How I Found Self-Love Through Squats

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We have three days left in 2016 and this is about that time when I feel more self-reflective than ever. This week, I've been thinking a lot about what these glorious 361 days have brought me and how I've grown, both inside and out.

See, this was the year that I took my fitness to the next level, and the year that I made my editorial debut in Oxygen Magazine (I still can't believe that actually happened...😲). It was also this year that I mustered up the courage to launch my blog, and the year that I fell back into my long-distance running groove.

But as exciting and brag-worthy as these accolades might seem, the greatest gift 2016 gave me was something I had been searching for my whole life: self-confidence. And now I want to share a story with y'all about exactly what this means to me.

Confidence is a funny thing. It comes and goes, either making us stronger or breaking us from within. And it’s a sad reality that most girls face a lack up of it at least once in their lives. What’s even worse is that a lack in confidence is usually due to the excessive importance we place on our appearances alone.

Well, if it’s two strikes, you’re out, then I’ve been on the bench for quite awhile now. In my 27 years, I have found at least 27 insecurities that have crippled me socially, psychologically, and professionally. And I can count on two hands times when I didn’t pursue certain opportunities, because in my mind I wasn’t fit enough, pretty enough, or simply good enough.

I gotta be honest with you: I don’t have a past of being overweight or being too thin. In fact, I would like to say I was pretty fortunate in that regard, because I have been an athlete all of my life. I played soccer with the boys as soon as I could walk, I was captain of my high school soccer team for two years in a row, I simultaneously ran for the varsity cross-country team, I dabbled a bit in club volleyball, and for the past few years, I have raced competitively in local road races. And with all of this athleticism running through my veins, you would never guess that I severely struggled with maintaining a positive body image. Well, I did: I battled with the mirror, I battled with wanting to look like the picture-perfect Victoria’s Secret models, and I battled with thinking I didn’t have enough to offer this competitive and sometimes shallow world.

Well things changed in the most unexpected way in the August of 2015, when I decided to explore a realm of fitness that I had never dared try before: bodybuilding. Admittedly, like so many other girls, I have always equated lifting weights with becoming “bulky” and masculine. But social media opened my naïve little eyes and I realized I couldn’t be more wrong about a female weightlifter’s physique. So I decided to give it a shot. I dedicated all of my free time to my training, and when I wasn’t lifting, I was researching how to improve my nutrition. Fitness consumed me and I wasn’t ashamed of it one bit.

And then in early 2016, something magical happened: I mustered up the courage and the confidence to do my very first fitness photo shoot. We’re talking a sports-bra only, tummy-baring, professional photographer photo shoot: a pretty scary feat for a bashful novice. But I’ll tell you what, for every second of that 90-minute session, I was glowing with confidence, beaming with pride, and radiating self-respect for how hard I worked to get to this point, both physically and mentally.

Image by Arvin Photo Images

It turns out this huge leap was the first snowball of an avalanche to come. With every weight I lifted and every muscle I gained, I became more accepting of my body and super proud of the new strength I possessed. I loved my hard-earned curves and I adored this unfamiliar surge of confidence even more.

Now I’ve devoted myself to fitness wholeheartedly and I truly feel more complete than I ever have before. Not only is my health at its peak, but I can honestly look in the mirror and smile back at what I see. I have finally accepted myself.

Yes, it’s sad to admit that my newfound confidence was delivered at the hands of a physical transformation. But I think if that’s what it takes for someone to realize how incredible they are, both inside and out, then being a little superficial is absolutely okay. Because after devoting months of hard work and determination to bettering myself physically, I am now confident in my reflection, and more importantly, I have become a firm-believer in who I am as a person.