Body Confidence and Rugby

I have a complicated relationship with my body.

I was always on the smaller end. My birthday is in July so most all of the other kids were bigger than me. Even when I wasn’t the smallest, I always felt small. This had to do with crippling anxiety that has always plagued me.

Furthermore, I was straight up adorable as a child. That might sound like a brag, but it’s just true, here’s a picture.

Look at that ridiculous face.

That cuteness attracted a lot of attention early on. So much so that when I got a huge scar on my forehead at four years old, the parents of my peers said things like: “well there goes her modeling career.”

I understand that having what is considered conventionally attracted features is a privilege. Many girls deal with unreasonable expectations from the media to lose weight and to alter their bodies in order to adhere to a cultural standard. This doesn’t even begin to touch the issues that people of color face in terms of representation in the media and the cultural conception of beauty being pale as fuck. I am so very lucky that I have never had to face those issues.

That being said, every side has its detriments. While many girls were concerned about the extra fat on their bodies, I was constantly eating candy in and attempt to add fat onto my body. I was afraid that I would not be womanly enough to be considered by partners. I was called “stick” by my best friend in an attempt to shame me for my lack of breasts.

Eventually, of course, I filled out. I went through puberty like we all do. After the beginning of my freshman year, I had a massive nervous breakdown and began engaging in self-harm. The self-harm was two-fold; I wanted to have a way to show my inner pain, but I also wanted a way to have autonomy over my own body.

The first time I was groped in public I was 13, the second time I was 14. Like so many women, I felt my body quickly becoming the unsolicited property of those around me. I hooked up with boys not because I wanted to, but because I felt like I should. Like I owed them my body.

So the best thing to do for myself, the thing that made me feel best was taking ownership of my own body. In high school, I played soccer but I didn’t agree with the way that the coach taught us. However, in college, I discovered a club sport called rugby and it all improved from there.

While I can’t always play rugby due to other commitments, it always makes me feel strong when I do get to play. When you have the strength and the ability to take another girl down with just the velocity and weight of your body, there’s a sense of pride that rushes through you. There’s a sense of control, versatility, and beauty.

Yes beauty, and not the kind that felt like an obligation, the kind that feels like a force of nature. When I’m playing rugby, I feel tough and strong in a way I never have. I look into the mirror and I don’t look for the lack of fat on my tummy, I look for the muscle definition in my thighs, the broadness of my shoulders.

It helps too that the rugby girls are some of the most supportive people I have ever met. In the winter when my depression was getting the better of me I started letting a lot of things slide, including winter practices. But as soon as I came back, all of the girls were asking me how I had been and sympathized with how hard winter months at Kenyon can be.

If you’ve never thought about playing rugby, but you want a supportive family that will appreciate you and give you strength emotionally and physically, I encourage you to come out and play with us. At 4:15, Monday-Thursday, a group of incredible people are out there passing balls backward and laughing our asses off, and we’d be so happy if you joined us!


Image Credit: Featured Image, 1 (Barbra Richardson), 2, 3