Too often we shy from the conversations that leave us most insecure – replaying them in the solitude of our minds instead of voicing them aloud – paralyzed by the fear of judgement and vulnerability.
I am of no exception.
And the longer I sit quiet, the more I realize it’s the topic on every woman’s mind. That topic is self-love / inner strength / and breaking barriers – we all know it’s important and we all want to experience it. Yet so many wake up each day and think we’re not physically good enough – not fit enough – not lean enough – not worthy enough – enough is enough! That lower number on the scale won’t get you confidence, happiness or quality of life. Yet we disregard our failed attempts because of our ingrained beliefs that weighing less and less will guarantee a life full of sunshine and unicorns. But more often than not, the mere act of attempting to get lean creates obsession, confinement, distorted body relationship, and lack of self-worth. It makes sense though, how could happiness possibly result from trying to take up less space, to be unseen, and be less of a human being?
Trust me, I’ve been there.
I wasn’t happy with who I was – not on the surface nor within – endlessly searching for something more – or should I say less? If only I could whittle myself into a smaller size – others would accept me – my problems would disappear – and I could finally live in peace with myself.
But it wasn’t that simple.
For years I had been trying to escape that negative, judgmental voice inside my head – you know which one, the manipulative, condescending and degrading one. It was this nagging judgement and self-doubt that was the source of my problems – not my weight on the scale. After suffering in the darkness for so long, I was able to escape out the other side. As much as I don’t wish it upon anyone, I also would never erase those years for what it has allowed me to share with you. But this is not a story just about my pain and how I overcame it, it is an avenue in which you can relate, learn, grow and become more powerful than ever. Because like me, you’ve come from a place of insecurity and self-loathing. And like me, it’s hard to believe that the very thing you tried so hard to avoid and so hard to control your entire life is the very thing that will save you…getting big and strong. Lifting heavy weights in the gym has been the greatest teacher of my life. If you’re a CrossFitter, powerlifter or weightlifter you understand the power of the barbell. It teaches you not only how to dig deep and muster unrealizable strength, but you get a glimpse for the first time of how insanely badass you really are!
I’m not kidding.
Squat double your bodyweight and bench as much as the guys and tell me that's not the most badass, empowering feeling you’ve ever experienced. That’s all you – you did that. The most effective way to kill weakness? With strength. The best way to build strength? A barbell. A barbell is both a symbol and a tool. A symbol of Earth-shattering confidence and strength. A tool in which us ladies reach for to feel empowered, courageous, and brave in our own skin. A barbell teaches us resilience and grit. It rewrites our opinions of ourselves. Because at the end of the day, your own opinion trumps that of any others. A barbell teaches us to embrace our God-given bodies and reward it for its unending potential.
For many of you it’s the first time in your life you find balance – balanced body image, balanced nutrition, balanced training, and a balanced relationship with the voice inside your head. For the first time ever, you are loving yourselves and building a fitness and nutrition regimen around that – not the other way around. When you set up under a barbell for a heavy squat, or bench press a weight you never thought possible, it allows your subconscious to look beyond the surface of your body and, instead, within it for all that it can do. With time, consistency, and purpose, your strengthened body become a vehicle for you to demonstrate your inner strength and capabilities – rather than serve merely as a walking billboard.
But why are women still on the fence about getting strong? And lifting with the boys? And God-forbid eating protein or taking creatine? Well because society has been feeding us a constant stream of manipulative garbage our entire lives. Let me ask you, how many times have you heard…
“don’t lift that, it’s too heavy”
“don’t put on too much muscle, that’s not feminine”
“don’t grunt and push hard, that’s not lady-like”
”why do you want to look like that, that’s not attractive”
You know what I say in response to these naive remarks? “WATCH ME”
But I have to admit, I wasn’t always this confident and sassy (thank you barbell), and it’s no surprise why ladies are still intimidated to pursue strong, capable bodies – bodies that we aren’t ashamed of – one’s that we love and can channel our true confidence and strength through. But it changes now – you have my permission to fulfill your full potential – both in the weight room and in life. When you decide to lift that barbell, you’re choosing to go against the grain – to strip yourself of society’s unfair limitations. Because you get to determine your future now, not them. Because you live on your own terms now – no longer fitting their mold or accepting their unrealistic and suppressing limitations. You’re setting the bar exponentially higher, making your own rules, finding self-love, courage and bravery and inspiring your fellow women to do the same.
This is a movement I can fully get behind, are you with me?
There’s even more. There’s a remarkable force that I’ve experienced personally as well as with those whom I coach – and it’s this – the longer you stick to building strength, with proper nutrition (yes, protein shakes and creatine included), the more your success in the gym translates to other areas in life.
Let me tell you a remarkable story –
When I first started CrossFit, I never thought I would be good enough to compete, EVER, let alone in less than a year after I began. Hell, it wasn’t even on my radar. Before completing in my first Open in 2017, my goal was to finish top 10 in the state and top 100 in the West Region. Pretty unrealistic for someone so inexperienced in the sport…at least that’s what they told me. After finishing the Open, just over a year after beginning CrossFit, I hit that goal. And let me tell you, it was the most fulfilling accomplishment I’ve ever had – to be able to prove to myself that I am worth it, that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, that I too could be victorious and unstoppable. Not only did that accomplishment put my name on the leaderboard, it was also an accomplishment I could revisit whenever self-doubt crept up in the future. The act of smashing a goal you never thought possibly makes you reflect on every other goal you’ve made and ask, “why not shoot higher?”
Be it in your career, relationships, personal life – you will push boundaries – no longer skating on the edge of possibility, but taking leaps towards them with a new-found confidence, work ethic, and mindful purpose that opens an entirely new world of possibilities. You see, once you realize your thoughts are the only thing setting the limits of who you can and cannot be – you transform from a timid girl to an empowered, inspiring badass leading from the front and inspiring others to follow. We place so many unnecessary limitations on ourselves – it’s heartbreaking – but with every oppression comes a revolution – women are discovering their potential and worthiness – and the biggest catalyst for this movement has been the barbell. It’s the most powerful tool you have for rewiring your brain to challenge societal norms, to throw your arms up and say, “why the hell not!? If not me, then who?”
If you were to take anything away from this conversation, it would be this, ladies:
Love yourself and appreciate your body in all it’s shapes and sizes. Because if not today…when will you?
Fast forward 10 years – what do you want to remember when you look back? Do you prefer to look back and feel sorry for the innocent girl picking herself apart, manipulating herself and limiting her potential? Or would you rather look back and be proud of how strong, independent and inspiring you were when others needed your guidance? It doesn’t make any sense not to love yourself based on the number of the scale. You have the power now to stop giving it so much meaning. No longer are you going to fit someone else’s mold. No longer are you going to waste your life trying to look like anyone else besides you – because you are your most beautiful version created. Whether you choose to run marathons, compete in CrossFit, or take on a Powerlifting meet. Whether that means you follow Vegan, Paleo, flexible dieting, or pound protein shakes and creatine, do it because that’s who you want to be. You can’t take back the things you’ve said about yourself in the past, all you can do now is realize how pointless it all was and never return.
Embodying self-worth and self-love is not conditional – it’s pre-programmed within you – it’s already yours for the taking.
You can abandon your negative opinions and practices at anytime – the choice is yours. Do so, and your life will open up in ways you could have never imagined – full of happiness, strength, and power. Listen love – you have complete control to change whatever you like about yourself to grow and become a better person. Whether that be through relationships you pursue, courses you complete, or workouts you crush – all these things make you the beautiful individual that you are. And remember love – no matter what you pursue, you will always be enough – you have always been enough. But it’s time to let the world know this – let your fellow women know this – and let yourself know this.
Be the change you wish to see. Unleash your inner badass and lead from the front. Let’s do this!
By Stesha Gulick