by: Marlene Pizarro

Like many young girls, I, too dealt with low self-esteem. I was influenced by the media and convinced I needed to fit their mold of the ideal female body. Straight hair, flawless skin, tall, thin legs, small waist, and visible collar bones. I was a 5' 2", 135 lbs., curly hair, inherited my mother's thick legs 13-year-old with acne. I vividly remember on my 15th birthday refusing to leave my house because as much as I tried makeup would not cover my acne scars and every outfit I tried made me look “fat”. I couldn't even look myself in the mirror. This perception of myself followed me until I was 20. At that point, I had tried every trendy diet, never stayed with a workout routine, and had gained 15 lbs. After hitting a new high on body weight, I decided to try free weights as a method to lose weight. I met my boyfriend at the gym and he introduced me to powerlifting. My intentions were still to lose weight.

But as I started seeing progress in my strength, my intentions had change. I had become more interested in what my body was capable of not what it looked like. This shift in mentally is what changed my life. Powerlifting started to empower me. The thought of one day squatting my bodyweight was exciting as well as making more progress in my other lifts. I was determined to reach my goals. This new-found empowerment also, changed my attitude in the gym. I became unapologetic about my space at the gym. No one was going to make me feel bad about using the squat rack for too long or feel the need to give up the bench because I was only benching 80 lbs. Comments like "girls shouldn't have muscles" or "you're strong for a girl" is what fueled my fire. I was not going to let anyone make me feel belittled in the space that made me feel the most empowered.  

After three years of powerlifting, I decided to compete and on the platform was where I discovered a new side of myself. I used to say the person I am during a competition was my alter ego. This person is fierce, focused, and perseveres for what she wants. I’ve discovered that person is who I aspire to be on a daily basis. I want to be someone who isn’t afraid to chase goals that may seem impossible and have the confidence to face my obstacles straight ahead. I’m proud of the body powerlifting has made but I’m more gratified of the mental strength that has developed from it. The skills that have developed from powerlifting have transitioned into all aspects of my life. One of the most important skills is knowing failure is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is never trying. I have had my share of failure during training and meets but the moments I remember the most are those when I decided not to attempt a lift in fear of failing. I don’t want to live my life with “what if”. Now, I confidently tackle any difficulty thrown my way. In the process of becoming mentally stronger, I’ve learned to love the way my body looks. I can happily look myself in the mirror and see a badass gal who is proud of her thick legs. Now, my outside matches my inside. Next time, you are looking at your new obstacle whether it is weight on the bar or a change in your life remember you are a strong, confident, unapologetic person who is capable of so much. And tell yourself, “I can do this”. 

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