I am sure the photos in this article look crazy out of place on a website designed to educate, motivate and inspire riders to get fit to rider better—but bear with me and I am pretty sure you will appreciate this unexpected break from our regular blogs on core, cardio and program design.
I wanted to share a personal story in hopes that it might save one young girl from the fallout dealing with poor self-esteem. Or more properly stated, help a young girl deal with her healthy self image getting gutted by an insensitive adult who was very committed to her job and position of authority.
I am a child of the 80’s. That means my world was defined by Vogue, Glamour, Cosmo and the era of the super model. What started with Cheryl Tiegs in the 70’s, progressed to Christie Brinkley in the 80’s and hit its peak with Cindy Crawford, Elle McPherson and Paulina Porizkova-just to name a few of the dozen or so girls that became household names if you happened to have teenage girls (and boys?) in the house. There were only 3 body types that mattered in the 80’s: thin, thinner and thinnest. There was one dream every young girl had (ok when we were not dreaming of horses and hunter courses)-to be the cover of one of those magazines or the Holy Grail of acceptance into the world of fashion, glam and sports-the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
I was 17 years old and determined to take my chance in the world of modeling. Now I understand the nature of that business, and we could talk for hours and days about whether I should have even gone down that road. But that is another conversation for another day.
Back in the day, I was fortunate enough to have developed a friendship one of the top makeup artists in Atlanta-who just happened to be in a relationship with the top fashion photographer in Atlanta. We arranged a time for the photographer to take some headshots that I could use to create a comp card and take on interviews to the local agencies. The photos below were two of the results from that day. I remember feeling so proud of those photos. For this first time in my life I felt (dare I say it?)…pretty. I was ok in my own skin-and that says a lot coming from a 17 year old girl.
I went to my first interview, shaking inside with nerves and fear of rejection. I felt like I was holding my entire future and my self-esteem in a folder neatly tucked in fashionable briefcase. I was 5’ 8” tall and about 121 lbs of all legs.
After what seemed like forever, I was called in and the rest of the conversation was a blur…except for two things that were said and forever tattooed in my mind. Two things that changed my world then and still sting my world 43 years later. Not the kind of sting that creates bad habits-the kind of sting that wants to protect all girls young and old from the undeniable power of unkind words. The kind of sting that wants to protect any girl from hearing such a harsh assessment of her body…of her person. Of HER.
The head of the agency looked down her reading glass covered nose at me and told me that I might have a chance if I would consider a nose job and losing 5-10 lbs. You see, when I was around 16 years old, I got in the way of a tennis ball that came rocketing off my then boyfriend’s tennis racquet and it left a bump. After that day, it was the biggest bump ever on any nose of any person alive or dead. I was just a big knot on a nose who was fat.
That day…that moment set me up for years of struggle and internal battles. From that moment on, I dreaded having photos taken and when I did, all I saw was that NOSE. I just kept thinking if I lost just one more pound no one would notice the nose. No one would notice the fat. And no one would notice…me. Did this mean I was shy? Oh heavens no. I compensated with a wicked sense of humor. I went out with friends and almost always had a boy on my arms. The problem was I was drawn to boys that were not nice to girls. I chose boys that treated me, my perceived fat body and my self-determined awful nose exactly how we “should have been” treated. Can you imagine the never-ending cycle that came from those decisions?
It took years of working on myself to learn to be ok with myself. More years to be kind to myself (by not under-eating and over-exercising). And even more years to really truly like myself. I honestly don’t know how I would have done it without a deep faith and leaning into that faith. I am able to love myself because I know I am loved.
So now, while a big part of the Athletic Rider IS to help riders to get fit to rider better, there is also an undercurrent that is, in my mind, even more important. To create an environment where women learn self-awareness, then self-acceptance and (if all goes as it should) a blossoming self-esteem that will last beyond the boot camp.
There are just too many women spending too many years not liking what they see in the mirror-and I am not talking about not liking a few extra pounds. In many cases those unwanted pounds (or much needed pounds) are the result of the low self-esteem not the cause. In many cases that low self-esteem was groomed by some powerful words.
What is amazing and motivating to me is to see how such a simple formula-fitness program, a healthy nutrition guide, a coach and a community-can do so much to turn around low self-esteem in such a short period of time. You are beautiful and amazing. It might just take a burpee or two for you to see that in yourself.
Now I am not saying boot camp is a miracle cure for everyone. If you find yourself treating yourself poorly, such as eating very low calorie diets or getting rid of food that you have eaten, please reach out to get some help. If you don’t know where to start, try the National Eating Disorders Association. It is a great resource that should be able to aim you in the right direction.