Body image and golf
The above are just a few examples of the sorts of messages I have received since starting the blog. I always say that I use my blog to network with as many golfers as I can and most of the time this involves talking about the game and courses around the world. However, I have also received lots of messages from people who have faced some kind of negativity about their posts or are nervous to post in the first place. This post aims to discuss some of the points that have been raised and my thoughts on the subject.
"Body image" can be defined in slightly different ways but is predominately how we think and feel about ourselves physically and how we believe others see us. Social media is often in the headlines as negatively affecting body image and making people feel more self-conscious. I began to cover this in one of my previous blog posts "Social Media and Golf" but decided to drill down further into this subject and asked my Instagram followers the following questions:
1. Have accounts or pictures on social media ever affected your confidence in the game?
2. Do you ever not post a picture or video because you don't like the way you look in it?
3. Have you ever received a negative comment about your golf swing on social media? How did you react/respond?
27% of those that voted said that they had received a negative comment about their swing and thankfully most of them said that they just ignored the comment and tried not to react to it. This is definitely the approach I would take. As I've said many times on the blog, your swing is your own and you need to trust your journey. However, sometimes this is easier said than done. Am I guilty of comparing my swing to other people's? YES. I was nervous when I posted my very first swing video and my first vlog but that is so natural. I have been lucky that (to date) I have never had a negative comment about my swing on the blog and, in fact, there's only been one occasion where someone has suggested I do something differently. I politely responded to that person to explain why I was swinging the way I did (because of my injury) and that was it. The reason I don't receive negative comments isn't because I have a perfect swing, it is because I never ask for opinions on it. There are only a handful of people who know my swing inside out and from whom I'd take any swing advice from. If you ever post a golf picture or video asking people what they think then you have to be prepared for the response and you have to have a thick skin to deal with it.
Every person I follow on the blog has a slightly different swing and I have had messages from people asking me what I think of their swing before they post it. Although I'm flattered and always happy to respond, I am not anywhere near being a pro and so I think it's always eye-opening when I get messages like that because it reflects a lack of confidence in what they're posting. If you look at any professional golfer on tour there's a range of swing types, body shapes and fashion styles. It's what makes each player unique.
There are certain female golf "influencers" on Instagram who post pictures and videos where they are not wearing very much and I've often been asked my opinion on this. At the end of the day these ladies do have a passion for golf but I think it's key to remember that the purpose of their account is probably different to that of the average golfer. They are using their pictures to build a large following on their account and make money via sponsorships etc. so they're posting in a way that is likely to attract attention from a wide range of people (even non-golfers). My concern about this is that when you look at some of these pictures in more detail, they are occasionally air-brushed or photoshopped so that their skin looks flawless and they look slimmer. This only fuels the negative social comparisons that make people feel bad about the way they look. You don't have to be skinny and wear a tight fitting outfit to post a video of your golf swing. You need to be comfortable in yourself. I was shocked when I had a response from a female on Instagram saying that she's heard of people saying "Bring back the sexy outfits to increase LPGA viewership." Golf isn't a fashion contest and it's these sorts of comments that can easily put people off playing. I can't deny that I love buying golf clothes and have an ever-expanding golf wardrobe but I like to wear clothes that I feel confident and comfortable in. Another response I got summed up the point perfectly: "I think a good swing is more attractive than whoever is making it."
Most studies show that women use social media more than men but negative body image thoughts are just as pervasive amongst men as women. One of my followers said "I've noticed more and more men are worried about how they look when they're playing" and I've definitely found this to be the case too. Predominately, the insecurities I find from messages from men on my account tend to be those who think they need to "bulk up" to match the likes of golfers such as Brooks Koepka. My opinion on this might be a bit controversial. I have found getting fit for golf to be a huge motivation for me to get in the gym and exercise. I have a golf specific routine that I use from time to time and golf makes me want to stay fit, so I don't think people having strong golfers as role models is necessarily a bad thing unless they become obsessed with looking a certain way. The perseverance you need to stay fit and healthy can be likened to the perseverance you need in golf! Secondly, as well as the fitness point, I also think men (as a huge generalisation) tend to tease other men about their golf swing whereas women don't do this as much. Although this is usually in jest and just "banter" I have seen how it has led to men having certain insecurities about their swings. Again, making comparisons to the swings of other people is easy but not necessarily always healthy.
Last year, Lexi Thompson shared her body image struggles on Instagram and said you need to love yourself first in order to be truly happy - "Your body is your body, it is beautiful so embrace it." Her post highlights that body image can affect anyone no matter who you are but you have to be true to yourself. If you play golf and you post on social media then your page is yours only and you shouldn't try and fit in to appeal to the masses. We are here to play golf and enjoy the game!
I have kept all the responses I received in order to pull together this post anonymous. If you've ever struggled with anything to do with body image in golf please feel free to message me.