5 Things I Learned from Swimsuit Competition
1. The Importance of Re-Constructing My Personal Body Image.
You change, your body changes, and so your view on your body will also change. There is something to be said for re-assessing what you expect yourself to be able to do and what you want to look like. These things can change day-to-day.
I learned this between being a Culinary Student and preparing for the swimsuit competition. When I started both, I was proud of doing just a few, rather weak, push-ups. I also was complacent asking for help lifting heavy trays out of the oven. I was more concerned with being thin than fit.
Now, I’m much more proud of being independent, of not needing help, and of accomplishing 50-100 push-ups in a day. That’s the change only a year has brought me. However, what happens when I have kids? When I grow older? The things that my grandma’s body can still do that make her proud are very different from the things my body can do that make me proud. Nonetheless, we both can do great things with what our bodies can handle.
Working out, taking my strength more seriously, and preparing myself mentally to walk on a stage in a swimsuit caused me to look for healthy ways to view my body. Re-constructing my body image was one of those changes in view.
2. How to Work Out.
I never took working out seriously until I started preparing for swimsuit. I would go on long walks, do sit-ups here and there, and eventually I learned how to do a push-up. I was content being weak and was convinced I had no athletic abilities. Deciding to take this phase of competition seriously was one of the best things I ever did because I was finally motivated to see what limits I could push myself to. Thank you Melissa Paakh for stepping into my life and showing me what the heck to do! I practiced working out and would do the same routine until I was proficient at it before moving on to a new one. This included warming up and stretching properly before and afterwards. This ensured that I understood what I was asking my body to do. I was able to rise to each challenge before I moved to the next one.
3. No Body Is Truly Perfect.
What you see on social media is just the tip of the ice-berg. See Body Reality for a reference. When I started working out, of course I wanted to look perfect and have my body change in just a few weeks. I saw plenty of gorgeous fitness gurus and models looking flawless and wanted to be like them. I realized pretty quickly how bad this was for me and how easily it was tearing down my self-esteem when all I wanted was to look confident on-stage. So, I started noticing just how perfect these photos were due to the lighting, the camera angle and the model's pose.
As an experiment I’d try taking photos of myself. I’d lounge around, sit comfortably, slouch, and snap a photo. Then I’d pose and adjust lighting and snap another one. After looking at both photos of myself, it finally hit me how unrealistic my standards were. Shortly after, I saw articles like the one above coming out.
No one will always look 100% perfect. What I started looking forward to in working out was how good I felt and how much more energy I had. I also noted how excited I got when I thought of competing for swimsuit with real muscle tone. I stopped checking the scale and staring in the mirror so much.
4. That Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder.
I had heard this saying before, but it started to stick with me as I was making my previous revelations. Obviously, pageants have a subjective side. I’m not going to perfectly please every judge out there. What does tend to “please people” or make people notice is you is confidence, more than anything. Confidence comes from within. So, revelation #4 was that the only “beholding eye” I needed approval from was my own. It doesn’t always come easy, but I ultimately know that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (thanks for that one, Eleanor Roosevelt!) I’ve taken that to mean that if I give other people the power to determine how good I’m doing or how secure I should feel, I will probably never be whole. It has to come from within.
5. The Value of Being Strong Over Being Skinny.
I’ll just say it: I have always been incredibly weak. This is probably why working out has made me so deep and emotional (please note sarcasm.) Once upon a time, little Kathryn couldn’t do a single push-up (even on my knees) and even avoided eating cereal in the morning because a full milk jug was too heavy to handle. Early on, I decided to accept that I would always be a physically weak person. The swimsuit competition shook that ideal to the core. When I started working out and really trying, the first revelation I had was that I hated being weak. I didn’t want to be the girl who always needed help lifting things, I just resigned myself to it. So, I worked at it. I became emboldened to push myself more in the kitchen, stock the freezer by myself or try to lift the mixing bowl that I could easily crawl into. I turned out to be stronger than I believed. Today, I’m significantly more independent in the kitchen and progressively more-so in life. I’m stronger, happier and healthier, and these are the traits I want to “flaunt” more than anything. Not just for two seconds in the swimsuit competition, but going forward in life.