The other night, my mother shared something with me I have yet to stop thinking about. As young women who both take pride in our bodies, my mother and I often find ourselves discussing health and fitness. This conversation was no different. However, in many ways, it was entirely.
My mother had stumbled across an article involving three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, a role model to me and many others. The gymnast was in an airport when a female security worker mentioned recognizing the gymnast for her biceps. Gymnasts, among many athletes, tend to be very strong, fit individuals due to the tremendous amount of practice and training they put forth both inside and outside of the gym. This is common knowledge to many. After hearing this comment, a male employee responded, “I don’t see any muscles.”
Of course, we all understand the ignorance and downright falseness of his comment. In addition to this, his remark was sexist and disrespectful. My mother and I decided to continue this important conversation on body image in response to a different comment spoken recently. This comment was directed toward me.
For those of you who know me personally, you know that for over a year now I have been embarking on a journey of positivity and self-love. More seriously, this journey developed during my freshman year of college, where I was able to gain both confidence and insight on what it truly means to be healthy. This path has helped me physically, and more importantly, mentally.
Growing up, I never had the confidence or drive I now possess. A lot of that is thanks to the incredible opportunities I have been given while attending Illinois State University and a lot of it is due to a personal passion of mine I could no longer ignore. I know what you are thinking, get to the point, what was the comment? Well, to summarize a long conversation into a few short syllables: Athleticism.
The person I was speaking with essentially told to me that she knew what a healthy, athletic individual looks like and that I did not have that image (as an athlete herself, she is often surrounded by other gymnasts in leotards on a daily basis). Although this person is intellectual in many way, I have to disagree with this particular statement.
To me, “Athletic” is not a body type and “health” is not a procedure that can be followed. From runners, to dancers, to boxers and swimmers, we are all built differently. Certain muscles become defined and limbs elongated all due to the training in which our different sports or activities demand. There is no single or correct way to “be healthy” or to “look athletic;” that number is as infinite as the stars in sky.
I guess what I took away from this experience and what I wish to project to my audience here is this: each and every one of us have been blessed with our own unique body to nurture, and many of us choose to exert our body into various forms of physical activity. Movement is beautiful in both internal and external ways. No matter how the curves of your body are drawn, you are strong and powerful. Please do not ever forget that or let anyone tell you otherwise.