I can feel the heat from the sun beating down on my shoulders as I stand on the black pavement. There are orange cones marking the edge of the parking lot and just beyond those are people. Lots of people, making lots of noise. I can hear the MC calling my name. I’m up. It’s my turn to prove to myself that all the training, the sweat, blood and tears were worth it. That cutting family and friends out of my life was the right thing. That being 100% me, wasn’t a mistake.
Self-confidence is not something you are born with. It is something you are taught. You have to learn how to believe in yourself. Before you can conceptualize the meaning, you watch the women around you to learn. Do they compliment themselves? Do they speak positively about other women?
I grew up in a house where the exact opposite happened. Growing up, I was always being told, “You need to act more ladylike” as if being me, a total tomboy, wasn’t okay. An athlete my whole life, I was never very girly. I never wanted to curl my hair or play with makeup. When I was 7, I played football. My family hated that I never wore dresses, or that I preferred to be outside with a ball or my bike.
A lesson my mom taught me around age 13 that still to this day, is engrained in my posture: “Hold in your belly.” After she said that to me, I remember standing in the mirror and sucking in my belly as far as I could. Did I create a gap in the waistline of my jeans? Good. That’s what it means to be healthy. My mom and I would walk through the mall and she would point out other women, “Oh she really shouldn’t be wearing that.”
“Okay,” I thought to myself, “That is how we treat other girls.”
After I gave birth to my daughter, we all went to a Chinese restaurant to have dinner with our extended family, all 10 of my fathers’ brothers and sisters. My daughter may have been 2 months old at this point. Sitting across from my mother, my daughter was in her car seat on a chair beside me. Laughing and talking with my aunts and uncles, my mother got my attention, she rubs her belly and whispers “Hold it in.”
Lifting is Ladylike
It wasn’t until I found Strongman, that I learned to love my body. Only, it wasn’t for what it looked like, although, heavy lifting does do amazing things for your figure, but more for what it could do. I found the most rewarding thing in my life was hitting a lift that my mind told me I couldn’t complete. I learned to love telling the weight to go fuck itself after fighting with it for weeks and then finally seeing it happen. I learned to cheer on the women lifting beside me and not degrade them– or worse, compare myself to them. I learned to keep pushing when a weight I moved last week, wouldn’t move the next. I learned the meaning of perseverance and determination.
I had finally learned what self-confidence really meant.
In exactly one month, I will be competing at California’s Strongest Woman. Approximately 80 women from up and down the west coast (and a few from across the country) will be there to show what they can do. As an athlete, your goal is to win, so of course, I am training to win. But also, I cannot wait to come together with so many other like-minded women to showcase that strength is beauty. You don’t have to “hold it in” to be healthy. You can cheer on the woman beside you, and it doesn’t negate your own power. I may not have family that supports what I do, and that it what it is, but I know damn well that I have friends, who have readily stepped in to become my family, that will be there screaming for me to succeed.
I am a Mother, a wife, an athlete, and I am absolutely ladylike as fuck.
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