This past weekend, I walked out of the house carrying an iconic jumbo black leather handbag for the very first time. I wore it to the airport, to the bar, and out to dinner with a friend.
To most people, the act of carrying a certain purse might not seem like such a big deal. It might even sound trivial or superficial to fixate on that kind of a thing. But for me, the experience was truly magical. Stepping out with that handbag after years of feeling like I didn’t deserve to symbolized something monumental: The end of my biggest fear—that nagging feeling that I would never be able to rely on myself.
Let me explain.
Years ago, I was dating a wealthy man who insisted on lavishing me with expensive gifts. But whenever I spotted something in my closet like that fancy bag, which I never could have afforded on my own, I didn’t feel accomplished, beautiful, or empowered. I felt small, because I was leaning on someone else, and I was terrified that I couldn’t survive on my own. After all, I was an unsuccessful, unemployed young woman putting on a show for a rich guy. So I left that bag in its box for three straight years, too scared to face something that reflected all my shortcomings.
Believe it or not, everything changed when I decided to get physically strong.
For five straight months, I challenged myself to become healthier and fitter than I’d ever been before. I committed to learning about food and to eating as well as possible, and I worked out harder than ever. It wasn’t easy, but at the end of every sweaty day I felt a sense of accomplishment, and I clung to that. It drove me forward.
Slowly but surely, my muscles grew sturdier and more sculpted. I started to feel more flexible, more nimble, and more in control of my body than ever. What I didn’t expect is that my attitude towards everything would become so much more positive along the way.
As I got into topnotch shape, my opinion of myself as an individual transformed entirely. The longer I stuck to the fitness and nutrition goals I set for myself, the more clearly I saw what I was truly capable of through dedication. I started to feel so much better, inside and out. I began to believe in my ability to stick to something, no matter how difficult the challenge. To stay the course and meet tough objectives, no matter how exhausted, thirsty, or sore I was. I began to see that I could build towards something greater for myself. That I could take care of myself. That I could lead a better life.
The process of getting strong changed how I operate in every area of life. It taught me that I don’t need to date wealthy men because I am more than capable of working hard to earn a living myself. It inspired me to nurture rewarding relationships instead. And it armed me with the confidence to tackle long-term projects I’d avoided for too long because I was too intimidated to pursue them.
Since getting physically strong, I’ve reignited several old friendships and built many other meaningful relationships. I’ve also focused a lot of energy on my career. Recently, I finished the book I’d always dreamed of writing. And, of course, I’ve started proudly rocking that handbag I once thought I wasn’t good enough for.
Throughout my journey, I learned how to trust myself—not just my body, but also my heart, soul, and mind. I came to understand that all of these aspects of myself are interconnected, and that becoming (and staying!) physically strong is the key to being a better me all around.