Growing up, I am lucky to say I was confident when it came to my body image. Not only did I have good genes, but two brothers who were always up for swinging baseball bats and kicking soccer balls with me.
Sure, I knew I wasn't perfect. I had stretch marks on the back of my thighs from a growth spurt I hit when I was 12. I hid behind a pair of eyeglasses from high school into college because I couldn't see the beauty in my originality. But the good genes and my high level of physicality were now supplemented by people who offered unending support of my growth and change. So body-confidence continued to stay with me.
But when I started college, my participation in active sports were quickly replaced by school work, late nights out and the newfound freedom of living on your own. All of a sudden, my “good genes” became the only vehicle to any positive feelings about the way I viewed my body… and that carried over into my twenties and thirties.
With little time to do things that truly fed my soul, I was left feeling vulnerable and I began to allow my own self-worth to be based on the feedback I received from others around me. I gave other people the power to shape who I was and the paths that I traveled (go to college, meet a good man, get married-I did all three, but I still felt lost.).
But today, as a 40-year-old woman, I’m happy to say that I feel beautiful and empowered to be part of the change I have always wanted to see in the world. However, fully owning this strength took overcoming the one thing I have felt least concerned with for most of my life—my body image.
While I never felt deeply vulnerable about my body at a younger age, as I crept toward 40, I started focusing on the way my body was changing: how my thighs looked in a pair of shorts (is that cellulite?!); how my cheeks weren’t as smooth and full as they used to be (what are those grooves when I smile?!); how my hair was thinning and sprouting up grays (I can see my scalp!)
Without realizing it, I had started a steady, negative internal dialogue. These thoughts were foreign to me and made me feel completely uncomfortable. The images reflected back to me in the media and on every social channel of women my age and (gasp!) younger with frozen foreheads, overly sculpted cheeks, and hair extensions fed into the negativity. Before long, I started to consider all of the things I could do to hold onto the face and body I had when I was younger. I wasn’t even sure how women were supposed to look as they age, my sense of “normal” distorted by all of the messages I had been bombarded with every day.
In spite of it all, I had a tiny spark of emotion deep within me that compelled me to take back the control that I was giving away by comparing myself to others and living through fear. That feeling caused me to stop, take a deep breath, and to let go of the negativity. Once I finally let the spark grow into a flame, I knew that I alone had the ability to crush those thoughts and comparisons. I knew that I could own my age and my body with grace and power.
This breakthrough came when I started to invest in my own health and began to move again. I started with Pilates and barre classes, then six months later, tackled my fear of riding in a SoulCycle class—back row, panting all the way. Since then, I’ve experienced profound change.
Never have I pranced around in sweaty clothes, with no makeup, and felt so darn self-assured, so confident, or so beautiful. This empowering feeling has carried over to a new career path (at age 40!) but more importantly, to having the confidence to chase my dreams like never before.