I’ve never been the most self-confident person. For some reason, I felt I had to be the smartest, the most athletic, the prettiest, the most desirable, etc. And, yet so many of my experiences had taught me that I wasn't those things.
When I was no more than 8 years old, my Great Grandma called me fat as I was changing into my bathing suit to go play in her pool. When I was in high school, my dad (who, let me clarify, I love dearly!) told me I needed to lose weight so that I could be a more agile and faster soccer player. To this day I get where they were coming from. From a place of concern and from wanting me to be my best. But, the little girl in me still carries this insecurity with me. That if people in my family think I'm fat, than I must be. Sometimes I felt like no matter what I did - no matter how hard I studied, no matter how much weight I lost, no matter how successful I was in soccer or school or life, it wasn't enough. And because I thrived so much on external validation, so much of what I did was motivated by the desire to get that praise and affirmation from the people in my life.
And in so many ways, these experiences and perspectives skewed the way I saw myself - not only from a physical perspective but from an emotional perspective.
Losing myself in school...
In college, the pattern continued. Do it all, be it all, and make it seem effortless. Get the grades, find a guy, make all the friends, get a job. Impress everyone. But, college came with a lot of stress, and a lot of challenges. And, as every college student does when they're faced with those stresses and the freedom that comes with college, I turned to all you can eat food at the dining center, conveniently located pints of ice cream at the market, and the copious amounts of alcohol at parties. And, pretty much the freshman fifteen, turned into something more along the lines of the freshman thirty plus. And my already shaky self-esteem took another hit.
School was my excuse. I was working toward a double-degree in Microbiology and Genetics. I was working in a lab part time. I was volunteering as an assistant soccer coach and working as a teaching assistant. I was a busy girl, and that was my excuse. And it was also my reason. In the pursuit of being this high-achieving person, pursuing something that I knew would impress people and make them proud, I'd lost sight of the athlete I loved being. I lost any of the confidence in myself that I had. I was a scientist, and honors student. That was my identity, and it became more important to me than the things that I loved. Music. Sports. Fitness.
The fall after I graduated from undergrad, I went to Mexico as my "graduation trip". It was beautiful, and so much fun! But, when I got back from the trip and looked through the pictures, I was pretty ashamed of myself. I was at the heaviest I'd ever been in my life. I no longer saw an athlete when I looked in the mirror. I no longer saw someone that I could respect. I wouldn't even share many of the pictures of me from the trip.
At this time, I started on what would become a crazy rollercoaster to get myself back. And it started with getting my health back. I joined Weight Watchers online, and lost 25lbs in the next 6 months.
Though I was successful on Weight Watchers, I still struggled from the same inability to see myself as anything more than the science major who got fat and even more self-conscious in college! I felt better about myself, but I still didn't feel worth it. I remember once my Aunt said to me after I had lost a bunch of weight, "It's true isn't it? That Kate Moss quote! 'Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.'" Though I laughed it off at the time, that comment never sat well with me. I didn't want to feel good just because I had lost weight. I was really struggling internally with a lot of perceptions I had about how much my weight, my struggles in school played into my value and who I was...
At that point, everything I'd done was solely focused on the physical transformation. I had yet to work on my mindset. I'd yet to consider what I truly wanted in my life.
In summer 2013, I started graduate school working toward my PhD in Microbiology, with an MS in Epidemiology. I suffered from Impostor syndrome, and didn't feel like I belonged in my PhD program. In my eyes, everyone else was so much smarter than me and so much better at everything than I was. So it was very easy to once again fall back into old patterns, feeling like I had to prove myself, be the smartest, etc. But that would backfire fast, and would lead my graduate program director recommend that I go see a counselor. And that wasn't even the biggest turning point for me.
When I realized that I was slipping back into old habits, I threw myself into the workout program Insanity. I was really committed to it...at least for 10 days...
I went out with my rotation lab to celebrate one of my coworkers getting into a graduate program. It had been a rough week, and to say I drowned my stress and anxiety in alcohol would be an understatement. And on this random Tuesday evening, I had massively too much to drink. My hangover was debilitating and would spill into our Women in Science celebration the following day. I remember that day vividly because I couldn't have been more angry at myself. I couldn't have possibly felt worse about the life that I was living and how far I had veered from the person I wanted to be. People were telling all these stories of the perceptions and obstacles that women had overcome to get where they are in the STEM fields, and how we, as the next generation, were examples of those efforts. But I didn't feel like an example. In fact, I'd never felt more like an undeserving fraud.
Here I was, mid-20s, with all the ambition and potential in the world, but none of the passion. None of the commitment. None of the confidence. None of the certainty. My commitment seemed to ebb and flow with each passing mood. I had to convince myself to work hard. I had to convince myself to be great at science, oftentimes using impressing my parents or my mentor as a reason to be motivated.
But, I finally realized that I was sick of being that person. As a symbol of my commitment to stay dedicated to myself and to figuring out what I wanted in life, that day I decided I was going to do something for me--that would challenge me, and tempt me, but would also help me to focus on the commitments that I had made to myself. I gave up drinking for about 3 months. I finished Insanity, finished my "hell semester" with flying colors, and I was starting to feel strong again.
My journey has continued ever since with substantial help from the Beachbody products that have been such a game changer for me. From February 2014 to now I have developed routines, tools and happens that have made fitness and self-care such an integral part of my life that I legitimately don't know who I am without them. And if I'm a pain in the ass about these routines, habits and this lifestyle, this is why. Because it gave me myself back. And though I've definitely lost progress, injured myself, fallen off track, gotten back on...I've always stayed consistent. I've never stopped. And though I'm definitely not the fittest person you will ever meet and am definitely lacking in the six-pack department (sue me...I like ice cream. And wine.), I think that that consistency, even in the midst of imperfection, is the key. It's the key that led to another 25lb weight loss, muscles I never knew I could have, the beginnings of abs, not only single-digit, but size 4 jeans, which is something I never thought I could be, and so many other things that I thought were impossible.
If you decide you can have something, you can have it. You just have to be able to take the action and put in the work to get it done.