My Strength is My Strength


Growing up, I always wanted to be able to run long distances. I always wanted to be faster, more “in shape.” I thought my athleticism was defined by my ability to run, rather than how I competed in sports. I was led to believe that the kids able to run the longest distances were the best athletes. With this mindset, I felt behind on conditioning in comparison to my teammates. No matter how hard I practiced, how well I played or how often I ran, I felt defeated.

The constant disappointment led me to try winter track during my freshman year of high school, in order to get in shape for my spring lacrosse season. After a couple months of practice and a few meets, I was frustrated with my lack of progress. I struggled every practice and never felt that I was doing enough — I needed more.

In the midst of an athletic crisis, I made a promise to myself that I would take my anger out in the weight room. As runners dwindled after practice, I’d stay hours later, hitting the weights, working on explosiveness and power. It seemed to come naturally to me.

One night, my track coach approached me and acknowledged my presence in the weight room. He asked me to consider throwing shot put for the team, which would be a great opportunity to exhibit the strength and power I acquired in the weight room. I hesitantly agreed. Little did I know, it would change my life. As I started to throw, I realized my true talent rested in my strength.

I used to think the weight room was a characteristically male-dominated place. I imagined large, muscular boys “pumping iron” for hours on end, listening to hard rap music. I realized that wasn’t the case; I could bench to Taylor Swift or Broadway music without feeling out of place, without feeling judged. The weight room became my safe haven.

Many women are afraid of weightlifting. They don’t want to be bulky. They are scared of being called manly. Though our society is starting to warm up to the idea of the “strong woman,” it has not reached normalcy. Women are still afraid to be viewed in that light.

We’re born into the thought that being healthy is equivalent to being skinny. Healthy is relative. It has no shape or form. Yet, from a young age, our society defines health for us. It tells us that we have to look in the mirror and see a Barbie Doll figure staring back, or else we aren’t in the majority.

Society likes to define “health” and “fitness,” but every body is different. Every individual benefits from being active in different ways. I take pride in listening to my body, rather than forcing myself to be something I’m not. That’s what health is, not whatever society likes to tell us it is.

Throughout my life, I feared being strong. I was afraid to look in the mirror and see muscle; I did not want to be “manly.” I couldn’t help but feel like an outcast for being built differently. Once I started lifting, however, the term “in shape” no longer rang heavily in my ears. I found confidence in the fact that I didn’t need to run miles on end to feel good about myself. My definition of athleticism was not centered around running. I didn’t feel “manly”; I didn’t feel out of place. For the first time in my life, I felt healthy and fit.

Being a strong woman doesn’t scare me anymore; it makes me who I am.

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