users to describe themselves to make them feel famous and more important.
While this definition from Urban Dictionary makes me giggle, the sad reality is that there are a lot of people who just “do it for the gram” in the hopes of becoming Insta famous. This is especially true in the fitness industry, where people post perfectly toned, tight tushes, bouncy breasts, flawless faces, and awe-inspiring abs with the promise that you too can look like this if you hire this trainer, take this supplement, or join this class. But will you? Do these fitness “influencers” even look like that?
Remember in the movie “Legally Blonde” when the famed fitness guru Brooke Winthrop confessed that she had liposuction? “No real woman could ever have this ass,” she yells in shame. She’s not wrong. For as long as there has been PhotoShop there have been magazine covers and swimsuit calendars selling what for some people is an impossible dream. And now with FaceTuning at our fingertips, even the most amateur photographers among us can turn our pictures into post-worthy perfection. But what are we really selling or (more importantly) saying about ourselves?
I am the first to admit that I will put an Instagram filter on a photo or try and find the bomb lighting—and I embrace Botox with every fiber of my being—and no—not just for my migraines;) But I’ll tell you which filter I use and I’ll give you the name of my dermatologist. Hell, I’ll even go with you if you’re scared of needles. But what I can’t master is the fine art of FaceTuning----—and I don’t want to. I’ve watched people try to reshape their bodies to look slimmer, erase half their faces in an attempt to minimize wrinkles or hide blemishes, and otherwise alter their appearances to the point that they are nearly unrecognizable. Don’t believe me? My oldest son recently went on a blind date and it took him several minutes to locate the girl at their designated meeting place because other than her hair color she looked NOTHING like her IG photos.
Here’s the thing: I’m 49. I’m fit and healthy, and I work my ass off at it---but I’m absolutely NOT flawless—nor have I ever been or pretended to be. I’ve had two children and two c-sections, weight fluctuations, injuries that recently kept me out of the gym for a long period of time, and don’t even get me started on just plain old gravity and aging skin. I don’t see the point in pretending, because I think that these things are part of how I relate to the clients I train or the riders who attend my cycle classes, whether they’re 16 or 60. I refuse to reshape my figure, or make my face look like a fuzzy, waxy blur in a photo to create an illusion that anyone who knows me will instantly recognize as fake—and then what does that say about my own self worth? How can I convince you to be confident in your body if I am obviously doctoring my own photos and the image you see in my feed is far removed from the way you see me every day—wrinkles and all.
This is a slippery slope y’all and I am the first to say, “Do you and whatever makes you feel good about yourself.” If that’s Botox, fillers, lipo, a boob job—knock yourself out. But when it comes to photos and feeds, I think you have to be careful and honest about what you are putting out there—especially if you are in the fitness industry. Why? Because (1) Unless you are REALLY good at FaceTuning (and I have yet to see anyone who is), it’s totally obvious anyway and (2) It makes you more relatable to just own your supposed “imperfections.” Don’t take yourself so seriously! I remember an interview with Cindy Crawford back in her heyday where she was quoted as saying, “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.”
Sure, I know a huge part of being a fitness instructor is being physically fit, but an even bigger part is connection---connection with clients, connection with class members, connection with community. People look to you for motivation and inspiration—not perfection. In fact, that illusion of perfection can often be extremely discouraging. Let people see your flaws and be honest about your struggles---THAT’S what people can relate to. Remember the most flattering light is the one that shines from within.