You might think that athletes and Instagram fitness stars who have "perfect" bodies also have that effortless air of confidence that seems to follow flawless-looking women. But the truth is that allwomen struggle to achieve and hang onto high self-esteem.
Because that can be hard to believe, Cosmopolitan.com talked to two Olympic gold medalists, an Instagram fitness star, a female UFC fighter, and a Crossfit competitor about their bodies.
Almost every woman revealed a body-shaming story, and some of these women still end up being bullied by faceless trolls online who call them out for looking "too muscular" or "masculine." But these athletes prove that women who look strong aren't just physically fit — they're strong and amazing women made up of much more than just muscle. And they will not be shamed.
Massy "MankoFit" Arias: Becoming Fit Saved My Life
Certified fitness trainer and Instagram celebrity
"I started training because of depression — it almost took my life. I was involved in a relationship that really degraded me as a woman with a guy who cheated on me with women who looked completely different from me. They had this Coke-bottle Latina shape. I had no hips, no breasts, nothing. Because of my depression, I started losing my hair, my gums started receding because I wasn't eating, and it was getting to a point where I was going months without leaving my home. I tried everything except prescription drugs (my mom was a nurse practitioner and didn't believe in that) before I started going to the gym. I had no background in training or sports or anything, and I started going on the elliptical for 45 minutes. Exercise became like an addiction.
"Now I'm strong and I'm happy. Exercise makes me happy. And I love my body because I understand now, structurally, this is my body type. Unless I take and break my bones, there's no way I'm makin my hips bigger. There's no way I'm getting smaller shoulders. There's no way I'm getting taller or shorter.
"I love my body because it is the best version of what my body can look like. I understand now that women come in different shapes and forms. We're all beautiful, and I'm beautiful."
Jessica Eye: I Was Bullied by My Father
UFC bantamweight fighter
"I think the biggest misconception about female athletes is that we're tomboys and that we're not pretty; we're not girls — we're just like male figures in the sport. We're not! We're females too. We still like to get dressed up, we still like to put makeup on, we still like to go out on dates and be treated like women.
"I define myself as not only an athlete, but as a strong woman who's overcome so many things. As a young girl, I did not know my mother — I didn't meet her until I was 16 years old. I missed out on some of the things that most females get to do, like talk to their moms about makeup. My father and my brothers raised me to be a tough tomboy. I was bullied at a young age and through my early teenage years by my father. My upbringing brought me to the greatest thing in the world that I'm so happy I'm doing: fighting.
"I've always had an athletic build, so sometimes I didn't fill out tank tops the right way, or I couldn't wear certain outfits because my legs were bigger, my calves were bigger, or my body was more athletic than your typical female, with a big chest and a giant butt and skinny legs. To me, it took me getting older that I was like, 'You know what, I like how I am.' I like having big legs! I like having wide shoulders! I like those things now."
Sanya Richards-Ross: I Felt Like I Had to Be a Tomboy Because of My Body
Olympic gold medalist in track and field for Team USA
"Growing up as an athlete, I always felt like I had to be a tomboy — to be strong instead of feminine and girly. I was really, really skinny and really tall. And I used to get ridiculed in school.
And then there came a point in my life where I felt like, 'Why do I have to choose?' The lines are blurred. You can be feminine, you can be strong, you can be bossy, you can be powerful, and you can be a winner — and embrace all of that. I love makeup, I love fashion, I love beauty, and so I just embraced my femininity on the track, and it has given me a new lease on everything. The bullies made me stronger, you know? They made me embrace who I was. I had to be the tall, skinny girl to be the fast, tall, skinny girl — and that made me a champion.
"I would say to people who don't think that you can't be strong and feminine that they haven't met me! They certainly haven't met Serena Williams, Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, and so many other great examples of beautiful women who are strong and feminine. It's a shame when people don't appreciate a woman who's strong and beautiful and pays attention to her health. I think that's to be commended. A lot of women, they don't see in the
mirror what they feel on the inside. I love a woman who doesn't care what anyone thinks, who loves to be strong and enjoys having muscles and working on her muscles. I'm grateful for my quads and my biceps and my hamstrings — all these muscles that make me a great athlete."
Christmas Abbott: I'm Still Insecure About My Body
CrossFit competitor, Olympic lifter, fitness trainer, NASCAR pit crew member, and author of The Badass Body Diet
"I really only started to consider myself as an athlete a few years ago: I'm just a girl who loves to work out and put on pumps if I don't have my running shoes on! When I get to lift heavy weights, it just reminds me of how far I've come and how far I can still go: Everybody can run. Everybody can do a body weight movement. Not everybody can be strong immediately. It takes discipline, it takes practice, and it takes dedication in order to build that strength. And that strength isn't built overnight.
My body is a product of my work, and my intention is to work to the fullest of my capability. And whatever that provides, the look that my body receives, that's what I love. And it's not my choice, it's the work's choice.
"Are there any parts of my body that I'm particularly insecure about? Yes, a lot more than people want to hear. I have really broad shoulders, I have a real athlete's chest, and I have very short legs. But I think that women's insecurities are really our own making. If you start to look at that insecurity as that imperfection that makes you perfectly you, then it changes your perspective on the insecurity. I love my body because it's mine. And all the imperfections make me feel perfect."
Natasha Hastings: I Was Body-Shamed in High School
Olympic gold medalist in track and field for Team USA
"I love being buff and I love going to the gym. But what I really love about being strong is that I'm able to stand up for what I believe in — even though I'm extremely shy. I think it's important that women know who they are. As great as I feel about myself, I have insecurities as well. I was body-shamed in high school. I was teased for looking like a boy because I was pretty muscular even before I started lifting weights. I've always had an athletic build so even now sometimes people say, 'Oh, you look like a boy, you don't have boobs.' Knowing how successful I've been over the years in sports, it's now easier to brush it off.
"I embrace who I am and I'm not ashamed of being all woman — I love fashion, I love hair, I love makeup, and I'm always trying to make a statement, whether it's something subtle or something in your face, but I also love being strong. I don't think that you should shame yourself for not having the perfect body, because no woman has the perfect body."
Friday, August 14, 2015
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