As women we are constantly fed the narrative that our bodies must fit into the standards of beauty that society has cut out for us. Yet the truth of the matter is, bodies are different. We will not all fit into the "perfect" mold. But does that make us any less beautiful? In this phenomenal guest post Jordyn Cooley shares her experience of how she began to understand and love the body she was born into. She shares how weightlifting has been pivotal in this process and how the practice has made her stronger in more ways than one. If you're not already encouraged, get ready.
It’s 2005, I am finally old enough to start shopping at the coveted Abercrombie and Hollister for new school clothes. I walk into the cloud of perfume-soaked clothing displayed in rooms too dark to distinguish red flannels from pink ones; completely excited. I’m starting 5th grade and keeping up with the latest trends has already consumed the ways in which I desire to present myself. After grabbing handfuls of clothes I rush to the dressing rooms to see what will be the perfect back to school outfit with the perfect jeans. Oh, those jeans.
I was just 10 years old when I realized my body type was not the norm. I had tried on every size of jean they offered for children and nothing fit. This moment ignited one of the biggest obstacles I have had to overcome in my life. I started to view my body as unsatisfactory. I firmly believed that my beauty was determined by the size of my thighs and the number on the tag in my jeans.
I would like to be able to communicate that this negative view of myself dissipated shortly over time, but the reality is that it took 12 more years. 12 years of constantly telling myself that I was flawed, that I was not good enough or beautiful enough. This all changed the day I picked up a barbell.
I am a competitive weightlifter specializing in movements called the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. I would be lying if I had you believe that overnight, weightlifting prevented me from thinking negatively about my body, but I can say this; not a single day goes by that I currently look at myself in the same way I did when I was just 10 years old. Before this sport, I would enter a gym and engage in any of every exercise that I thought would help me get smaller and make that annoying number on the scale go down. Yes, I did try all of those Pinterest “Butt-burner” and “Instant Abs” exercises. I believed that doing the things I found on the internet and social media would finally make me look like the celebrities we see plastered all over every form of media. When weightlifting entered my life, I slowly became less concerned about the “fat-loss” exercises and became more concerned with the exercises that made me feel strong. My mindset completely shifting from putting everything I had in me to make that wretched number on the scale go down to pushing myself to make that number on the barbell go up. Strong outweighed being skinnier from this moment on.
Every day I wake up happy knowing that God has placed weightlifting in my life. Each and every lift that I have and will conquer brings me further from the distorted, unrealistic views I had on beauty and body image when I was just 10 years old. Ultimately, I believe women need this type of iron in their lives. We all won’t lift for the same goals, but we all will have a common purpose. Lifting weights makes us feel strong in a world that tells us we are weak. We can conquer the limitations that have been ingrained in us through Satan, the society, and even ourselves. I do not anticipate every woman to begin a sport like weightlifting, but I hope that seeing the power of strength on beauty and body image in my own journey can impact you in a meaningful way.
As women, we have all struggled and chased after finding that magical answer to maintaining our ideal body and I think there is an answer. When we find that passion in our life that shifts our focus away from the scale and mirrors, we are able to see just how beautiful God has created us. I spend my days lifting weights, indulging in Diet Dr. Pepper and McDonald’s, and fully loving who I am, for I am Strong.