When I was growing up I was a string bean, you know the super skinny legs with the knobby knees. My siblings and I enjoyed playing outside together, playing basketball, racing, volleyball, swimming. The girls I went to school with were kind in elementary school, life was GOOD.
I took an interest in sports, especially track and volleyball. I ran 400's and at practices I did a lot of sprints. My legs grew, and grew, and grew. I would get teased by the guys about my "man" legs, I knew they were just jealous. But I won't lie that there were times it kind of got to me, I didn't fit in with all the "skinny" girls. I felt beautiful in my own way, I was proud I could leg press more than the football players but I was never really encouraged by anyone to be "strong".
My parents were extremely proud of me, they always attended all of my races and games. I could always hear my dad cheering me on, especially at my track meets. He would be standing right at the gate on the final stretch screaming at me to kick it in for the final 100 meters. In one of those races my left hamstring tore and my track career was pretty much over. I was devastated, I continued racing but I was never the same and I always feared I would injure myself again. In some way I felt I had disappointed my dad, I know he never tried in any way to make me feel like that, but he was my world and I wanted to always be the best for him. My parents are at all of my competitions cheering me on and so crazy proud of me. Their support has helped me become who I am today and know that I can truly achieve anything I put my mind to.
As life went on I stayed active, always going to the gym and I never stopped playing volleyball. Sand volleyball became my favorite sport, those are 5-6 months of my favorite time of the year :) My husband and I began dating, he was a personal trainer and we worked out a lot together. It is awesome to be with someone with the same interests.
After we had our daughter my whole world changed. Everything became about HER. I wanted to be her everything, give her everything, but most importantly I have wanted nothing more than to help her grow into a strong, empowered young woman. No matter what her body type, if she grows muscular like me or is small and petite, it doesn't matter. She can be whoever she wants to be, achieve anything and know always she has her parents backing her every step of the way.
Bella is eight years old and I'd like to give you a little history on her. She was a normal sized baby when she was born but she was pretty fussy and not a good eater. We had to take her to monthly appointments at the U of I Growth Clinic. Now my husband and I knew she wasn't the best eater but she did eat and she was a happy baby, we believed she would just be petite. The Growth Clinic was stressful and when Bella was one year old weighing 15 pounds we decided to end our time there. They never truly diagnosed her with anything.
Bella is still petite, she is 4' 4" and weighs about 47 pounds. Is she small and skinny? Yes she is. But in her mind she is just Bella, small but mighty. She has watched her mommy follow her dreams of becoming a figure competitor. She knows why I go to the gym at 4:30 in the morning, I want my evenings free to be with her but I also need my training time. She is truly proud of my muscles and loves hearing about my new PR's in the gym. Bella can't wait until she can play volleyball and go to the gym with mommy and daddy.
In our world our girls are so, so self conscious at an extremely young age and it just breaks my heart. There is no reason 6, 7 and 8 year olds or even older girls should be concerned about how they look. They shouldn't be worried because they are too "skinny", too "bulky", comparing themselves to who they see on tv and in magazines. We all know the women in magazines are photoshopped, it is literally impossible to look like them.
As parents it is our job to raise our girls knowing that they are perfect just the way they are. This morning I got an email from my sister-in-law in California, my brother-in-law coaches middle school basketball. She told me that a girl on the team showed my brother-in-law her defined bicep and asked if that was ok for a girl. My brother-in-law showed them photos of me, letting them know it is definitely ok to have defined biceps and apparently they were all impressed. That made me feel so good!
Girl strong, that is what we are as women, teens, young girls, we need to teach them that from a very young age. There is nothing wrong with being strong and knowing your strength. Sure it can be intimidating to others, but you know what? That is not our problem, that is their problem.
I want to see a world full of young girls, teens and women who are strong. Not just physically but mentally as well. Even more so I truly want them to know it is ok to be a girl and to be strong. We need to empower one another, stop competing against each other just support each other.
So what if I can lift more than some guys at my gym, it doesn't bother me. So what if I have defined muscles, I can't fit my legs into skinny jeans and I don't have a thigh gap. At the age of 33 I am finally, FINALLY proud of my strong legs. They help me jump higher on the volleyball court, run faster in races and do well in competitions.
So here's to us, here's to our girls, may we empower them and show them what it is to be girl strong!