great csr page banner

A Love Letter To My Body

Image: Delmaine Donson

Many young men and women deal with issues of insecurity brought on by their own perception of what they are expected to look like. The first time I felt insecure about how I looked was when I was thirteen years old. My friends were all very petite young girls whose heights maxed out at around 5’5”. That year, I grew six inches in one summer and towered over all of my peers. Couple that with being naturally athletic, and the insecurities began to swarm in. It wasn’t until I discovered my love for volleyball that my height and build became a strength for me. Over the years, I pursued my volleyball career and learned to love my large, muscular thighs, and my broad shoulders. I became content with who I was, until I got to college.

I learned to love my large, muscular thighs, and my broad shoulders... until I got to college.

My first year of college, I spent four hours of my day training for my sport. Whether that was in the weight room or the practice gym, we were working hard. But because I was working so much, I was also eating more than I had ever eaten. I did not gain the “Freshmen 15” but my body changed in ways I was not expecting. My weight had redistributed across my body and I was building more muscle everyday. My already large thighs became stronger, and my shoulders gained more definition. I have a very broad build so I began to look more and more masculine, or so I thought. Being around the girls on my team was also a source of my insecurity, not because they had done anything to make me feel insecure, but because most of them have very different body types than I do and so they did not become bulkier, but rather lost weight and became visibly thinner.

My sophomore year in college was one of the most emotionally exhausting years of my life. I still remember the day I confided in my strength coach about my struggle with body image. “Eric,” I said, “how do I get skinny?” He looked at me confused, and told me that there was a difference between skinny and strong and that, “volleyball doesn’t need you to be skinny, it needs you to be strong.” His words got through to me to some degree, but I was still convinced that there was something I could do to be both strong and skinny. I fell into some very bad habits that year. Focusing more on what I was eating and how many calories I was consuming than how to fuel my body correctly for the amount of energy I was using during the day. I regret a lot of my behaviors during that year.

Volleyball doesn’t need you to be skinny, it needs you to be strong.

The reason my love for myself has changed since then is because of the words Eric put in my head. Except, it wasn’t volleyball that needed me to be strong, it was me. When I went home for the summer, I forgot all about how much I wanted to look like my teammates because I was surrounded by people that loved me and showed their concern for my bad habits. They wanted me to be the girl I was before I became obsessed with being, what I considered, beautiful. They wanted me to be strong, and healthy, and care free.

That was almost two years ago and since then I have once again learned to love my body and all of its sturdy glory. So for myself, and anyone that may need a little bit of self love, I will say this:

Your body is your home.

It is where you must be at all times of the day.

You cannot escape it, so instead, you should love it.

Surround yourself with people who love you regardless of what you look like, or feel like.

Try your hardest to not let the fear of being imperfect keep you from being yourself.

Teach yourself to love every curve, bump, ridge, and hair on your body and continue to learn about yourself.

You are valuable, and worth so much more than your insecurities.

No one is critiquing you more than yourself.

You do not need to be perfect, you need to be strong.

You are valuable, and worth so much more than your insecurities.

Not a member yet? Join Athlete Network, the one community on a mission to help 5 Million athletes.