Don't Push Yourself to Look a Certain Way

Hi, my name is Michelle Nannarone and for as long as I can remember, I've picked apart every inch of my body. From a young age, society has trained us what a beautiful woman's body should look like when, in reality, that body is unattainable and unrealistic. I've compared myself to every woman I thought was beautiful and wondered why I didn't look like them. I didn't understand why my chest was small and my thighs were huge. Or why my cheeks were chubby and my jaw round. I would stare in the mirror everyday and tell myself I was ugly. A disgrace. Unlovable. Fat. Stupid. The list could go on and on. I was stuck in a vicious cycle that would not spit me out until one day I had enough. 

When I was in high school, I ran competitively and was an all-star cheerleader. I was constantly exercising and moving my body. And yet, I still found ways to pick it apart. I wondered why I didn't have a six pack or skinny legs. So to attain those two things, I used to do two hours of exercises in my room every night before bed. I would do 50 squats, hold a plank for 5 minutes, do 50 pushups. I would find an exercise to do and then keep on repeating it until my body couldn't handle it anymore. On top of doing this every night, I was also running 8 miles a day for cross country and tumbling and stunting for 3 hours for cheer. I was putting my body through the ringer, and yet, I didn't care. I still didn't have that six pack and skinny legs.

It took me until the start of my senior year of high school to realize what I was doing to my body. I was just coming back from a foot injury from cross country and not exercising for 3 months. My cross country coach advised me to take it slow and not to push myself as I get back into running. He told me if I do, I will wind up back where I was - injured and in a boot. At first, I wanted to ignore him. I went crazy not exercising for 3 months. I told myself I gained weight (it was weight I needed to gain) and that I had to get back to running 8 miles a day. I can still remember the day when I finally woke up and realized what was happening. I was on a run and nearing mile 2 when I had to stop. I was out of breath and my foot was on fire. I sat down on a nearby bench and cried. To this day, I can't even tell you why I was crying. Maybe because I finally realized what I was doing to myself or because the pain was so bad that I couldn't even enjoy something I loved so much. I made a promise to myself that day - that from then on, I would love myself. I would treat my body right. I would be grateful for everything it does for me.

So be grateful for your body. It does so much for you. It lets you see beautiful sights, hear wonderful melodies, smell gorgeous flowers and feel everything. You have two arms and two legs that grant you access to do anything you put your mind to. You have a mouth to be able to express words to someone you love. You have a belly to be able to make you laugh as hard as you can. I know it's hard to be able to look yourself in the mirror and actually like what you see, but trust me when I say that you're beautiful no matter what size you are. You are beautiful with acne on your face. With straight or curly hair. With blue or brown eyes. Everything about you is unique and beautiful and so so wonderful. Appreciate everything your body has to offer because it is AMAZING. YOU are amazing. Keep striving towards love. It will never steer you wrong.