A picture tells the story, or does it?

by Brian Patrick Murphy, Hotness Expert, Life Coach, Manimal

In the fitness industry pictures play an important part of the process of keeping a record of how our bodies change. We take pictures of the Ninjas on their first day. In life we have pictures in social media posts to remind us all of our progress or lack-thereof. We have every celebrity magazine, fitness magazine, TV show, movie to help us compare. We constantly stalk Facebook for our dream bodies to constantly judge ourselves by and to remind us all of where we stand. Everyone does it. We look straight to the washboard abs, Adonis shoulders or movie star asses of our favorite celebrities and immediately go to the mirror to compare ourselves. This is absolutely normal and can definitely be useful. It can also be unrealistic, painful and, in reality, not in line with what we truly want. Even for a fitness pro there are lessons to be learned.

The club lights were flashing in the Ninja Clubhouse, as a class of 15 super-star Ninjas were sweating, smiling and grunting. There I was, running around as usual, shirtless, in a Speedo 2 sizes too small. I saw myself in the mirror and stopped in my tracks. A tear ran down my cheek. I noticed I had a little pooch of a belly over my Speedo, my ass was hanging out and my shoulders were broad. I could barely make out an ab muscle—one singular ab.

That tear was out of happiness. I was truly happy with what my body looked like.

Most of my years in NYC I have spent as an actor, singer, dancer, model and now as a fitness professional. People look to me as an example of health and, yes, even “hotness”. A quick Google or Facebook search of myself and I can find dozens of pictures with numerous protruding abs  with an overall slim look and stereotypical dancers body. I worked extremely hard to maintain that look and got the expected positive feedback one gets with those types of pictures.

After class I came home and scrolled through pictures and saw one from about 18 months before. I thought, “Damn, I have never been so shredded as I was then.”  I was just one ab muscle after another. I remember weighing in around 162 lbs. I was impressed with the picture. The dedication it took in the gym, the kitchen. (The lighting and perfect camera filter certainly helped.)  Certainly the outside world must’ve been impressed. That must be the end of this story….A fitness pro with pictures of a shredded body of himself for all to see.

Luckily, I had time and a lot of education and reflection to know better when looking back at this photo. Instead of feeling bad about the slightly chubby belly and ass hanging out of a speedo of the present, I began to reflect on the man I was just 18 months previously. I saw a 6 foot tall, well-built man that looked beaten down. And I saw a body that didn’t really match what my true ideal of what my best body was (TWEET THAT SHIT!). I remembered being exhausted and needing to make some changes. I thought about sleepless nights, a lack of eating foods that I enjoyed, a stressful end to a previous relationship, a career transition, and some habits I was just about ready to change.

In that moment, I was so glad I could recognize my feelings and reflect on my recent past. I remember hearing Elvis Presley singing “Burning Love.”  I grew up on Elvis and listened to him all the time with my dad. Ahhh, things started to get sentimental with me.  I went through even more pictures, this time ones with my dad and family members. Anyone that spends more than five minutes around me becomes aware of the special bond I have with my father. My dad has always been such a source of strength for me. He taught me kettlebells at a young age and still loves to chat with me about training. I’ve never seen an ab muscle on my dad, and he usually walks around the house in his boxers with no shirt on completely unabashedly. The man doesn’t lack confidence. I’ve always wanted to be like that.

My Dad is a Ninja

When I looked in the mirror that day in class, I saw the man I saw the man in the mirror was closer to whom I really wanted to be. I wanted to be a confident man—a solid, strong and confident man.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with having a ton of abs or having that be your goal. It is fun, challenging and takes a ton of self-discipline. It’s just not what I really wanted. It’s not what I idolized. My heroes look like my dad, my uncles, Elvis, the Marines that came to be family to me. For me, that means having more than a passing resemblance to an idolized father, strong barbell lifts, steak and ice-cream for dinner, a happy relationship, lots of sleep and the career of my dreams. That’s what I saw in the mirror today.

It is also very clear to me that in my current state, I am much healthier.  It is easy to get caught up in thinking “skinny, small and ripped” is healthier.  I have no doubt, this is not always the case.  I have more energy, perfect blood work, strong bones and muscles and a mind that is functioning better than it ever has. I am having more fun, smiling incessantly and living the life of my dreams.  I absolutely believe that the shift in how I look at my body is an integral part of this! Training to the point of getting shredded is part of the journey, but for me it’s not the whole journey (TWEET THAT SHIT!)

This is my journey. Everyone is different and it may take years for you to decide on yours. I ask you to follow your heart. What do you really see in your pictures? What do you really want?  Do your pictures tell the whole truth?  Do the celebrities you follow and the friends you compare yourself to actually match what you want? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it!

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