This new journey into fitness/wellness/health, stepping outside my comfort zone, embracing vulnerability every single day as I try to finally follow my passions has caused me to remind myself again and again of one truth that took me quite some time to learn. I think about what I wish I could say to my 20-something year old self. I have two young women in my life that are on the brink of beginning their 20's. I see them and pray they see just how beautiful they are in their own unique way. It's not cliche, it's real, and it takes a strong sense of self to believe that truth. I think of them so much because I remember that at their age was the time where I really lost my sense of self worth.
I clung to external validation like it was oxygen I needed to breathe.
I was in pageants...I voluntarily entered myself into contests where complete strangers scored me based on my outward appearance and wardrobe choices. I did the pageants you do to eventually win Miss South Carolina and then Miss USA. I have no qualms with pageants or the beautiful women who do them and do them well, it's just that the reason I did them was not healthy or productive at all for my own growth. I did them solely to feel validated and to be told that I was enough in the most materialistic sense of the word. I wanted to be told I was beautiful enough, interesting enough, cool enough. I often did them to meet the "goal weight"...to impose strict deadlines on myself to lose weight, and fit into the size 4 dress that usually never got past my ribs. The lengths I went to to become the ideal that the pageant world sought after was quite hilarious now that I think about it...
I would travel 2.5 hours to this one personal trainer recommended by my pageant coach who told me to never ever lift weights on my legs...because they were too muscular as they were.
So instead I would go to my own personal trainer locally and tell him I can only work my upper body….how weird is that? I then went on to do as I was told to achieve "the body" and would do 5 sets of 25 of about 4 different exercises of leg lifts that would guarantee me long, lean legs necessary for swimsuit. This routine took about 1 to 1.5 hours. This was after I would do the requisite 60 minutes of cardio to be sure I was in the "fat burning zone," and not any higher. I think I did this the entirety of my fall semester of my senior year. I had a lot of positive things going on with my academics, but my outside needed to be validated, my thighs, my dress size, my ab lines, my tan. That is what I cared about, spent money on, spent my precious time on. I feel sad for that girl now. Oh the fun I could've had, the places I could've traveled.
I'm worlds away from that girl now, but the lesson I wish she could've learned is the same lesson I must repeat to myself over and over and truly believe. The first is…MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR THIGHS. Seriously, it’s time. The second is this:
1. Being yourself is the only way to be happy and successful. I've watched successful people a lot lately, I've read about their stories, listened to a gazillion podcasts. There seems to be a common theme...no one is happy and successful by being someone they're not. You could be successful but once you got to the top, you sure as hell won't be happy.
2. Release the need for approval or validation from other people. You just won't get it, not in the way that it matters. Like that glorious Eleanor Roosevelt quote, it is guaranteed that you will be criticized anyways, so why not do what's in your heart.
3. Avoid Comparison. Your efforts towards true, lasting health will not work if you're seeking an ideal outside of yourself. I believe this from the bottom of my heart. You must start with the fundamental truth that you are your own kind of beautiful. You will become only more of your own kind of beautiful the healthier, more energetic, and more vibrant you become. But it has to be yours and not someone else's. Comparison only brings negative energy and will sabotage your well-intentioned efforts.
This time, if you’re starting again, starting to move for the first time in a while or wanting to release some weight, or just simply get healthier, listen to the voice in your head, watch what your goals and intentions are behind a new program, and try to tell yourself that what you are right now, the way you look and move and speak is beautiful….you are beautiful because you’re real, you’re alive, and you have so much love to give.
Me and my two girls. These girls are polar opposites but oh so beautiful in their own way.