Getting Real in 2019

By Karen Hendricks

My #1 Instagram photo of 2019 was probably one of the “worst” pictures I have ever posted of myself (below). But it was real. And it came with a little essay:

Running is a time of real clarity for me. Sometimes I solve world problems, sometimes I write my next magazine article in my head, and sometimes I just think about what I’m going to cook for dinner that night. Today, I had a topic swirling and stewing in my mind. If it had a title, it would be “Get Real.” And I hope some of my thoughts resonate or inspire others.

So, a few years ago, a movement started that embraced women’s real images, real body sizes, real untouched photos, real strength and real beauty. I especially loved Alicia Keys’ #nomakeup stance. Is the pendulum swinging the other way now? Increasingly, I’ve been noticing more and more people using filters, altering colors, body sizes, skin. Trying to post “perfect” pictures, even perfectly-posed running photos with full makeup. Let’s get the pendulum back on course. Filters aren’t real. Filters may smooth the wrinkles, add unnatural colors, hide blemishes or pounds. And why? The answers hurt my heart. Because it basically means that real life isn’t satisfying enough, happy enough, beautiful enough, and people are insecure about their images. Filters hide the real you.

Let me tell ya, my real, gritty, Philadelphia-native, journalist “tell it like it is” personality is going to come out for a moment. This is a real picture of me after running a 5-mile hill workout at midday today (June 20) during 98% humidity, training in the heat in preparation for the Peachtree Road Race on the 4th of July in Atlanta. I’m not posting it because I think it’s beautiful. I’m not posting it because I think I’m perfect. I am posting it because it’s a real, honest image of happiness and accomplishment. No make up. No filters. A lot of sweat mixed with some raindrops. Almost 50 years of a life well lived complete with scars, wrinkles and imperfections. A real body that experienced four pregnancies and brought three incredible children—gifts from God—into this world. A run that challenged me and also brought me joy. A running route where I experienced nature, the scent of the pine trees hanging in the humidity, God’s beautiful creation.

Professional runner Gabe Grunewald is on my mind these days, a hero to many of us runners. She competed at an amazing level despite and throughout her battle with cancer. She was real, honest and open—giving cancer a “face” before she passed away. #BravelikeGabe

This afternoon, I look forward to tuning in the US Women’s National Team continue their World Cup soccer play. There will be people who critique them, their crusade against the disparity between male and female athlete salaries, how they celebrate their goals, etc. Whatever. I respect them for being fierce, strong and real women and athletes.

Here’s the bottom line: Life is beautiful. Life is filled with beautiful real moments and experiences. I thank God every day for His amazing creation. That includes people of all shapes and sizes and colors. We are all children of God. No filters needed. Our happiness should come from within, not depend on the surface of a filter.

The real me, after running a 5-mile hill workout on a hot, humid June afternoon. Training in the heat of the day with a goal race in mind–Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Race on the 4th of July. It worked!
This essay, originally posted on Instagram as well as my personal Facebook page, generated 150+ likes, and about 50 comments, including:
  • Well said! Love what is.
  • True strength! Beautiful! Mind AND body.
  • Love the picture. You have a lot on your mind when you run! Wonderful words of wisdom.
  • I so love your perspective on running. It’s amazing the clarity that can be achieved when you strip everything away.
  • Tell it like it is girl! I think all of these filters are awful. We are what we are. It took me a long time in life to be ok with that. You look marvelous in this picture! Love your grit, your attitude.
  • The real you is beautiful inside and out!

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