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How a Bikini Competition Changed My Life

I have been beyond blessed by the overwhelming amount of support I received (in the form of numerous messages, comments, and shares) for my first HuffingtonPost.com publication—thank you!

Being authentic, vulnerable, and transparent takes courage and strength. At first, sharing my fitness story wasn’t easy; it came with a lot of baggage: shame, guilt, and abuse.

As I’ve grown more comfortable with who I am, I’ve realized my past and struggles matter. My story matters, and my voice matters because…

I matter.

In this previous piece, I openly shared my struggles, setbacks, flaws, and story which, in the fitness industry, isn’t heard often enough. In doing so, I subjected myself to judgment, negative feedback, and backlash.

Unfortunately, many didn’t take the time to actually read the article, let alone understand the point because they were too busy focusing on my picture. It’s easy to form assumptions based on a distracting photo, for example, a girl decked out in a glitzy bikini and clear platform heels, covered in a super dark spray tan, and replace thoughtful words with judgments.

So here is my advice, and the message is simple: to become your best self, create a healthy and strong body, a positive mindset, and a soul filled with self-love, self-acceptance, gratitude, and forgiveness.

For me, fitness is a passion; it’s an outlet for me to gain strength and confidence while becoming the best version of myself. My body is a reflection of my lifestyle, and my lifestyle is a reflection of my purpose.

How I train and care for my physical being determines whether or not I function at my optimal best. If I am not at my best, how can I give my best and to be in the service of others?

Like people, passions vary. Perhaps your passion is reading, taking a walk in nature, spending time with your children, traveling, cooking, or something else entirely. Find what you are passionate about and do just that—do you. I know that my passion is not for everyone. However, I do want to emphasize that this is only a portion of my fitness story.

Fitness is not one dimensional; it is not just the physical; it is not just what you see on the outside. It is an intimate connection to the self: mind, body, and soul.

When we first glance at a picture of a lean, tanned female in a blinged-out bikini, our judgmental instincts kick in.

Omg, look at her!

Look at her tan!

She looks sick!

She should eat a roast beef sandwich with extra mayo!

That’s so unhealthy!

She should love herself!

Shame on her!

She’s so vain!

She’s…

Look, I get it! We all judge. And although you’re entitled to your opinions, not everyone needs or wants to hear them.

Society has conveyed the message that all girls and women SHOULD love their bodies and themselves.

And you know what? They absolutely should; however, that statement is far from reality for many women. It is easier said than done. Although this kind of positive thinking may come easily for you, not everyone is YOU.

For me, after hearing people say that all women should love their bodies, I wondered “why?” You see, I couldn’t understand why women would or should love themselves.

After all, women have been criticized for having all sorts of lifestyles and body types. We’re either too fat or too thin. We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. I assumed all women had a messed up way of thinking as I did.

By listening to the judgmental voices, rather than our own truth, we only add to the problems of body shame and body dysmorphia. If we let ourselves listen to all the criticism, it becomes our truth; we believe that we are not worthy of love.

When we don’t see the value in ourselves and think we’re not good enough, and they believe other people aren’t enough if they don’t fit our idea of who and what they should be, we only cause more harm.

If someone already thinks they aren’t enough, and then you tell them what they should be doing differently, what do you think you are really telling them? That they truly aren’t enough. Because they don’t think, act, or believe what is true according to you, you are validating their belief that they are not good enough.

Just remember that your words have power.

A quote commonly attributed to Buddha says,

“What you think you become;

What you feel you attract;

What you imagine you create.”

When we tell ourselves we are worthless and unlovable, we give meaning to these words, and these words have power; they define our reality.

“I am” are two of the most powerful words, for what we speak after them creates our reality.

What may be obvious and easy for some, may be difficult for others. What you believe, others don’t. This is okay. It’s your truth and your reality. The truth is the perception of our reality.

And for me, my truth was that I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I didn’t like who I had become. I didn’t love myself in a way that allowed me to be my best self.

The beauty of having diverse voices and truths is in our vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency.

We should be courageous, bold, and brave in expressing who we truly are.

For most of my life, I didn’t know what that meant. I had given away my power to others to be the authority in my life. But I knew that if I didn’t change my mindset, no one would speak about matters near and dear to my heart.

It wasn’t until I found love, worthiness, and acceptance through the power of my faith that I found my true self.

Because I have listened to the opinions of others, I’ve said way worse things to myself than you can imagine. But I no longer accept or tolerate what others say or think of me.

I know my worth, and it doesn’t come in the form of other people’s opinions.

Here’s the truth: You don’t know me or my whole story. You only know 1052 words written in the form of a personal essay for Huffington Post.

So, the next time you want to vocalize your opinion, stop and ask yourself: do I really know this person? Do I know what they’re going through? Did they ask for my help or opinion? Chances are, the answers will be NO.

It doesn’t take much to swallow your opinions and move on with your own life—do you! It may be cliché, but it’s true: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

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  • author

    Hi, I am Rachel!

    I am the founder of I am Athletics, a line of athletic apparel and accessories with an important message: Let go of your limiting beliefs and redefine who you are. Create your own story.

    After a lifetime of living in extremes, from body dysmorphia to eating disorders, to self-esteem issues, I have overcome struggles by creating a balanced health and fitness lifestyle of body, mind, and soul. Through experiences of my own, I hope to give back and inspire, encourage and empower others to embrace life with passion and purpose.

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