This is Part X of the “31 Days of Health Living” series.
I remember the day that I felt fat.
I was 14 going on 15. It was a warm summer with record high heats and I was walking into day one of my horseback riding camp. I had on a bright blue button up shirt, a baggy pair of carpenter jeans and purple colored braces.
At that moment, I was on top of the world. I was at horse camp! For an entire week! This was a big–a very big!–deal.
The first day of horse camp involved those horribly awkward ice breaker games and a long, slow trail ride through the woods.
When it came time to pick our rides, I waited my turn with one name on my brain.
The most gorgeous, feisty, spirited mare in the entire barn. Surprisingly, she had thus far gone unpicked. And I wanted to ride her more than anything in the world.
Finally, my name was pulled and it was my turn to choose.
“Valentine.” It was barely a whisper and I wondered if anyone had even heard me. “I’d like to ride Valentine.” I repeated my answer, just in case.
A couple of the girls snickered. One shuffled her boot in the dry summer dust. Another uttered out, “We should save the smaller horses for the smaller girls. Take one of the bigger horses…like Cerano.”
Cerano was a chunky thoroughbred. An ex-racehorse who had seen his glory days and now spent the rest of them eating, sleeping and heading out for the occasional trail ride.
Just so you know, I literally breathed, lived and sleeped horses. Any horse. But at that moment, I felt absolutely deflated. It suddenly struck me that I wasn’t like the other girls. Being 5’8″, I definitely wasn’t small. I wasn’t tiny either. I wasn’t meant to ride slender Arabians. And (duh?!?) I was built for the stocky thoroughbreds and quarter horses.
I felt like a mastiff surrounded by elegant greyhounds.
And then I imagined that this is what kids must feel like when they first find out they’re adopted. As if suddenly, they were let in on some deep secret that everyone else seemed to know. Everyone except them. It was like, before that moment, everyone had known that I was big and I had just found out.
It was embarrassing.
From that point on, I dealt with a variety of self esteem issues.
I noticed “fat rolls.”
I noticed teenage breakouts, my ugly braces and my impossibly frizzy hair.
I realized that I wasn’t one of those “other girls.” The ones that woke up with smooth and shiny hair. The ones that had flocks of boys begging for their attention. The ones that rode gorgeous Arabian horses instead of chunky, retired thoroughbreds.
Fifteen. That feels like a long, long time ago. It’s amazing what can happen in just 10 years.
Yesterday, a radio host asked the question, “What would you tell your former self if you could go back in time?”
If I could go back, I’d tell that 15 year old girl exactly what I’d like to tell every girl who has ever felt this way.
You’re unique and wonderful and you are so full of potential. You have no idea what the next 10 years will bring you. You have no idea how strong every step is going to make you and you have no idea who and what God is going to bring into your life.
Make time for the people who love you for being you and forget the ones that don’t.
Surround yourself with people who believe that YES YOU CAN.
Embrace your individuality. Embrace who you are.
Sing and live life to the fullest.
(Because, really, who cares?)
And most of all, love yourself. Don’t let a day go by that you notice your imperfections more than you notice your strong points.
Be proud of yourself.
Don’t ever, ever, ever let yourself become your biggest enemy.
Beauty starts from the inside, with strength, good health and a positive mindset. And it starts with you. Stop smack talking yourself or sabotaging others with negative words (really, the jokes aren’t funny.) Start talking *positive* into your life and others as well!!!
It starts today.
(For more on this topic, check out Caitlin’s blog, where she started the Operation Beautiful Project and is now the author of a book on this topic! )
****I wanted to point out that I was never actually “fat” during any of this time. Many girls at this age can feel awkward or “overweight.” However, if these feelings have ever led you to severe dieting, purging, etc., please meet with your doctor, Registered Dietitian, or someone else that you can trust. It’s important for your current and future self to get and stay healthy. Become a role model for future generations!****
QUESTION: If you had the power to go back in time, what would you tell your former self?