I’m 36. Actually I turned 36 two days ago but who’s counting. For most people 36 is just a random age, a non-important birthday. But for me, this birthday was important, actually more important that I realized it would. See, last year as I turned 35, which is a somewhat a milestone of sorts, I decided to embrace the person I thought I was at the time. I was going to enter 35 with a bang. I had my friend Lynette take some hilarious and fun birthday smash cake pics of me, and I had a blast. She capturedme celebrating that milestone and the pictures came out perfectly! I loved it!
The problem was that while I smiled and laughed, not only during the shoot, but every single day, I was trying my best to hide the waves and waves of insecurity that lay way so close beneath the surface. I was the heaviest that I had ever been and I was lost. I felt like I was drowning in my own self doubt. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin or mind, and for anyone who knows what that feels like, it’s a catch 22. On one hand, you want to lose weight and be confident, but simultaneously you’re so miserable that all you want to do is lay on the couch and stuff your face with food every chance you get. Trust me, that doesn’t make for an equation to losing weight.
But something in me was determined to love myself, even if I didn’t love my weight. See, I had found success with my business, with 40 weddings on the books for 2016, what more could I want right? Well, I had been neglecting myself emotionally and physically, and that was showing on the outside. It doesn’t take a doctor to realize that things were not okay in Ry-world.
I put all I had into my business, and it turns out that when I looked up, I wasn’t the mom or wife I wanted to be, and I didn’t feel like myself. I’m not talking about some major spell of depression either. Just a slow and steady loss of myself over a few years is all it took. So, after my birthday, since I had this fun celebration of turning 35, I figured things would automatically just fall into place. You know, like magic. Ta-da! Nope.
I spent the entire summer refusing to wear shorts or tank tops, embarrassed by what I saw in the mirror. I was insecure and grumpy and it was showing up in so many different forms. Then came my hero, let’s be honest, pretty much everyone who has ever watched TV on Thursday night’s hero…Shonda. I don’t have to put her last name because as far as I’m concerned, she’s my spirit animal, and one is on a first name basis with their spirit animal. Stand by, because the rest of this blog post is going to be filled with quotes from her book, “Year of Yes”. Also known as the book that got my ass in check.
It started with a simple line.
“Everyone’s got some greatness in them. You do. That girl over there does…But in order to really mine it, you have to own it.”
And then it continued to blow my mind from there.
“You have to grab hold of it. You have to believe it….I now see two paths-a ragged rocky one that goes up to the top of a mountain and a nice easy one that heads down under it. I can fight to make the rocky climb, get a few bruises, risk getting hurt. And I can stand on the mountaintop and breathe the rare air in the warm sun, taking in the whole world before me. Or I can take the easy route underground. There’s no sun down there. No air. But it’s warm. It’s safe.”
Those words hit me so hard. Because the realization that I didn’t believe, I mean truly believe with everything within me that I had greatness in me, hit me like a punch to the gut. That was what was missing. Confidence. I started looking at life from a completely different perspective, and started saying YES to things that I never would have imagined, took leaps I had never taken. I wanted to breathe the rare air; bask in the warm sun.
At times during this journey, I found myself feeling sorry for this person I had become, after multiple failed attempts at losing weight and gym memberships seemingly wasted. Then, as I cried myself into a bag of Boom Chicka Pop, wondering why I couldn’t find success in this endeavor, I would read stuff in Shonda’s book like
“Wonder Woman is not faking it. Wonder Woman means it. Wonder Woman is all swagger and badassery.”
By the way, badassery, is my new favorite word. Here’s her definition for you so it can be yours too:
- (noun) the practice of knowing one’s own accomplishments and gifts, accepting one’s own accomplishments and gifts and celebrating one’s own accomplishments and gifts; 2. (noun)the practice of living life with swagger: SWAGGER (noun or verb) a state of being that involves loving oneself, waking up “like this” and not giving a crap what anyone else thinks about you. Term first coined by William Shakespeare.
And then I’d kick myself into gear. I found Orange Theory, I tried it and almost immediately, it became my sanctuary, their exhausting workouts, my reprieve. I hated every second of sweat and pain, and loved it at the same time. I let myself be imperfect, human, a work in progress, but WORK was the difference. I couldn’t be a work in progress without the effort to change. Then eventually I started jogging. There’s nothing like blasting a combination of Nicki, Lil John and Diplo tracks and letting my mind settle while hitting the pavement. It turns out I love and hate every second of that too, but man how I feel afterward is priceless!
So, back to why this birthday is a special one… One year later, I’m 20lbs lighter, but the weight was just a symptom, a mask of what lay beneath. What I actually celebrating is that I am happy! ‘Happy Birthday’ has a literal meaning this year! I’m stronger, more confident on the inside and it’s now showing on the outside!
This journey wasn’t about losing the weight, it was about figuring out that life doesn’t just happen to me, that I’m an active participant and that I get to choose how hard I want to work at being who I really am, or if I want to throw my hands up, give up and let the person I truly am just disappear because I don’t want to be seen for fear of what someone else may think. Today, I love myself more than I ever have, and it means that I’m able to love my daughter and husband more too, because I choose to invest in myself in so many ways now.
I am unfinished. This isn’t a fairytale, where everything is perfect at the end. I must still work. Harder than ever because I understand what’s at stake. The number on the scale doesn’t matter as much as the way I feel, and that’s directly connected to the effort I put into being who I am. As Shonda said, “I realized a very simple truth: that success, fame, having all my dreams come true would not fix or improve me, it wasn’t an instant potion for personal growth.” I now strive to constantly see myself, not as others view me, but how I have chosen to view myself. Every strength, weakness, success and failure are a piece of who I am. And it all started with YES. YES to who I am, and YES to who I want to be.
But more than that, I learned that happiness comes from being who I actually am, no seriously, who I am when no one is watching, when I’m being my true self, not from who I think I’m supposed to be.
So here’s me at 36. Twenty pounds lighter, with a little swagger, fresh off a win in a fight with my own mind and body. Here I stand, in an iPhone pic, completely photoshop free, without any filters, just me, on the beach in a bikini that I never would have worn a year ago, let alone be photographed in. I’m still curvy, and ‘fluffy’ as I call it, and the familiar wrinkles, stretch marks and cellulite are present too. But they’re like battle scars. My body is imperfect, but it feels perfectly in sync with who I am today; I like that about myself. And as a cherry on top, as proof to myself that I stopped worrying what others would think, I had ribbons of beautiful flowers tattooed all over my body. Why? Because I friggin love them and that’s all that matters.
Most importantly, I’m proud. Proud, not because of the weight I lost, but because of the realization that I can be anything I want to be. I can choose to be happy. To express myself. To change myself. To embrace who I am. I’m not stuck, as I once felt. Life is fluid, and so are we. So if you feel stuck, miserable or insecure on a constant basis, buy a copy of Shonda’s book and punch life in the face and show it who’s boss! Why?
Because, “Wonder Woman is not faking it. Wonder Woman means it. Wonder Woman is all swagger and badassery.”
This year has so much in store, and so much potential. As does every day. I’m strong, giggly, fiery, and passionate and I love every inch of me. I hope this will encourage you to find and show your swagger too!