I was a chubby baby.
I was unusually heavy as a newborn, and that carried over into my toddler years- my cheeks were so fat that they obstructed my eyesight, to the point where my already tiny eyes looked like little slits. I lost most of the baby weight entering elementary school, and was pretty skinny in middle school and in the beginning of high school. After hitting puberty, my weight flip-flopped for years. I have always been pretty active, and make a point to exercise at least 5 times a week, but it all boiled down to one thing- I had never been truly comfortable in my own body.
There’s a lot of issues surrounding women’s bodies nowadays. Are we too fat? Too short? Too skinny? Is it weird if we’re stronger than some men? Do men like that? Questions like these have haunted my teenage and adult years for quite some time, and it wasn’t until recently that I finally broke through these negative posts. I used to be so insecure about my arms that I refused to wear a tank top for years. I remember I used to wear long sleeve sweaters in the middle of the summer, and no matter how hot it got, I wouldn’t dare take it off.
Last year, I had the amazing experience of working with a volunteer organization that allowed me to travel and work around the world. I was lucky enough to be assigned to a small beach town in Australia called Port Douglas. Everyday, the other workers and I would go on a new outdoor adventure- whether it was snorkeling, rock-climbing, or hiking- it was one of the best and most fun times of my life.
We had stumbled across a scenic waterfall one morning – it was mostly empty save for a few kids, but we climbed to the top, and one by one, all of us stripped down to our bathings suits and jumped off the cliff into the cool, blue water.
I remembered feeling so self-conscious and scared – I didn’t want the others to see my bare stomach, or jiggly thighs. I stood at the top of the waterfall for some time, until my friend put his hand on my shoulder and smiled.
“What are you waiting for? The water is great!” He said, gleefully.
That’s when it clicked – there was so much to see, so many people to meet, and so many things to do; I didn’t have the time to worry about how fat I thought it was. I shouldn’t be preoccupied with women that I want to look like – I should be looking towards women that inspire me and those who feel confident and secure in themselves, no matter what their appearance is. If I kept letting tummy rolls and batwing arms get in the way of living a big, juicy, creative life, it was going to break my heart.
So, Raptors, I encourage you to jump. You are so much more than whatever you think you’re supposed to look like.