Not really sure what I thought I was getting into when deciding to compete. All I saw was the beautiful suits, glamorous hair and make-up, and what seemed to be confident women (and absolutely beautiful women and bodies)… all with proud supporters behind them. That was enough to push me into gear to take my first high heeled steps on stage, though slightly wobbly. Stripping away everything I had been hiding behind and from, I never knew what the world of competing would do for me… and against me.
I can only speak for myself, but I do know for every woman our stories are very different, yet very alike in one way or another. How many of us knew why we were competing to begin with? My guess is around 20%. For anyone who ever competed or played in any sports… we loved the drive and discipline that came along with the territory, a physical and mental challenge. But, to be honest all I could see at that time was the fittest body I had ever achieved and sparkles. What could be so bad about that?
Road to competing
My journey was an extreme one indeed. I had only decided to join the gym and compete after being told I did not have the discipline to do so… Stubborn and hard headed are two words to most definitely describe me. I went from dropping off my boyfriend at the gym so I could go eat alone, to loading up the leg press and outdoing half the boys in my gym. I thrived off of the strength I gained, the insane results I got physically, and loved the amount of support I got from my gym budddies. Not to mention going from always keeping my towel wrapped around me on the beach to confidently wearing a swimsuit for the first time in my life. It became my drug.
The amount of support I received (from people who I have still not forgotten to this day) was unbelievable. People I met one time were sponsoring me for suits, giving me free posing lessons, training with me, and cheering me on. This was unlike any other sport I had ever played, I was hooked before I even stepped on stage.
Sounds cliche, but I remember the first time like it was yesterday. It was the most nerve wrecking night/day ever. Just like the night before your first day of school… what am I going to wear? Where will I sit? Will everyone like me? I hope nothing embarrassing happens. All of these months of strict diet and training, never missing a meal, weighing your food, and sacrificing more than you thought. You live eat and breath the preparations leading up to your show.
You think you are ready, but it all comes down to the day and the hours. Nobody told me I would have to get butt naked to let some stranger tan me, I would look like a cross between a pageant queen and drag queen with stage makeup, that my suit would be so little they had to glue it to my butt, and that… in my case I was so nervous my eyebrows and lip was twitching, knee’s shaking, I actually missed my name being called out. Haha!
All I could think about was how bad I didn’t want to go on stage. Finally, after calling my name a second time, I had made it out there. Smile so big and mouth so dry, my lips were stuck at my gums. Somehow I survived and made it without falling. Those moments stepping off stage were probably some of the most powerful moments I can remember to this day. I did it, not we, no team… me.
I had done quite well with competing, exceeding my expectations. Doing 4-5 shows in a year was normal for me, so was dieting year round and missing out on family and friends. Not to mention the pressure from a significant other. It is always easier to let yourself down, but never easy to disappoint others. It was quickly becoming less about me and more about the “opportunities” I was getting and could receive. Mind you, competing doesn’t pay your bills or give you girls nights out with martini’s. Burned out was an understatement.
Discovering why you compete(d)
After some big life changes and events in my life I gave it one last shot. No help from coaches or boyfriends, just the love and support from friends and family… I gave one last hoorah for me, all on my own. That’s when I realized I got everything I needed from competing. I never thought in a million years I would go from taking an F in class (if I had to do a presentation) and covering myself head to toe, to stepping on stage by myself to be judged in front of a huge crowd.
The aftermath of competing is more difficult than competing itself. Learning to reintroduce food and not feel guilty for it was very hard for me. Going from being in the best shape of your life to just great shape, is more than ok. Its realistic. They say it takes 21 days to break a habit, it took me over a year to break this one. I can still support a healthy lifestyle while being human too. Everyone has a different goal in mind, just make sure you ask yourself “what am I looking to gain by this?”
Confidence, self discipline, a healthy life style, and most importantly a balance in all aspects of life is what I gained. That is more than I could have ever asked for. All of these things have poured into my everyday life. Meeting new people, work, moving, and loving who I am. I am not perfect, but I am on the path of happiness and health. I take no shame in not having a 6 pack anymore, enjoying good food, a good beer, and even skipping a day at the gym. Now I am taking on the biggest challenge of my life… becoming a mommy and learning to be the best parent and example I can be.
I hope that after reading this article it helps you open your eyes to so much more than a pretty suit.