First of all guys this post is not only about women so I encourage you to read on!
Wow, I feel like I need a T-shirt that says “I survived the 2016 election.” No matter which side of the political spectrum you stand this was one ROUGH election period. My fear is that we have not seen the end of the turmoil yet. It does pose the question though “What’s next?”
Beyond the politics women’s issues were obviously a frequent topic in this past election. I immediately put on my wellness thinking cap and here are a few thoughts as pertains to women and fit levels. For practicality I use fit and fitness interchangeably.
In a previous post Fit for duty: Women in Leadership I found two concepts to be integral to the promotion of fit females in leadership roles. I still feel they hold true.
- Change our definition of what it means to be fit!
- Foster greater diversity in female role models
Let’s talk about fit
From both a male and female perspective age and level of fitness came up numerous times during the election debates. While I’m not an expert on either Mr. Trump’s or Mrs. Clinton’s fit levels I do want to explore how we perceive a person’s capabilities or level of “being fit” especially as a leader.
Current modern culture (I grossly generalize here) looks primarily at age and cosmetic appearance often when assessing a person’s fit level. A perfect example is does the female have wrinkles on her face or dress in a slightly more mature and or less hip fashion. For the man, does he have a belly bulging under his shirt and or possibly thinning hair? In both women and men’s circles a person’s age is most definitely highlighted, with older insinuating less fit.
Thus, one assumes if a person has grey hair or is of a certain age that they must not be fit. We might even take it to the other extreme in that if one is wearing a T-shirt and flip flops that they might be too immature to lead. However, on the other hand we idolize fashion models and reality stars who dress in the latest designer fashions and have all types of assistance as in stylists, chefs, trainers and money to pay for a particular look.
Though you could say that “look” is staged and in fact might have little to do with their actual fit level. Having grown up in the dance and theater world, spending decades of my life on stage, I can honestly say there exist many “thin or delicate” bodies that are not fit by any stretch of the imagination. A costume is a costume whether on stage or in the political arena.
Until we begin to assess a person’s fit level with other dimensions beyond age and appearance we will struggle with enlarging the pool of truly fit leaders. Here are a few suggestions of other measurement tools than cosmetic appearance.
- Physical fitness as in stretch, strength, stamina and stability at any size
- Mental fitness as in discipline, emotional and critical thinking skills
- Commitment to social, spiritual, environmental and occupational wellness
- Time and human capital management capabilities
- Walk the walk in all of the above
While that’s a pretty tall list it at least begins to capture the essence of what constitutes being fit. We have to go beyond the outside appearance if we really want to know how someone is potentially going to hold up in a leadership role. The next step would be for organizations in the private and public sector to develop better fit assessment tools. They could start by defining fit more broadly as I suggest and integrating these in all policies.
Greater diversity means beyond weight
Another problem in my mind is we often think of being healthy as a certain numerical statistic, often with the idea that there is a good and bad. For example, BMI (Body Mass Index), body weight, cholesterol score, blood pressure and other medical marker. While I don’t dispute that certain statistics can in their totality be interesting they are not the end all, be all of an individual’s true health or fit level.
I also think, we as women are more heavily criticized particularly for weight. Full-sized ladies have to endure constant cruelty from not only the media but often colleagues in the workplace as well. I can tell you that even small women take their share of verbal abuse. Here’s a sampling of harshness I’ve personally been on the receiving end of and these are the ones fit to print.
- Skinny bitch
- Anorexic slut
- Go eat a piece of chocolate cake witch
- Ugly Barbie doll
The above comments were from individuals, all other women btw, that I did not know nor have any personal contact with. Thus, our society emboldens people to feel free to criticize others of which they have little background information on. I feel this might be diminished if other criteria beyond cosmetic appearance, age and or celebrity obsession were promoted.
A perfect example of this right now is that our president elect is a reality show star. While I’m not saying this is the only reason for his victory, one fact is true when the most talked about and promoted individuals are reality and celebrity stars we can expect they will win leadership positions. Who’s next in line a Kardashian, Paris Hilton or Kanye West?
How do we change this?
As an individual who works in the fitness industry I think we have to focus on rational fitness not Olympian type training. While sports and competitions are good for those who are competitive by nature it excludes many not interested in a fight to be fit.
That means encourage movement modalities that promote moving at all ages and sizes. Creating an atmosphere that allows individuals to build a strong core and learn solid principles that enhance basic body mechanics. By promoting accessible types of fitness we allow more individuals the opportunity to be fit and enlarge the pool of potential leaders.
Address the whole individual in worksite wellness and basic health programs. For many decades wellness at work has concentrated on only the physical. This creates an atmosphere that the other aspects of wellness are not important. If you contrast this with the reality of large numbers of individuals dissatisfied with their current job you see a huge disconnect.
Integrating programs that build good mental skills, encourage autonomy and support the development of individual health needs. Our current health care system is in reality a sick care modality; we wait till someone is ill then try to fix them.
From a leadership perspective if we want to assist individuals in gaining solid mental, emotional and intellectual skills this should be part of our educational system. My personal feeling is that if we focused on developing critical thinking skills instead of “test taking” in the US we would start to see positive changes in all aspects of mental health and stability. That’s a big topic over and beyond one blog post.
Be an activist of change
At the end of the day we have to hold individuals accountable for their actions. We also have to be our own activists for change.
Back to the ladies for a moment. If we continue to idolize celebrity/reality stars and fashion models, and at the same time criticize fellow women for their size and or age we are part of the problem not the solution. The same goes for men in their assessment of both sexes.
If you as an individual take pride in your own level of fit and work on it, we’ve won. Be brave to seek out a broader definition of fit for yourself as well as others. Make it a priority and stick to the plan.
If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?