I’ve never been the perfect size for a woman, nor have I maintained the ideal weight for an athlete, but I do know that if I had either of these things growing up, I may not be the person I am today.
Athletics can be a way to vent for some people, or maybe to just give them something to do, but for me it was something that changed my life. It gave me the ability to undo years of poor self-esteem and the courage to accept my body for what it is.
Growing up I was big, obese, fat-all the childhood names you can think of that describe anything but perfect. I secluded myself from the crowd because my body image was never what everyone would describe as beautiful.
And for many years I accepted the fact that my beauty would never be validated because I wasn’t pretty enough, my body wasn’t small enough and there was no flare or single asset about me which made me stand out from the crowd aside from being big.
But in one day, all of that changed. It was the day of track-and-field tryouts for our sixth-grade Olympics. My gym teacher, Ms. Mgaggen, gave me a private time trial for the 100-yard dash.
I don’t know if it was the wind going through my hair, or maybe because it was my sprint away from the girl I used to be, but whatever it was, it gave me what I needed to surpass any obstacle I would face that day, or any other day on my sixth-grade path.
Two days later I found out that I had the fastest time. Honestly, I could have had the worst time, because I ran my way straight into self-confidence.
Today, I have become a person with an identity, and that identity involves athletics. I’m sure there are hundreds of women who have faced the same humiliation on the playground and even more who never found a niche within a sport.
And don’t get me wrong: You don’t have to play a sport to be somebody. You can do anything and be somebody, but the advantage that sports has over beauty or popularity is the fact that you control your results. Having athletic ability can build you into the person you want to be mentally, physically and emotionally.
Sports give you the opportunity to shed stress, weight or negativity. Athletics forces you to redirect your own path, it doesn’t always have to deal with being the fastest, jumping the highest or dancing the best.
You don’t have to be a beauty queen to be an athlete. You can comfortably stand in the mirror and reflect on your inner self. You can dance to your own beat.
At the end of the day the track doesn’t care what I look like, it’s more concerned about what I got out of practice and repitition. The curves know my thoughts and the straightaway understands my desires.
It seems that at the end of every run, everything I know about myself and everything I want for myself is so much clearer. Out understanding with one another makes it so much easier to work harder the next day. We validate each other. I set a goal for myself, and the track gives me the leverage to run wild with my dreams.
Sports have a way of teaching you a lot about yourself. It teaches you to set goals for yourself and to physically strive for something. Striving for any type of goal disciplines your heart.
It tells it what you are and aren’t willing to do for the sake of your happiness, or for your own personal development.
It can be as simple as saying, ‘I’m going to run today for five minutes without stopping.’ You start running and you have 15 seconds to go.
After four-and-a-half minutes you’re ready to die and you start telling yourself that you can’t finish. But then, out of nowhere, you find energy and you push yourself to five minutes.
That run will change your attitude toward a lot of things. After that run you’ll have an unexplainable feeling of joy mixed with exhaustion, and it will be all yours.
No school yard bully will tell you that you’re not good enough, because you know you are-you just accomplished your goal.
That’s the first thing you need to do: Set a goal, work hard and pass through the finish line. That’s the simple part; the next thing is going to be the hardest. Now you have to undo all of the negative thoughts you have about your body image, your weight or appearance.
The first bad habit that just about every woman has is saying, ‘I hate my butt, I want her legs, I detest my hips.’
This doesn’t seem to do much, but it digs you into a big ditch with your body image. It subconsciously tells you that you are not good enough.
Secondly, you need to figure out who you are. You need to separate your thoughts from those of the media, friends, and family. Don’t keep comparing! We are all different for reasons.
The third most important thing is to embrace yourself. What’s wrong with being you? What’s wrong with your legs?
The second habit women have is dieting as soon as they gain weight.
What for? That’s where our athleticism needs to come back into play. You need to make a way to love your body and balance athletics into your new thinking.
You can’t keep reverting into the woman you were. Today is a new day and you should be a better woman in it. Balancing athletics and my self-esteem enabled me to conquer a lot of things I never thought I’d ever be able to do.
It made me question the reasons I had for not being self-assured. But most importantly, it gave me an identity, which now allows me to accept myself, even if the rest of the world doesn’t.