“Strength & Confidence” by Sheri Stiles


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Growing up, we all go through many struggles – some more than others – but everyone has their individual stories which shape them. Personally, I went through my hard times like anyone else, but one of the biggest areas that affected me as a teenager was confidence, and self-esteem.

Like any teenage girl, I wanted to fit in. I wanted others to like me. I also did what most teenage girls do, and that was be someone I really wasn’t.

Now, I agree most of this self-discovery and change comes from maturation. However, I believe some of it came from falling in love with powerlifting, and finding my true strength in all areas of my life.

I will share some things with you guys that I don’t usually talk about or like to remember about my teenage years.  I believe that I learned from these mistakes, and if my sharing this could help someone else then I have no problem or shame in doing so.

Let’s start with the fact I was overweight most of my life. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year of high school (into my junior year) where I lost quite a bit of weight, and was first really concerned about weight in general—not only from an aesthetics standpoint, but also a health standpoint. My dad has been diabetic as long as I could remember, and when I was about 16 something just clicked; I didn’t want to end up being diabetic.

Given most teenagers have crappy diets, I was no different. I drank a lot of pop, ate crappy food, and although I was very active with soccer, it was not enough to combat those diet choices. The biggest thing I can remember doing was to quit drinking the pop, or sugar drinks.

Really…that’s all I did over that summer and I had lost like 15 lbs. within no time. Then came the years of yo-yo dieting, the restrictions, the fad diets, the unhealthy diets—you name it, I had probably tried it. I became obsessed with that number on the scale.

This obsession was so much so that it dictated my whole life. The weight on the scale every morning determined my mood for the whole day. The size 4 jeans I could fit into gave me a sense of acceptance. The attention I got from others just fueled this unhealthy perception.

But I finally felt accepted.

Around December of 2009, I had so many health issues surrounding my IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) that I hardly ate each day. I knew this was extreamly unhealthy…I had a nursing background by this time, but, I can remember a time where I got on the scale and weighed 138. I remember going shopping and fitting into everything! Something I had struggled my whole life prior to. I hated shopping before; I was overweight, and nothing fit. I continued to diet and restrict foods, as well as started working out doing cardio 5 days a week.

It was unhealthy, but I finally felt attractive.

I can only speak from a females perspective, but this is still a huge issue with girls—especially teenage girls. The dieting and unhealthy measures some take to achieve what they believe to be an ideal image is dangerous.

It all seems from a lack of confidence and self-esteem issues. I can say this from experience! I was that teenage girl struggling to accept and love myself.

It wasn’t until 2011, when I was 23 that I stumbled into a sport that would forever change me.

It didn’t happen overnight—it has been almost 4 years, and in the beginning I was the same girl with the mindset of “needing to lose weight” and concerned with the scale. However, over these 4 years I have not only grown as a person both physically and mentally, but I have come to a point where I can say I am confident in the person I am, and love who I am.

I look back on those teenage years and wonder what the heck I was thinking! I wish someone had told me then how much easier life would be once I accepted and was confident in myself. Then again, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

We need to be building up others, and teaching young girls confidence and self-worth. We want them to make good decisions as young adults, but lacking in their own ability to love themselves isn’t going to lead to healthy decisions.

I cannot give credit to where I am now to any one single circumstance; but, what I can do, is tell you finding my love and passion for powerlifting has translated into finding confidence, acceptance and love for myself.

Strength does not just come from physical ability. Strength is also the ability to love ourselves, the ability to better ourselves, and the ability to empower others.

This all starts with being comfortable and confident in who you are!