I want you to get up and stand in front of your mirror.
No, don’t give me those “but I just took off my make-up” or “I didn’t workout today” excuses.
It’s been said that if you can stand in front of a mirror and focus not on the parts of your body that make you cringe – the cellulite, the way your thighs jiggle when you walk, the shape of your tummy – but the parts that you love – the arms that can hold your friends when they’re hurting or the legs that carry you for miles without ever giving up – for just five minutes a day, your self-esteem will greatly improve.
In high school, I average 40-50 miles a week running cross country and track. I was in the weight room twice a week and I worked out on my own as well. I thought I knew what healthy eating was when in reality, I was barely consuming 800 calories a day when I should have been getting at least 2,500 minimum. This carried on into my first year of college as well, but was later fueled by depression and homesickness.
I was more concerned with how I looked instead of what my body could do.
There are three years between these pictures. On the left, I ran mile after mile, only caring about how much space I didn’t want to take up. On the right, I was forced to stop all cardio after tearing every ligament in my ankle and fracturing my heel. I was bitter at first, but now, after weeks in the weight room and a slow bringing back of cardio, I have found it to have been a blessing in disguise.
I know there might not look like much of a physical difference, but the mental one is, by far, the greatest thing I have gained. Where before I would avoid looking at a mirror because I could point out every thing I thought was flawed in .5 seconds, I now embrace the muscles I’ve been given and appreciate more than ever the space I take up.
We, as women, are raised in a society to be slender, to shrink ourselves for someone else’s misconceived idea of beauty.
I’m calling bullsh!t.
Women are forged of iron. My body, it has bled and blazed and broken, and yet it beats on. I am iron. A little rusted, perhaps, but still I endure.
Why should a little red number on a scale determine what we eat or how we dress or how we carry ourselves in the world? There are far more important things I wish to define me.
Last time I checked, I now weigh a healthy 20 pounds more than I did in high school and I’ve never felt better, never felt more alive.
I can now do 100 jump squats without feeling like I might pass out from not eating enough. I can do 50 assisted pull-ups (I’m working on it, okay?). I can squat my body weight and then some and not feel like my legs are going to give out because I didn’t have the muscle built that I needed.
But mentally, I can go into a dressing room and be okay with what stares back at me in the mirror. In fact, I can appreciate it and even love it a little more than last time. I can go out to dinner with friends and get what I want without feeling guilty. I can let myself have rest days and enjoy them because I know my body needs recovery.
Self love wasn’t my first romance, that’s for sure, but it’s looking like it might just be my greatest one.
I’m not saying there aren’t moments when I don’t miss how I used to look, but then I see pictures like this one, and I am pretty damn proud of how far I’ve come.
If you’re going to measure your self-worth by a number, let it be the number of times you’ve cried yourself laughing, or how many books you’ve read that left a warm feeling in your heart. Let it be the number of people whose lives you’ve touched, or the amount of marshmallows you can fit inside your mouth. Let it be the amount of places you’ve traveled and spent every minute in awe of. If you’re going to measure your self-worth in numbers, don’t let it be the number on the scale or by the amount of space you take up. Don’t let it be a number you’ve been raised to believe is the most beautiful one.