Confidence is never something I’ve been good at. Starting in 4th grade I became aware of my body, how it looked in comparison to others and how I felt when I realized that I didn’t look like the “popular girls” or the girls in magazines. I was a very chubby kid, big cheeks and a belly full of way too many sweets.
It wasn’t until I had a very long and scary surgery at the young and malleable age of 16-years-old that I realized I didn’t need to change my body in order to love myself, that having a healthy a self was all I needed. I didn’t need to scrutinize myself or shrink myself in order to have confidence in who I was.
It is a journey of self-love that I will always be on, there are days where I want to hide inside a sweatshirt and leggings covering every ripple in my skin and then there are days where I proudly rep booty shorts and a crop top with confidence in every stride. There are good days and there are bad days. And that is okay.
10 pounds heavier or 10 pounds lighter, I try and love myself the same either way.
However, when I feel myself becoming ashamed of what I look like or afraid to wear a swimsuit because I gained a pound or five, I go hiking. One thing that’s helped, that’s dramatically shifted my mindset about myself is being outside. There is something so empowering about pushing every limit my body has to make it up a mountain, reach a summit or make it to a distant waterfall. It’s empowering to see my body as a means of taking me to beautiful places rather than an object that I need to compare to others. Hiking reminds me that if I can be happy and healthy then that is all that matters.
We live in a society that associates the word healthy with skinny, a very dangerous phenomenon. We compliment people for losing 10 pounds without understanding how they actually did that. We forget that there is more to being healthy than what we look like. And we succumb to objectifying our bodies by staring at Instagram models and craving what they look like forgetting to celebrate ourselves, just as we are.
That’s why I love hiking. You are away from the pressure to look a certain way and you are just focused on yourself and what you accomplish. You are still paying attention to your body but instead of comparing yourself to this ideal image of “beautiful” you are paying attention to how hard you are working.
I also crave the culture that is hiking. Hiking is centered around empowerment. You work hard, you work your ass off (literally it’s usually burning) and then you are rewarded with a summit, an ice cold beer and a sandwich packed with carbs and calories. You compliment other people on the trail for making it to the top, you root for each other every mile, every switchback and you know everyone’s way too distracted to judge you or pay attention to what you look like. That is one hell of a community that the world needs more of if you ask me.
So, as summer officially begins I am headed to the trail, to push myself, to see phenomenal views and most importantly to love myself because this world is full of too much hate to be our own worst enemy.
Oh, and if you’re still reading, you are beautiful just as you are, I promise.