As I stood at the bottom of the stairs absolutely terrified, looking onto the stage that I was about to walk across in the tiniest (but most beautiful) bikini I’ve ever worn, I had flashbacks of the moments and choices that led me to this one.
I could not have in a million years fathomed the courage it took to go through with it, but that was the whole point. As far back as I can remember I was the girl with the pretty face, the girl who would always rather stay home than be seen in a bathing suit. Someone who was never able to see what other people saw when they looked at me.
At 18, I was discovered while at the bank by a top model agent in Toronto, with dreams of making it big I became so obsessed with my appearance and my weight that I actively damaged my body physically and mentally and was left with an eating disorder. I had taken advantage of the body I had been so blessed with, and pushed away the people who cared about me the most… I was lucky that those very same people, saved me from myself. I was tiny at 5’9 weighing only 108lbs. Without going into further details surrounding that dark time in my life I was fortunate to make it out and began to heal.
In the years that followed, my weight fluctuated a lot! I became an emotional eater and sabotaged myself out of fear that I was not capable of real happiness and the instilled belief that I was never going to be good enough. I tried everything you can think of to get back into shape but it never left me feeling satisfied. I would idolize the women on the fitness magazines as they were promoting health and inspiring people. With all the destructive choices I had made I thought this would be the best way for me to change my life, and hopefully someone else’s too.
It’s hard in today’s world with all the different pressures we face, there is so much emphasis on physical appearance and it too often leaves us all feeling a little discouraged and inadequate. After years of trying to accomplish the goals I had set out for myself, I was heavier than ever. It was as if I didn’t want to succeed because I was so afraid to let myself be vulnerable and uncomfortable. I woke up one day feeling so sad and so unhealthy I made a commitment that no matter what it took I was going to make these dreams a reality. I would do something that for me was so scary it seemed near impossible, but the most important part was that I promised myself to do it in a healthy way, in a kind and loving way, and regardless of the outcome I would not sacrifice the values I had gained from my past experiences.
It took me about 8 months of hard work, making mistakes, wavering determination, early mornings, uncertainty, loneliness, a lot of sweat and some tears to get to that place at the bottom of those stairs and even though I was not nearly as conditioned as the other girls backstage I knew how far I had come and that this was the first step of many in becoming a better version of myself. Someone who is willing to take chances, to fight for her happiness and who feels the fear and will just do it anyways. There was no more settling for mediocrity.
I cannot put into words how terrifying it was walking out in front of all of those people (luckily without falling) while having the most vulnerable feelings I have ever experienced. Though, what was even more powerful was when the fear changed to empowerment. Everyone was cheering for me!?. I was in that moment so proud of myself, and with a renewed spirit and self worth I was forever changed. Shaking uncontrollably, I walked off that stage with my 4th place medal and sobbed the happiest tears I’ve ever had fall from my face. With those tears left so much pain and guilt and fear of failure and complacency because I DID IT. Of course, I could not have been as brave without my supportive family and friends, and my coach Alicia, who really was my rock on the hardest of days.
The show was followed with an overwhelming outpour of support and praise from friends and strangers who told me I was their inspiration and that they wanted to do what I did. As a result, I was even asked to go to high schools and speak to young men and woman about body image and self love, which is the next step on this journey. I truly believe things happen exactly when and how they are supposed to. If I hadn’t had to overcome so many obstacles I would never be so passionate about continuing this journey to inspire people, and to be inspired.
I have learned a valuable lesson, that we are all unique and can turn our story and our pain into the power to create change in each other’s lives, even if it’s small. This is only the beginning for me. I am taking this new found zest for life and inspiration to the next level, and hopefully can continue to touch people’s lives throughout the process. The next challenge is in progress, as am I. In the words of Brené Brown, owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. I totally understand this now.
Thank you all so much for your kindness and unwavering faith in me. I am living proof that anything is possible, and now that I realize (Im)possible the best is yet to come.