I’m sitting on Dallas Road on an early Saturday morning amidst a blanket of fog, the ocean vast and serene in front of me. Runners, joggers, walkers passing behind me. I feel completely comfortable sitting, writing in front of them to see. Stretching, flowing through a sun salutation, eyes closed. Feeling a real sense of steadfast gratitude and love for my body. What got me here? To this point of comfort? Of ease?
Starting I Am Strong has been an absolute whirlwind of emotions. Never have I felt so naked and exposed. It’s been terrifying. The vulnerability is overwhelming. Some days the ins and outs of creating a non-profit that is so deep and true to me gives me so much anxiety that I have to place it in a box and take a break. Some days it’s too much. (And that is okay.)
With that exposure and vulnerability (WITH that…impossibly without it) comes intense waves of joy, love, passion and purpose. Deep to the core. Like very few moments I’ve experienced before, except this time long and lasting.
And that is why.
That is so importantly why.
It’s been 10 months. 10 months since the night when I lay in bed and instinctively had to flick my light back on, grab my journal, and write it down. I know, it sounds cheesy. One of those philosophical “it comes when you don’t expect it…in the middle of the night..in the shower” moments, but it’s true. 3 words written: I Am Strong. The spark of an idea.
It all started with a realization.
I am 21 years old, and I genuinely, authentically love my body. This realization hit me suddenly one day, but I already knew. It is normal to me.
(Insiders note: Self-love is the foundation. There is still very much so the ups and downs. The days where I don’t like the way my arms look in that dress, or how I acted in a social situation. There is frustration, there is loneliness, there is confusion. Very much so. That is human.)
Ok back to it:
I am 21 years old, and I love my body. And I have for a long time.
And this is rare. Especially for women.
And that breaks me.
Growing up, being RAISED, in a positive active community is what got me to this point. Through the key, most vulnerable years of a young girl’s life, I was surrounded by people that constantly provided nothing but love, support and encouragement. Friends, family, teachers, coaches, trainers, mentors. These people also challenged me. They challenged me to become the best version of myself, and to take pride in that. The web of people I had around me shaped me into who I am today: a 21 year old girl that genuinely, authentically loves her body, her mind, her self. And that has for a long time.
(Insiders note #2: I mean this in the least egotistical way. There is a difference. And that unfortunately needs to be pointed out and emphasized.)
More than anything, I want others to feel this. Day in and day out. Deep and true. Girls, boys, young, old. I want you to love your body. Your mind. You.
Love what it can do. Love what it does do. I want you to see what I so clearly see.
To see your beauty.
I Am Strong is an initiative that aims to empower young self-identified girls through movement and conversation. We deliver wellness programs that include journalling, discussion, exercise, yoga and meditation.
We move. We talk. Fast and slow. Together.
In a world where social media platforms and outside pressures can be overwhelming and destructive, we hope to give young girls the resources and self-confidence to be their true selves, take pride in their bodies, and surround themselves with positive support networks.
We talk body image, self care, social media, mental health, vision-building, emotional intelligence. We connect.
It’s been 10 months, and I’ve already been touched in so many ways. We’ve created a wonderful, amazing, intelligent, beautiful, indescribable group of leaders that amaze me every time I interact with them. They’re too special for any text to explain.
Together, we’ve been working with young girls in schools and our recent Summer Series program that make my heart burst and break at the same time.
Each individual is so unique.
The girls are working their way through roller coasters of peak happiness, and deep, real struggles.
Depression. Anorexia. Anxiety. Self-harm.
We’ve seen tears. We’ve seen wide, unstoppable grins. We’ve seen so much. We’ve felt so much.
So why just youth, you might ask? Why not work with all self-identified women, of all ages? And to that I respond that I definitely see the value in supporting all ages. However, I am a big advocate (and constant learner) of the need to direct and conserve one’s energy. As a small non-profit with limited resources, we are doing just that. Through this process, I have learned that quality over quantity is imperative. This is new and exciting and I want to reach as many girls as possible, but I also want their experience with I Am Strong to be the most intimate and beneficial it can be. I want to develop true connections. So, quality over quantity…and youth. And if you graciously take a peek below and continue reading, I’ll tell you why we eyes-open looked into the hat and specifically picked youth as the demographic we want to work with.
Youth. Say it, read it, think about it. It’s a heavy, full word. Brimming with potential and possibilities.
From my perspective as an exercise and wellness student, I understand and see the scientific side. Obesity and mental health are the medical catch phrases of our generation.
How do we approach this? How do we mitigate this? How do we help this?
How I see it: Prevention. Maintenance. Ongoing support.
Holistic wellness interventions – exercise, counselling, meditation, support groups, nutrition, yoga, and more. Prevention.
To me, this is science. This is facts. This is what will lower the statistics, lessen the epidemics.
And then beyond that and within that is the real, raw, deep one-on-one connection.
The feel. The nitty gritty that means so much to us all.
10 months. Just touching the surface, and we’ve already seen and felt so much. The impact…it’s real.
Sometimes I doubt myself. What I’m doing. I’m terrified, I’m vulnerable. What are people thinking? (A constant, normal question that floats through the brains of every single one of us.)
My heart races, I shake.
I feel exposed.
I am human.
It is normal to feel this. It is ok to feel this. It is good to feel this.
I remind myself.
I think of the individuals.
This is undoubtedly worth it