There is power in vulnerability. And no, I don’t mean taking advantage of other people when they’re vulnerable. I mean when we own our weaknesses and bring them to the light, they become powerless. God loves to turn our weakness into His strength and by that, empowering us. We break the chains. We are no longer held captive by our shortcomings, our flaws, our setbacks, our failures, our lack of. Instead we are set free by God’s amazing grace, by His sovereign glory that enables us to move mountains and face any challenge that dare look us in the eye.
The most heartbreaking thing is that we were not created this way. God created us in His image. He sees us as beautiful, as wonderful, as beloved. But we are our own worst enemy. There is no worse critic nor competitor than the person we see in meet in our reflection. We destroy ourselves. We were made to be full of joy but we allow our inner demons to take that away. We can blame outside sources, and yes, they can have an impact, but when it comes down to it, the biggest battle we ever fight is with ourselves. An on going battle for inner peace. Between stress, worry, doubt, and fear – we already put ourselves on the losing end of the fight. We then allow those to take away from who we are, how we see ourselves, how we see others, how we think others see us, and suddenly, our joy, our peace, begin to slip away. We become captives to our self identified shortcomings. Anais Nin put it perfectly when she said, “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.”
The girl pictured above is happy. She is full of joy, she is confident, and she loves herself. She knows she is a beloved daughter of the king and she knows she has purpose. She feels beautiful on the inside and out. This girl is me. These pictures are all from the first week of May 2017. Yes, less than a month ago. If you saw me now, you may not believe that. This girl weighed in at a low of 138 lbs and 14% body fat. She was clean and jerking over 200 lbs daily, squatting over 245 lbs daily, and was running a 5k every morning before work. She spent 9 hours a day working, 4 hours a day training, and the other time either in the Word with the Lord, spending time with her best friends, or was snuggled up with her handsome Irish boyfriend. Her last month in Bahrain, she did a Spartan Race in the middle of the desert and won a national level weightlifting competition. Sadly, when I left Bahrain, I left her behind…
Or so it seemed. It is easy for people to look at that girl. For most, that is the Jessy they know. The fit, blonde girl from California. The Crossfit girl. The girl that’s always smiling. The bouncing, bubbly blonde girl. The girl that’s always running everywhere. Some variation of that anyway. Most people assume I’m always happy. I get asked that ALL the time actually. How are you so happy all the time? And most people assume I have always been super into fitness. You’re so lucky, you have good genetics. And the biggest compliment and the biggest misconception is that most people assume I can always do it all. You’re like superwoman, what can’t you do?
The truth? I’m not always happy. I have my bad days, my days I cry myself to sleep, my breakdowns, just like everyone else but my joy overshadows my happiness. See happiness is fleeting, but joy from the Lord is eternal. I may not always be happy, but I will always be full of joy. I can be really sad on the inside but I will wear a smile and love on everyone I encounter because for all I know that person could be going through something far worse than I and a friendly smile may be the only thing pushing them forward.
I haven’t always been into fitness either. I haven’t always been fit. I was always an athlete but I chose my senior year of high school to leave the sport I’d played my whole life for 3 sports I had never done before. And I had to work really hard. It’s not that I’ve always been into fitness, it’s that I’ve always had to work really hard. I could never leave the weight room or the track or the field feeling satisfied unless I knew I was the hardest worker in the room. That work ethic led to me being super into fitness. The past 4 years I have pinballed between 6 different sports and have worked to be competitive at all of them. What people see is the glamorous side. The championships, the medals, the end product. What people don’t see is the mental and physical mountains that have arose in the way. Torn meniscus, torn ACL, torn hip flexor, bulimia, binge eating, body dysmorphia, pulled muscles, strains, mental breakdowns, bulking and cutting cycles. Between college track, bodybuilding/fitness modelling, distance running, Crossfit, powerlifting, and Olympic weightlifting, my fitness journey has been anything but linear. It’s been anything but easy. It hasn’t been genetics that has gotten me here. It’s been a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. It’s been a lot of supportive friends and family, a lot of really good coaches, some really awesome sponsors, and a lot of perseverance.
And above all, I don’t have it all together. And I can’t do it all. Not all the time anyways. It may look like that from the outside but just like everyone else, I’ve got demons I’m fighting. I’ve got weaknesses that bring me down. I will admit, I do try to do it all. And sometimes I succeed beautifully. This experience in Bahrain was a perfect example. For 4 months, I was (for the most part) able to fit everything in, every single day. I was able to do it all. But as soon as I came home that came crashing down. I fought with bulimia and binge eating for the first time in almost 2 years upon my arrival back home. I’ve had to get really vulnerable with a lot of people I haven’t wanted to open up to in order to get back on track. Physically, mentally, and spiritually. That girl that was happy and confident and joyful made a huge mistake. She tried to do it all on her own. She tried to build up her own kingdom rather than focusing on building up God’s. She tried to control her body, her injuries, her relationships, rather than allowing God to steer the course. I don’t know if any of this will resonate with you, but I hope and pray that it does. It may not be fitness and your body that you’ve been struggling with, maybe it’s alcohol, or a relationship, or anxiety, or depression. Whatever your struggle is, I just pray that you will hear this: it is not a linear process. Nobody who is successful in life gets there via a straight line. Please do not give up, ever. Even if it feels impossible. Pray, meditate, make a vision board, whatever you need to do, invest in yourself.
Don’t be afraid of your vulnerability. Don’t be held captive by your weaknesses. You are loved and you are free. This life is yours. Don’t let those critics within you take away from who you are. Let go, let God. My prayer for you all is to be vulnerable. Lay it all out on the table. To a friend, a spouse, a counselor, to God. Lay it all out and be freed. Success and peace and happiness won’t happen overnight friends. It’s a great and winding road. But it’s so worth it.