Words hold power. Sometimes we don’t even realize what one little comment can do to someone’s self-esteem or body image. Jenna’s story is a good reminder that words can build us up or tear us down. Here is Jenna’s story.
This will sound awful, but my mom told me once that I had no neck. I’m not sure when she said it, maybe in the last five or ten years… I’m certain she didn’t realize how much that one little sentence would impact me, but in that moment, her slip of the tongue destroyed me. It made me feel worse about myself then I already felt.
I don’t know exactly where the insecurity stemmed from. I know I had it even as a young girl growing up. I constantly compared myself to my siblings and friends and I always felt as though I wasn’t good enough.
When I graduated college, I decided after being home for a couple of years that I wanted to move to the Big Apple to pursue writing and acting. I lived there for eight years, and during that time Manhattan opened my eyes to many people and ideas that allowed my to grow and make self-discoveries, but in many ways, it also stunted the little confidence I did have in myself.
I met someone there who was an actor and who was also a good friend. Eventually, several years after we met, we became involved, and later moved from New York to Kentucky. In many respects, I consider him the biggest mistake I ever made. In other respects, I look back and realize it was this very relationship and the devastating effect it had on me that resulted in propelling me forward and becoming successful.
This man was an alcoholic, who lied to me, verbally abused me, and put me into thousands and thousands of dollars of debt. I don’t even know how to explain how I found myself in such a situation. My confidence was hanging by a thread. The only reason I was able to survive in that dark place was because of the people I worked with at an all girls catholic school in Louisville, KY. My English department was my family away from home. If they judged me or my situation, it was never to my face. They simply listened to the insanity and provided me with encouragement and support.
In the summer of 2011, it dawned on me that I had put on forty extra pounds. I decided I would will myself into shape. I bought running shoes and began the painful process of trying to learn how to run. Many will understand the humor when I say I would jog/trot for only ten or fifteen seconds and then walk and think to myself, “How on earth do people do this and think it’s Fun?”
I found myself eventually running a 5K with a group of running buddies from school. We raised money for cystic fibrosis. It was a fundraiser one of my former students put together for her senior project and in memory of her older sister who unfortunately succumbed to the disease. I continued to keep running a few 5ks, but never really ran more then five miles.
Eventually, I made the decision to move back home. It was not an easy one. I often felt like a stranger in my own family after having been away for so long. I truly missed the camaraderie and family I had in Louisville, and still do. I didn’t ever think I would find friends like that again.
I started going to a gym that offered boot camp style classes. The owner there loathed my existence for reasons unknown to me. She would cut me down and belittle me every time I would show up to workout. This did nothing for my already suffering body image and confidence.
So, I left as did a few other ladies. They had found a new gym. A CrossFit gym. So I decided to check it out. This was the place I was meant to be. CrossFit Bel Air was a gym where people built you up instead of tearing you down. The coaches were/are friendly, intelligent and motivating! I cried a lot those first few months after the workouts, not just because I amazed myself for even attempting the challenging workouts, but emotionally it was such a different mindset than what I was used to. Instead of hating my body and putting myself down for what it couldn’t do, I felt stronger and wanted to push myself more often. I started to see my body as something amazing for what is COULD do; because I never would have dreamed I would be able to do things like a handstand or climb the monkey bars—as simple as that sounds.
I have days when I still admonish myself for not being able to do something yet, but then I think about all the gains I have made not just in terms of strength or health, but in my heart and confidence since January of 2014. A different woman stands before you now. One who doesn’t apologize for who she is, and one who knows she has the tools and the skills she needs to keep going as far and as high as she wants on that mountain of confidence. I don’t know if I could have done this without the support of our coaches and community at our gym.