To Female Athletes: Be Big, Be Authentic, Be Kind, & Stop Apologizing

In my junior year of college, now several years after my active athletic career had ended and my coaching career had begun, Vine came out.

At the time, I was too busy waking up for 5am training sessions, prepping food to cram into my face while running from the weight room to class, and surviving the 45min Washington, D.C. commute into school to think about my own personal development.

Actually, I was faking it until I made it, in every sense of the word.

Working with mostly female athletes between ages 15 and 25, most of us were faking it too.

We lacked confidence, were riddled with anxiety (or had found ways to distract ourselves from it), and had a host of drama following us around somehow.

My female coaching colleagues and I talked up our athletes, boosting their morale and confidence as much as we could. We consoled them after hard losses, helped them reframe their mindsets, and made plans for performance improvements with them.

Strength coaches, athletic trainers, and physical therapists have always been front-line psychologists.

So, when Vine came out and TS Madison dropped her famous (NSFW - language) pep talk video, it became a running joke between female athletes and coaches in the gym, as the entertainer proudly declares, “be yourself, b***h!”

I’m glad to look back and be able to say that I’ve developed as a human being immensely since then. I can now recognize so many valuable lessons from that time, which I believe ALL female athletes, coaches, and other high performers need to learn sooner rather than later.

Discover Yourself.

Do the work.

Yes, it’s work.

We live in a world where most things are numbed up and distracted.

Our phones in our hands. Unhealthy but quick food. Stress. Due dates. Headphones. Daydreaming.

We often aren’t connected to the moment, let alone connected to ourselves! It takes a lot of hard, determined work to become self-aware.

But, when you do, you will discover yourself as an imperfect but complete human - your likes, your dislikes, your passions, your values, your personality, and your people.

In discovering and developing yourself, you’ll also be able to work through the difficulties earlier - the trauma that everyone experiences in some form or another that informs our daily lives, the unhealthy things we learn to believe, the ways we deal with pressure or conflict, and a thousand other things that just need to be dealt with and worked through to become your highest self.

Think about it as pulling back the curtains on your own light.

You’ve got to pull back all of them to really experience the sun in its most warm, beautiful, pure form.

Express Yourself.

Now that you know who you are, girl, you should show the world!

If your personality is big and loud, be big and loud (and respectful always!)!!

If you’re quiet, do that.

If you have a specific fashion sense or enjoy a certain music genre, rock it.

As long as you are respectful toward and mindful of others, being yourself freely and honouring your humanity is healthy and it’s your right.

Once you have found your most authentic self, you have the freedom to take up space and build your own box instead of fitting into someone else’s.

And, in everything you do, even when being authentic and honest and big and beautiful, be kind to others. Be kind and beautiful to yourself, and then be it to others as well.

Don’t Apologize for Yourself or Your Space.

You are you.

You belong firstly and only to yourself.

You never, ever need to shrink down for someone else. The people asking you to shrink are scared of who you are.

(A lot of time people are intimidated by this, because they’ve not yet pulled open their curtains and they’re wary of what comes with seeing the sun or tired of trying to.)

Never apologize for who you are, as long as it’s authentic and healthy, and allow yourself the space you need and want to express it. Whether it’s in the spotlight alone or in a room full of peers or in a male-dominated room, you are you, and you are fully allowed to be just that.

“Just you” is enough.

If the world were perfect, you shouldn’t be limited to expressing yourself only at home, or at school, or within your team. You should be able to be yourself fully and unabashedly anywhere without fear or discouragement.

When it’s safe to challenge the boundaries, try to be yourself whenever and wherever you can. (Other people, especially girls, are watching and need to see you authentically living in strength!)

Constantly seek to experience your strengths in new ways. We are never finished growing or developing.

Don’t shrink down to fit someone else’s expectations.

Find you, be you, and always keep making steps forward.

And help people along their journey where you can, too.

(Again, as TS Madison would say, “be yourself, b***h!!”.)