Your ‘Perfect’ Self

It blows my mind that I can pick up a magazine with the header “The New Plus-Sized Model”, flip it open and see a gorgeous woman wearing size 8 clothes. As a society, we have painted a picture of what the ‘perfect’ woman looks like; long skinny legs, a flat stomach, thin arms, and narrow hips.

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If I were to go up to a couple of random people and ask them why the descriptions above represent the ‘perfect’ woman, I bet the majority of them wouldn’t know why. I don’t believe that the ‘perfect’ woman we have put together is perfect at all, but it makes sense why they would think this way. When you search “woman’s perfect body”, this is the most popular photo that comes up.

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I was able to step away from the norms of society and create my own ‘perfect’ woman; a woman who feels strong and fit, a woman who believes that they are the best version that they can be, a woman who acknowledges their insecurities, yet doesn’t let that stop them from being anything but them, and finally, a woman who is happy. For me personally, if I drop time in my 200 fly, that is one step closer to being the ‘perfect’ version of me. For most people, stepping on a scale to see they’ve lost 3 pounds or measuring their waste to see that it’s ½ an inch smaller is what makes them feel better about themselves. Why do we obsess about getting smaller and getting closer to the ‘perfect’ woman? I take pride in my arms getting bigger, and my legs getting bigger, because I know that I’ve been working hard to build up strength and muscle, and that’s a hell of a lot more important to me than having long, skinny arms and legs. Why do we have to conform to the norms of society? Why can’t we break that trend and create our own versions of our ‘perfect’ selves? Going back to the model on the magazine, why does society categorize someone as plus size, just because they’re a size 8? A size 8 is in the average/healthy range. We do this because a size 8 does not conform to society’s rules of the ‘perfect’ woman. Does this mean that you can only be perfect if you look exactly like the ‘perfect’ woman above, because if that’s the case, then everybody would be trying to look exactly the same, and all of a sudden we’ve lost the identity of ourselves in this image that has been made up. It took only one person to come up to me and tell me that they admired how strong I was, both physically and mentally. Ever since that day, I take pride in my broad shoulders, my giant quads, and my strong, wide back. Stop being a follower and become your own leader; decide for yourself what the ‘perfect’ version of you is. And for starters, don’t call it the ‘perfect’ version, because nobody is perfect, and that’s what makes everybody special in their own way.

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And remember, this perfect, is not always the best ‘perfect’.

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A Game of Balance

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Being a 15 year old student athlete, there are 4 things that are on my priority list; school, sports, recovery (sleep and food), and my social life.

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If you put everything in a chart based on how much time you should be spending on each aspect, you would end up with a 30+ hour day, which is simply impossible. For most people, school and sports are the 2 things that cannot be changed. Now we’re left with recovery and our social lives. Because we are teenagers, we will simply do whatever we can to not lose or give up hanging out with friends. Because of this, our sleeping and recovery time becomes severely shortened. This, especially after a long period of time, can begin to effect us in negative ways. As growing teenage athletes, we should be getting a minimum of 8 1/2 hours of sleep every night. In reality, most of us are lucky to get a mere 7 hours. For athletes, sleep is not just a time for us to rest, but it is a time for our bodies to fix any tears or breaks in our muscles from that days workout. If you have a super hard dry-land session followed by a 2 hour killer sprint workout, chance is you have done some damage to your body. If you don’t allow your body plenty of time to repair the damages, then they will stay with your body until your next workout, and this is when injuries occur. Sleep cannot be sacrificed for anything. It is a vital part of your health.

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If you look at what else can be sacrificed for sleep, it’s your social life. When this happens, you begin to sleep in later on weekends and get to sleep earlier at the expense of going to a movie or breakfast with your friends. This exact thing happened to me during my freshman year of high school. I had morning practice and afternoon practice almost everyday, and Saturday morning practice. On school nights, I would go to practice, eat, work, and then go to sleep. This seems normal, until you see what my weekends were like. After friday evening practice, instead of going out to dinner with my friends, I would go home, eat dinner, maybe watch a little TV, then go to bed early, and I would wake up early on Saturday morning for practice. Afterwards, instead of going to breakfast with my friends, I would go home, eat breakfast, and then sit in my room doing nothing because I was exhausted. Eventually, I would get around to doing some work. At night, I would be way to tired to do anything, so I would stay home, eat and watch TV. Sundays were my only practice-free day, meaning that it was my designated work day. It was the only day that I wasn’t too deadly exhausted to work, and because of this, my Sundays weren’t exactly the best days to hang out with my friends. So there was my 7-day week, filled with school (work), sports, and recovery.

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You could look at that and say that all my needs were covered, however things began to go downhill. My grades began to spiral, I was constantly tired no matter how much rest I got, and I was always in a bad mood.

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It wasn’t until Sophomore year until I realized that my social life wasn’t something I wanted back, but it was something I needed back. I decided to drop one morning practice every week to get more sleep and work done, and I learned how to manage my time better so that my work was getting done much more efficiently. Even though I lost a morning practice and those eventful Saturday mornings of sitting alone in my room doing nothing, I was able go to that movie, or go to dinner or breakfast with my friends. After a couple weeks of getting back into a healthier routine, I started to feel much better. My grades improved, I was always full of energy, and I woke up every morning, excited about what the day was going to be like.

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From that experience, I’ve learned the importance of leading a balanced life. It’s okay to have those weeks here and there where you just can’t get enough sleep, or you have no time to hang out with your friends, but make sure that on a regular basis, you are finding time to do things that make you happy. Finding a healthy balance can improve your mind, health, and happiness. Figure out what works for YOU, to live a life where you wake up every morning with a smile on your face.

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What Would You Change?

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We live in a world where social media is the starting point for almost everything. This can be a great platform to raise awareness for important causes, or becoming reacquainted with an old friend. But while those are positives, the negatives can be extreme. Social Media opens up a door for anybody to say something (negative or positive) about somebody else. Sometimes this is anonymous, and sometimes it is not; but whether you know the identity of the person saying things about you or not is almost irrelevant. No matter what, hearing someone say or write that you have short legs, are ugly or fat is always going to make you begin to feel insecure about yourself. Everybody has their insecurities and they don’t need bullies out there making it worse for them. My big question is why these people write nasty things about other people, why do you even care what they look like when you don’t even know them? For some reason, people dwell on what other people think of them, even more than what they think about themselves. Isn’t the most important thing for you to be happy and feel healthy? With all of those body trends out there, it is impossible to have a body that everyone will think is perfect, and at the same time, there will always be something about yourself that you will not like. Why is having a gap between your thighs important, and why do your hip bones need to stick out when you’re lying out by the beach in a bikini? These body trends are not only unimportant, but they are unattainable by most people. I have never been the skinniest girl out there, but the important thing is that I am healthy and happy. I may not have a super toned 6-pack, but I can hold a plank for hours. I may not have a thigh gap, but I can do hundreds of squats and lunges. My hipbones may not stick out when I’m lying down, but I feel good in a bikini. It has never bothered me that I can’t be super skinny and have a thigh gap because that’s just not who I am and who I am supposed to be. So many people out there obsess over every little thing about their body that they forget what the most important things are. At the end of the day, you are not going to live longer because you have a thigh gap, you’re not going to find true love just because your hip bones stick out and you’re not going to be happier just because you have all of the body trends out there.

To all the body shamers out there, it isn’t necessary to hate on other people’s bodies, especially if you don’t know them. Accept them for who they are and their inner beauty. To those of you who are always trying to change things about your body, remember this; the most important thing about you is who you are on the inside. Your friends and family will love you for who you are, thigh gap or no thigh gap. Instead of always trying to lose your body, build on it. Maybe today you can only run 1 lap of the track, but make it your goal to make it to 2, then 3 and 4. As long as you are happy and feel good about yourself, then there shouldn’t be any reason for you to listen to the haters out there. Love yourself for who you are, and the world will do the same!

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