Perspective: Body Image and Athletics

We are constantly surrounded with images in the media that portray the “ideal body”. Our younger generation is heavily influenced by this and it must change. Sports must push to promote body positivity in order to create a more welcoming environment.

Victoria Soulodre

During the holiday season when I was younger, my parents would take me to see the Nutcracker at whatever local theatre had tickets available. I would squeeze into my dress from the year before and run into the car, excited to see the pretty ballerinas dance yet again. I loved it. The dresses, the elegance, the cool tricks, and of course, the dancers. Something about them enchanted my five-year-old self. I would look up at them and look down at myself, why didn’t I look like them? By the time I was around six years old, I quit dance. I didn’t think I could do it.

I didn’t realize the effect this had until recently when I realized that a lot of people experienced the same thing. Growing up with an image of what the “perfect athlete” looks like pasted everywhere, from our favorite tv shows to the local ballet. I’d never once seen a plus-size dancer or a Hispanic figure skater in any of my favorite movies. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when thousands of young kids grow up thinking they can’t do something purely based on how they look, something has to change. We need more representation in our world of sports. 

Young kids all over the world are being influenced by the lack of representation in every sport there is. Think about a ballerina, what image comes to mind? You’re probably thinking of a tall and skinny girl, right? Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking like that, but it shouldn’t be the only type of body we perceive as “perfect.” Each and every body is beautiful, sports need to start accepting that. 

Many influencers are taking this issue into their own hands by promoting positivity and representation on social media. On TikTok, many users such as @lizzy_dances and @victoriagarrick4 are using their platforms to educate and support our younger generations when it comes to body image and athletics. Lizzy Howell is a 19-year-old dancer who has gathered an audience of over 180k on TikTok and over 200k on Instagram. She has been posting her dances over the past few years, spreading a message that if you put your mind to something, you can do it no matter what society tells you. The same thing goes for Victoria Garrick, a USC volleyball alumni who began her TikTok career by sharing her own struggles with body image and promoting positive content for her younger audience. Both of these young women have proved anyone can succeed in athletics.

Positive influences are essential for our younger generation to grow up with the idea that they can do anything regardless of what they look like. More representation in sports means more kids believing they can participate and be a part of something special. No kids need to grow up with the idea that they can’t, we need more of these positive influences and we need them now.