I was twenty-two years old. I was finishing a nutrition eBook—testing my recipes and taking notes on paper spattered with olive oil, dusted with chipotle seasoning. On the weekends, often, I was traveling for photoshoots or competing. In many ways, I loved what I was doing—so grateful for my fitness sponsorships and the platform I had been given to inspire other women to become stronger.
But it’s like I was Sisyphus, forced to roll this goddamn boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down again the second I brought it to the summit. This laborious and futile effort represented my endless pursuit of the perpetual summer.
I hated the woman I had become: Working out twice a day. Pounding my shins into the ground. Carrying tupperware with pre-portioned meals everywhere I went. I turned down social invitations—birthdays, bachelorette parties, weddings—all in the name of training for my next show.
My health was in fucking shambles. I slept poorly and not enough. The muscles in my legs felt more like rock than tissue, recovery days be damned, and the circles under my eyes represented the KO-in-a-boxing-match that was my life.
My glow from within diminished, like a wilted flower suddenly severed from the roots. My heart—the heart I used to offer so freely, the heart I used to wear proudly on my sleeve—had retreated deep inside my chest, wounded and seeking protection. The irony was that I was not this strong woman I had portrayed myself on social media. I felt like such a fraud.
The hustle, as I like to call it, was a through-line—a rite of passage, almost—one that taught me about the benefits of structure, discipline, communication, and masterful execution. But at some point, it evolved into something else: An impossible standard to meet, a frantic way of living, a practice of ignoring my body’s hunger and satiety cues, of beating it into submission.
Productivity became my idol: The thing I valued above all else. We all have this complicated, tangled web of beliefs about our identity—our minds are, indeed, brilliant storytellers—and one of the early stories I spun is that my ability to get shit done is what gave me a competitive edge.
I had no idea about the depths of my ignorance; everything I did was in the most roundabout way possible. I couldn’t imagine a world of unfettered grace, where people said “good morning” in the elevator with a smile on their face just because. My mental model of the world was one of earning and proving, and I was gutting it out just like everyone around me. I believed that if I just lingered in the beautiful mess a while longer, the emptiness of it all would never catch up with me.
As it turns out, you can make a drug out of anything: Working, exercising, dieting, binge-watching Game of Thrones, having sex, shopping, cleaning even. Any of those things can keep you comfortably numb for a while—that’s what drugs do. Over time, you check out; it is the most debilitating, most destructive headspace one can ever occupy because you’re too anesthetized to address the bottleneck.
I felt betrayed by my body, but of course, it was I who was consciously choosing to betray my body—not the other way around. I was using beauty pageants and fitness competitions to avoid something; to prevent myself from becoming acquainted with the self behind the sash and strappy heels. I wanted to beckon her off stage and whisper that she did not need the validation of judges or an audience. I wanted to get to know that woman, make friends with her.
The process of transcendence was cathartic, life-altering work. I thought it would be like adding new shutters to a home that’s been standing for decades, but it turned out to be more like lifting a home and excavating under the existing structure. Frankly, it’s the best investment I could have ever made.
Behind the desire to prove, is a quiet vulnerability—essentially saying, “This is who I am. Not the sparkly image, not the smoke and mirrors, not the accolades or performance. This is me, with all my flaws, with all my imperfections.”
These days, I invite tranquility and exist in the spaces in between. I want less of everything. Less stuff. Less rushing. Less consumption. Less feeling like my mind is scattered and my stomach is distended and my life is out of control.
To be sure, finding your footing involves a lot of missteps. And as you embark on that journey of self-love—real self-love, not the snake oil variety—you may find the nectar of immediate gratification to sweet to pass up. The frantic levels of activity, swirling chaos, and fast-moving cycles of over-commitment are intoxicating.
When you finally unpack the belief systems that have you running on the fuel of anxiety and despair—when you decide to shut the engine off, leave the car on the side of a dirt road, and carry yourself home… there’s nothing left to prove. It’s disorienting, terrifying, liberating.
You become intimate with the stillness, and contentment is the most novel concept you know. In that moment, your purpose will reveal itself. The impact. The leaving-the-world-a-little-better-than-you-found-it. This is a conversation we need to have more of; in many ways, it’s like speaking a second language—tongue-twisting, yet exhilarating.
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