Not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, not enough.
My life was full of fear, insecurities, self-abuse, depression; you name it. I was a miserably unhappy person.
Today, I am proud to say that I have a deep love for myself, confidence, strength and so much more. I am full of life and happy to be alive.
I am…Rachel and this is My Story:
For many years, I struggled with the value of self-worth and how I saw myself compared to others. I never felt I belonged, pretty enough, smart enough, good enough, simply put, I was NOT enough. I was always seeking perfection only to find that I was chasing an illusion I had created in my mind. I was never happy with myself, physically and mentally. I constantly felt judged, criticized, and alone. I thought that was how everyone saw me, through my own eyes. I had developed a warped sense of false identity and began to believe everything I told myself, lies.
To me, I believed perfection was what I saw in magazines and what the media portrayed, which led me to have issues with my weight and at times, taking drastic measures. I was trying so hard to look a certain way, and I felt lost, hurt and miserable.
In 2011, I joined a gym and decided I would compete in my first bodybuilding, bikini competition in spring of 2012. I did just that. I set a goal, accomplished it and…hated every bit of it. Why? Because I did not like myself. I couldn’t accept who I was becoming and felt I did not deserve it. The athletes I looked up to were my idea of perfection, I mean, come on, just look at their bodies! I followed a meal plan to a “T” and was so scared of failing and gave up my social life. I was afraid that one mistake would set me back and all my efforts would be negated. In fact, I did not cheat once! I was that committed and determined, chasing perfection, I gave it 100%. Once again, I was miserable! The physical pain and emotional struggles I endured just to look a certain way. I thought, why did others have it so easy?
Over the course of my prep, I was changing physically by losing weight, shedding body fat and building muscle; however, my mindset never changed. I thought that would come with the visuals, seeing how great I was looking, the weight I was losing, the number on the scale, and how perfect I ate. That mind shift never happened, and I continued to fail, I just wasn’t enough.
The whole “perfection” process (contest prep) was exhausting and stressful. I was overtraining my body to the point that I unknowingly had ruptured my L5-S1 disc, the week of my show. I was pushing myself so hard for something I thought the judges would like and accept. I was chasing validation from people who had never met me, this was a competition, and I did not place. In hindsight, I deserved not to place; I was not ready. My body developed, but my mind did not. The judges didn’t know me. They didn’t know my story. They didn’t care, this was my journey, my struggle. How could I expect others to see the value in me when I never valued myself?
After the competition, I was a wreck, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I had gained all the weight I lost, plus (a lot) more and the physical pain from my back injury was excruciating! After several months, and exhausting all medical options, I opted to have surgery on my L5-S1 to alleviate the pressure on my sciatic nerve. Worry and fear consumed me, surgery, my spine, a major nerve!? I was terrified! The procedure was a success, and the pressure on my nerve subsided. For the first time in months, I was able to stand up straight and walk without dragging my right leg, and I began to feel optimistic for the first time in months, looking forward to recovering and getting my life back. Having such a setback, I was afraid people would look at me and judge me again for not meeting the exceptions of the bikini body I once had.
When I started my physical therapy, they told me I would never be able to lift weights and strength train the way I once had, crushing my hopes of any comeback. I felt crushed, just devastated! I lost everything, my reputation, my body, my back and now my love of fitness. I went into depression and felt no one would understand or even relate. My mind became cluttered with negative thoughts, and I felt hopeless, alone and scared.
After what seemed like an eternity, I slowly regained my strength and was medically cleared to resume a “normal” life. I returned to the gym but didn’t know where to begin due to my new physical limitations. Everything I used to love, I was no longer able to do. I was afraid of re-injuring my back and became overprotective, believing everything the doctors told me, No, Don’t, Can’t!
Overwhelmed with many emotions and still on a quest to find the ideal life of perfection and happiness, it left me deflated and exhausted. I felt like even more of a failure no matter how hard I tried. I played the victim, whoa is me, and judged myself for being such a loser and failure for many years. After a series of pain, blame, shame and guilt, I broke. I couldn’t do this anymore, alone. It was then I realized, I was the only one holding me back!
I let my limited beliefs stop me from being who I was born to be, the person I am today. I lived in a world ruled by fear, guilt, hate, and failure. The pain I felt every day, and the abuse I put myself through became so much that I had finally hit my breaking point. I needed to make some serious life changes: personally, professionally and spiritually and that is exactly what I did!
I sought help where my passion was most crushed and hired a fitness coach, and it was the best thing I ever did. By doing so, it cut the learning curve and provided me a path of structure, accountability, balance, and encouragement. Once my fitness and the personal journey was in place, I sought help in my professional career by hiring a business mentor. Although my prayers provided comfort and strength, I never lost, questioned or doubted my faith in God, but knew something was missing. I wanted and needed more, a lot more! I surrendered. I could no longer do life alone.
These struggles were my stepping stones to something bigger and greater. I continue to strengthen and grow every day physically, professionally and spiritually, and my mess became my message.
I focused my energy on turning my fears into love and pushed through the obstacles. I started to see progress, mentally and physically, it filled me spiritually, and it became an addiction, a way of life and there’s no reason ever to go back. Once I surrendered, I made a significant mindset change, and everything started to fall into place. I have been able to rebuild myself from the inside out. I have never felt more alive, confident and self-love than I do now. I am far from where I want to be, but I am even further from where I started.
Life is a journey, and I am ready for all challenges that await. Every day I strive for progress, not perfection. I know that I am perfectly imperfect and most of all, I am Enough!
Today, I can honestly say I have found genuine peace and happiness. I am content with where I am; grateful for all I have, struggles and all. My passion for fitness has evolved, and I have found a new love for strength training, yoga, and meditation. They have given me physical strength and mental clarity, and I cannot wait for what the future holds.
Through my own experiences, I have realized that I am not alone. Many people have and are going through their own life struggles, and this has inspired me to create the fitness and apparel line, I am… Athletics.
I am… Athletics is a unique representation of who you truly are. Let go of your limiting beliefs, redefine who you are and Create your own Story. I hope you too, can be inspired and empowered by my story, as well as your own.
What is your story?