Body Image and Ideals

During one of my gym sessions a few days ago I stopped in front of the full length mirror and did something that I hate to admit; I looked at myself in disapproval. There I stood, nit-picking all of my so-called faults. “Trim up your legs, Theresa. Geez, I have man-sized traps. You could be a bit leaner, Theresa.” My subconscious was taking over, and there was nothing I could do about it.

  Attractive? More like unhealthy.

Attractive? More like unhealthy.

 

Now, for those of you who know me or have seen me, you know that I take care of my body. I’m in the gym daily and I eat clean. So you’re asking yourself why I’m thinking these things about my body. Well, I suppose there are two reasons. The first being societal pressure. We’ve been raised in a society that, for so long, has constructed these women in the media to be the pinnacle of perfection. These slender, desirable bodies. Since I was just a small girl I believed I was suppose to look like that, and sadly that mentality is hard to shake after living it for years on end. The second reason, I may be slightly obsessed with the idea of perfection. In every aspect of my life I consider myself a perfectionist. My hair must always be done. I won’t dare be caught wearing sweatpants. I will always look presentable. My house must be clean….you get the gist. I’m like a robot! The funny thing is, no one else in my family is like this. So where did I get it? Again, society is to blame. As a child I envied those girls in magazines.

I have come a long way since then but like every girl I still struggle. I battled anorexia on and off from 5th-11th grade. I felt like I had to look a certain way. I had to look fragile and petite, like those girls in magazines. I know what it’s like to feel pressure, to hate yourself.motivation1

About a year ago, something in me changed though. Maybe it was my silent way of saying “screw you” tosociety, but out of the blue I no longer wanted to be just skinny. I wanted to be powerful. I wanted a sculpted body, my muscles saying “look at me, look at the dedication it took to get here.” Anyone can be slender, but it takes work, determination and diligence to be fit. And so my journey began. Since then I have been the most confident I’ve ever been in life. I stopped worrying about the numbers on the scale, but rather about how I FELT.

So here I am telling you about how confident I am with myself, yet I prefaced this post with my body concerns. The truth is, I’ll never stop trying to achieve more. There is always something that I will want to change. And you know what, that’s okay. I will never pollute or harm my body as a means of changing it so why not?

I will always preach doing what makes you happy, so long as it is safe. If you want to change, make a change. Just be healthy about it. Do you know why I work out and lift hard? Yes it boosts my confidence, but there is something deeper than that. A FIT body, not just a skinny body, says something about the person. It shows that they are determined. They are dedicated. They do not quit. This isn’t just for working out, these are the traits that show in every aspect of their life. Their career, their goals, their family, etc. I want to inspire and motivate people. I want to be a role-model for girls who need one. How can I accomplish these things if I can’t take my fitness and health seriously? THIS is why I workout. I want to be the best version of me possible, so as to influence others to make a positive change.

My phone's screen saver. It motivates me on a daily basis.My phone’s screen saver. It motivates me on a daily basis.

Pressure from society will always be there, I don’t care what you say. It can be completely subconscious or right in front of your face, but it’s there. Once we get more comfortable with ourselves is when that pressure lightens. So, find what makes you confident. If you have to make a change to do so, then do it! The only person stopping you is yourself. What makes you confident?

-Your Miss Outdoor Girl

Breaking The Negative Perception…

This past week I had the pleasure of speaking to over 350 JROTC cadets at Leavenworth High School. Here is how it began;

I walked in wearing my military uniform, nothing out of the ordinary for a group of students who see this on a daily basis. I asked them what opinions came to their mind when I stood before them in uniform, and as I expected they looked at me with expressions of confusion. They simply said I was a woman in uniform.

Speaking to the students

Speaking to the students

 

As an icebreaker, I then pulled out my crown and sash and my “glammed up” pageant headshot. Every reaction was the same; gasps, whispers, astonishment. I  asked the students if their opinion of me changed any after seeing that I’m not just a woman in uniform. I asked them if they ever imagined putting the two together, a beauty queen and a soldier. When they said no, I asked why. The responses I received are as follows;

“Soldiers don’t mind getting dirty. Beauty queens care if they break a nail.”

“Beauty queens are full of themselves. ”

“Beauty queens are stuck up.”

There were many more, but you get the gist of it. After they gave their feedback I picked out a few students and labeled them. I pointed at a guy and told him he was a jock. I pointed at a girl and called her a cheerleader. And lastly, I told another guy that he was a band geek. After doing so (and getting a few glares from these students), I asked how they felt. They all said the same thing; stereotyped and labeled. As if simultaneously, the lightbulbs went off in their heads and they understood the point I was soon to make.

I backtracked to tell the students my story, where I came from and how I got here. I was a ghost in high school. I had no friends, no life, no confidence. I spent lunch period in the library, alone with my love for books. The characters in these pages being the only people I could relate to.

 

After the speech I went down to the rifle range for old times sake!

After the speech I went down to the rifle range for old times sake!

I took a leap out of my comfort zone one day and joined my school’s rifle team. Quickly escalating to the number one shot, I earned the nickname “Annie Oakley” and found where I belonged…in a man’s world. On that range is where I found myself and my confidence. I was never interested in the petty drama that followed most girls around in high school, so being around men on this range was relieving. No drama, just pure camaraderie and competition.

A year later, I joined the Army National Guard while still in high school. Getting shipped off to basic training was a fear come true….and I loved every minute of it. When one got in trouble, we all suffered for it. When one went down, we all went down. It was a band of brothers, unity and camaraderie at its finest. This is what I live for.

As I finished telling the students of my hard exterior, I softened it up a bit. How did a solider get into the pageant world? I said that God’s mission for me here on earth is to help people. To motivate, encourage, empower. The pageant world seemed best fit to catalyze my success in fulfilling God’s mission. It would allow me to speak to groups of people and share my platform.

Miss LV

As a final question, I asked them if their perception of a beauty queen was still the same….and they all said no. They said I broke the mold of what they assumed a beauty queen was like. My mission for this speech was a success. If I could just make ONE person think differently and stop stereotyping, I’ve done my part.

I left them with the lyrics from Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” song. “If you want to make the world a better place, you better look at yourself and make a change.”

Make a change in yourself, people! Stop stereotyping, stop assuming, stop labeling!

 

-Your Miss Outdoor Girl…

To Judge a Book by Its Cover

Circulating every news outlet is the leaked email from Colonel Lynette Arnhart, suggesting that the Army use “average-looking” women in its marketing efforts. Colonel Arnhart was in charge of gender-integration studies and how best to integrate women into combat roles. From her email she is quoted as saying, “In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead.” She goes on to say, “It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy.”

In the days following this leaked email, Col. Arnhart received severe backlash for her words. My question is, why? What her critics fail to see is that she was only speaking the truth; the truth about our society as a whole. Does it make it right that the Army actually curtails its marketing to this? Of course not, and I’m as disappointed as anybody. BUT, the truth is, she’s right. Our society sees “pretty” women in high positions and assumes she’s slept her way to the top or used her looks in some facet. When are “attractive” women ever known for their brain?

Why do these stereotypes still exist? Because our society allows it! They have been ingrained in our youth, our media and, as is the case now, our advertising. Instead of bashing Col. Arnhart, what we need to be doing is changing HOW women are perceived and eradicating the stereotypes we’re held under.

Now, onto the problem at hand; why does it even matter what a woman looks like?! I am not here to stand up for “pretty” women or “average-looking” women. I am here to stand up for ALL women. We are talking about combat here. War does not care what you look like. The Army wants to say we’re all green but that email seriously undermines any effort to provide equal treatment to women. What it’s doing is driving that wedge between men and women further and further. Not only that, but it’s also separating us as women. It’s causing us to think that there actually is a hierarchy within our own gender. “Pretty vs. Ugly?” Come on! Give us more credit. We are intellects, we are creative, we are strong.

All we want is to be recognized for our qualifications and skill set. We want a fair shot of proving what we can bring to the table. Give us that.…