Learning to Love the Woman You Are Becoming
By: Brogan Gerhart
Hi! As many of you may already be able to tell, I’m not Jenn B! Don’t worry though, I’m not taking over her page or anything like that – just stopping in for a quick talk about how young women, like myself, can maintain a positive self-image and learn to love and appreciate all that their bodies and bright, beautiful minds can do for them. My name is Brogan Gerhart, and this is my story.
When I was a little kid, after my parents divorced, I moved to Maryland with my dad. I attended private school from kindergarten to 6th grade and, aside from the one or two close friends in my entire grade of twenty students and a few of the girls on my gymnastics team, I didn’t really know a whole lot of people. This made the shift to public school not only one of the scariest things I’d ever done, but also one of the most exciting. I was finally connected to a HUGE (well, huge to me) group of kids my age that I could talk to and become friends with!! It was beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of! I was open and ready for all this new world had to offer me, however, sadly, some of the things that I got out of this new world weren’t all that great. A few years after I’d started public school I was absolutely obsessed with how I looked. Every day after I got on the bus, I would come home, add whatever I’d eaten that day to a list I kept in the notes section on my phone, and then spend two to three hours on the elliptical in my basement… Running. It was horrible. I made sure that I didn’t eat more than 1500 calories a day (the recommended amount for my BMI) and that I never skipped a day of working out. I was always hungry and always sore, but I was losing weight and starting to achieve the perfect thigh gap – something I’d thought all beautiful women were supposed to have.
I was insecure and terribly misguided. God, all I wanted to do was fit in. I thought that maybe if I looked a certain way or wore the right clothes or talked about the right things, then maybe people would like me and if people liked me, then maybe that meant there was a reason to like myself. I was trying so desperately to change who I was when, in reality, there was never anything wrong with me to begin with! It was a long, hard road to realizing that – a journey that took my frail spirit and fragile body and made me stronger than I’d ever believed possible.
It all started with yoga.
I discovered my love for yoga after deciding to participate in a month-long yoga challenge that I was following on Instagram. With my background in gymnastics I thought it would be easy. A pose per day? Piece of cake! Or so I thought. After months of over-exercise and not eating nearly enough of what I should have been, it became painstakingly clear how weak my body had become. I could hardly hold a plank, let alone a handstand like I’d been able to do before, for more than a few shaky seconds. It was one of the most eye-opening and defeating moments I’d ever experienced.
But man did it really show me how far I’d let myself slip into the false, misinterpretations of what it meant to be beautiful. For years I’d been telling myself I had to look more like the models I saw on television or be more like the pretty girls in school that everyone wanted to sit next to, but once I stopped seeing my body for what it wasn’t and started listening to and accepting and loving my body for what it was, it became more about all that it could do opposed to what it looked like and what it couldn’t.
Seeing how I grew encouraged me to keep growing.
The more time I spent doing yoga, the less time I spent counting calories and running just to lose. I was working to gain now and doing something that made me genuinely happy and it felt incredible! As time went on I was able to look back, not only on the change in my physical ability, but also on my mindset. I felt… Lighter than before. And no not lighter as in less weight, lighter as in I was beginning to love the person I was and… I smiled more <3
I formed positive relationships.
Once I started pursuing the kind of lifestyle that made me feel happy and healthy again, it made me beyond excited to share that life with others. I began reaching out to confident, enthusiastic, loving, likeminded individuals who not only supported me in my journey, but also inspired me to continue it.
Through forming these connections with these amazing people, and encouraging anyone who was willing to listen, I began to develop a sense of devotion, trust, and honesty towards myself as well as the people that I came to teach, learn from, grow with, and love.
It’s pretty easy to find ourselves slipping into the routine gossips of everyday life. Passing judgements and saying hateful things about other people, even behind their backs, may be something that we don’t really think about or intend to do, but we do anyway. Don’t get me wrong I’m plenty guilty for doing this, but one thing that I learned about loving yourself: It’s pretty hard to see the good on the inside if you don’t at least try to see the good that surrounds you.
By practicing seeing the beauty and strength in others, you will be able to better look at yourself in the mirror, see the person in front of you, and tell them, without fail or doubt or hesitation, just how perfect they (YOU!) are.
Falling down taught me I was capable of getting back up.
No matter how many times I fell or wasn’t able to do something, I pushed forward with nothing but passion and enthusiasm. Through my mistakes I was able to encourage myself to go further; I knew my limits, but I also believed that I was capable of raising them.
Laughing also played a big part in keeping up my spirits and my motivation. Everyone has bad days and everyone falls. It’s okay if today is the day that you fall, but don’t let it drag you down too deep – let yourself learn, let it go, and move on. There’s no point in holding onto a “that one time I couldn’t” when you’re trying to achieve a “this time I can”.
The time I spent with myself helped me learn more about who I was and who I wanted to be.
I cannot thank the practice of yoga enough for what it did for me. Yoga taught me so many life lessons about what it means to be strong – it’s not just about being able to lift your body off the ground. True strength comes from relentlessly pursuing the healthy, beautiful person you are and guiding others, and challenging them, to think the same way.
Learning to love yourself is a personal journey – one that you will have to start and finish on your own. Having people along the way helps, and there’s nothing wrong with being open to others, but you must remember that ultimately this is YOUR road to walk.
Don’t be afraid to spend some time with the person you want to love. By taking the time to be alone and self-reflect, you’ll be able to gain better understanding of who you are as a person and what you like, and what you might want to change, about yourself.
Final thoughts… You only have to live with one person in this world. You’ll grow and change and meet new people and experience new things throughout life, but you’ll still be you.
The question is whether or not you’ll be proud of that fact – that you are you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It isn’t vain or selfish, or whatever anyone else will tell you, to want to better yourself and it is by no means conceited to be proud of the fact that you are able to take a good long look at yourself and say, “I like my body and who I am beneath it.”
I can’t tell you through what activity or medium you’ll be able to accomplish this, or how your past or your future will play a part in how difficult or simple it will be for you, but I do know that it is possible. For me, I found peace in myself through yoga. But guess what? I didn’t just create that peace with myself out of nothing… I FOUND it. It had been there inside of me the entire time and that peace is inside of you too.
So. With that being said, what are you waiting for?
You know it’s there. You know that it wouldn’t have been put there if you wouldn’t one day have the strength to reach it. Go on! You already have the key to loving yourself… It’s time to find it!