“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'”
Growing up as a kid in Milwaukee going to private school and having a family seems like the right mix of everything good. And it was for me. I played soccer and tennis, enjoyed learning in school, and generally didn’t mind making a fool out of myself.
We often hear how awful bullying is – and yes, it absolutely is damaging to every human being that experiences it, but when I was bullied in 4th grade and on and off through elementary school thereafter, I didn’t think it really mattered. Looking back, it really did shape a piece of my confidence. For the things I was bullied for, which were so ridiculous – having long straggly hair, wearing tee shirts too much, and I’m not even sure what else…maybe just being left out ‘because’…? Ya know that’s a thing – leaving people out for no apparent reason. And today, now thinking about writing a blog series on confidence, I find I did become hyper focused on making sure my hair wasn’t out of place ever again after that…
Through high school, I was the girl that was friends with everyone but yet didn’t have a core group of friends. Going to an all girls private institution meant high quality sports and academics. I participated in things and was never bullied but at the same time never asked to parties. Although a starting player on the varsity soccer team and of course not a runner, I was often mocked by the coaching staff for not being able to keep up. I hated it, but wanted to play ball so bad, I took it. Regardless, I never invested any of my time into worrying about my body, calorie intake, or jean size. It wasn’t as issue.
Going off to Marquette University with so much uncertainty in life and love, I started to focus my attention on all the wrong things, likely because that was easier than dealing with being overwhelmed in life. And the one thing I could control – my body – became the punching bag. Because the notion is, ‘if I’m thin, I will be accepted and loved.’ So not true. My body, like everyone else’s, is not a vehicle to harm but the vessel that carries you through life. I started in 2004 hating my body and the reasons were not any I’m proud of today. But without those reasons, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I hit rock bottom and stayed there from about 2004-2014. I was completely lost with irrational obsessions controlling my life. Of course, on the outside it looked great – I was successfully earning my degree and masters, winning multiple races across the country, and setting lofty goals for my life. I presented as most people do on the outside – cheery and carefree. But on the inside I was a volatile hot mess trying to figure out exactly how life is supposed to go.
During that long period that seems so long ago, I was able to start working on myself… I was able to surface again. Basically, I slowly, very slowly, started to find myself again…inside and out. I realized a few things…I still hated my body and obsessive thoughts that clouded my head 24/7, I still hated my job, and I hated running. How did that even happen? I was perplexed with every run – why was that becoming an additional punching bag?! It was when I started to hate the run that I knew a ME adjustment had to be made. I was drowning in internal battles and needed to resurface – to get back to being me; the ME that I am at my core.
I would carry on with my job until finally I was pushed to quit and take a risk doing exactly what I wanted to do – advocate and help those with mental illness. I would continue to stand in front of the mirror and tell myself ‘I am okay’ until it finally set in. I am okay and my body does exactly what I need it to do to be a successful ME and is fueled with no rules. And I stopped running to finally fix the 3 fractures I continued to run with, the 2 strains in my gluts, and the muscle weakness in both hips from the compensation of other injuries. Gee, maybe that was contributing to why I was hating running so much – but when you are clouded, it’s so hard to listen to the right voices. I wish I would have rested my legs sooner for many reasons, but again, I wouldn’t be where I am today had I continued on the roads.
During this time of personal exploration, I continued to surface more and more. I decided that going back to the trails would be my preferred sport – it was actually something I loved to do and a place I loved to be. I love to push myself so ultra distances were perfect. Why not give it a shot? Why not take a risk? I also decided to stop manipulating my vessel and just be ME. It’s amazing how my vessel started to work with me instead of against me. By not stressing about calories, food, and weight, I started to lose weight – I was smiling more, I was able to function in life more, I saw my family more and travel without worry. So many people sit in the hole of personal self destruction, worrying second after second about weight (or anything really!), because they THINK they aren’t good enough in life. I promise you, it’s worth it to live your life outside of that narrow box. Embrace your body – embrace everything about it – it’s your only one.
Going from top to bottom at age 19 and losing all confidence in myself was awful. At some point you don’t even think you will resurface. As I’ve learned more about the hellacious side effects of body image obsessions, I was lucky to make it to 19. Our youngest kiddos with this same problem is 8 years old. Over 50% of kids are dieting and hate their bodies. Just let kids be kids…women have curves – embrace them; men don’t have 8 pack abs – embrace it. We are all okay in whatever skin we have – don’t waste your life worrying about food and weight, or comparing yourself to others. It’s not worth it. I’m proud to say I sat in a destructive hole for a part of my life and was able to bring myself back to the surface. No matter how long it took, it was worth it. If I can do it, so can anyone. I promise you – each of us is worth surfacing from any internal battle we are facing today. Try it. Cheers.