Olivia

Kyira: “In thinking about the moment you decided to sign up for the project, what was your motivation?”

Olivia: “I mean, it actually was something that just popped up on my Facebook feed because I had friends interested in the event and who liked the page and I looked into it because I had never done anything like this before. I find myself really interested in and longing for the opportunity for people, myself included, to really be able to accept their body instead of like this constant dismissal of it with these falsely positive messages like. ‘Oh but beauty is on the inside’ because, I mean, yeah there is beauty on the inside and that is great and important but, everyone gives at least a little bit of crap about what they look like on the outside.”

Kyira: “Yes, so true. Man I feel like you we on the same wavelength with this.”

Olivia: “And so, when it popped up, I was very impulsive and was like, ‘Yep, I am going to sign up and do this before I have time to talk myself out of it’ and then as soon as I signed up I started to hear those doubts, like ‘Hm, well, are you sure you want to do this?’ but I pushed myself to see it through and that was important to me. I mean, for the past year or so, I have been trying to the point where I can honestly say that I love my body. And this felt like one more step I can try and take in the right direction. It just worked out that this showed up, maybe, when I needed it or perhaps, was ready for it.”

Kyira: “Yeah, and I think there is something to that very grassroots growth and movement of the project where it almost makes itself available to people so that they can decide how they want to interact with it when they are ready. There isn’t this very forced, in your face way of marketing and growth but that very slow but strong build up in momentum and support. And it sounds like for you, the timing was great. I mean not to say you didn’t face some fear or nervousness - I don’t think anyone comes to do this without some hesitation - but there is this point you got to where it was your choice to do this and how this is just the next step for you in your journey. And how powerful, right, to then be talking about it and creating opportunity for others to see and hear this and make moves in the direction that they want to go in.”

Olivia: “Exactly.”

Kyira: “And the piece I think is really special is the ability to then stand here and know that this does not mean you are instantly going to love everything about yourself or that there won’t be hard days in the future - we will always have days where we feel like shit. It simply means that today, you are choosing to move forward in your adventure. So then taking some of what you just said a little deeper, if we think about culture - family, community, peers, national culture and so on - and the role it has played for you in your ability to feel beautiful, what has that looked like?”

Olivia: “Um, I think for me, I was always a part of the ‘athlete culture’ and spent a lot of time in that little bubble. And so, in high school, I was a gymnast and a dancer and just, the stress to look good was there all of the time. I was very muscular and that was fine at that time but then when I got to college and continued in the athlete track they were like, ‘You should lose some weight’ - my size was no longer okay. And to some degree I got it. It was a weight sport and it was only a few pounds. So I decided to go along with it and tried to lose weight. But it was at that point where my muscular body that I had been comfortable in for over 17 years was no longer doing what it always had or working for me anymore. And so it was this shift from ‘Your body is amazing for all it can do’ to ‘Your body is great but it you did [X], it could be better’…and so that, just the idea that like, in that small athlete bubble there are so many different things that can be what the ideal is just depending on the sport or school or group, etc. And just moving within sports you see a complete change in standards for what your body is supposed to look like and do. And so that was frustrating and very difficult for me. Because I feel like athletics should be about accepting our body and how amazing it is and what it can do. And that is how I used to be but then it got to the point where it wasn’t doing what my coaches wanted me to do anymore or at the level they expected of it, and so I stopped and I no longer had that identity that I held for so long. And ultimately, I think that is the biggest reason I came to be here today - I loved my body and saw it as very muscular but then I got here and the standard changed and that was really hard - it wasn’t muscular enough. It wasn’t light enough. And so I am just trying to reestablish that love for my body I had before and not carry that sadness with me any longer.

Kyira: “And realizing like, I am sure coaches in those types of sports don’t even realize the impact that these types of ‘tasks’ have on athletes. Because it has just become so normalized where they are just like ‘you have to cut this much weight and you have to cut that much weight’ and they don’t even see how those comments and pressures tore down all of the love you have for yourself. And again, not necessarily intentionally but it puts you in this strange place of just having to almost work backwards while still facing forward to get to that point of self love again.”

Olivia: “Right, exactly.”

Kyira: “And I know when we were talking to Katrina, you talked a bit too about the spectrums and how there is always pressure when we put anything or anyone on a spectrum because there is no true ‘okay’ point.”

Olivia: “Right, like if we decide that ‘thin’ or ‘lighter-weight’ is size 0-6. If you are a size 6, you are within that range but you will always then be the larger of the group and so a new scale forms and you again find yourself chasing the new standard. And if ‘normal’ is sizes 6-12, people who are a size 12 will begin to feel the pressure to chase the size 6 end.”

Kyira: “Which is interesting to think that everyone chases this point, to no real end. At least until that crossing over point where you are then deemed too thin and then everyone is concerned and begins to respond to you differently. And the automatic assumptions within that are that you must have an eating disorder or not be ‘healthy’ and so for many people, they get stuck in that trap and either feel pressure to prove to people they do not in fact have an eating disorder or, in cases were they do, have gotten to the point they may not be able to hear that concern anymore.

Kyira: “So, what do you think has been the hardest part for you in this journey overall?”

Olivia: “Um, I think…um like I never, growing up considered myself as…or never looked at myself and thought ‘I am beautiful’ which I think is what is so important in this project is that we are working towards the ability to come together and truly believe everyone is beautiful. And so Iwas never able to do that and was quick to label myself as ‘muscular’ or ‘short’ or…just characterizing myself by my physical attributes rather than saying things like ‘I am beautiful’ or ‘I am [x]’. And I think going into college I became very comfortable with and accepting of my personality which was very important to me but I think that the most frustrating part is that I still cannot get to that point of accepting what I look like. Like, I can accept my personality which comes across everyday in all I do. But I can’t accept that this is my body yet and firmly believe it is beautiful. And I just want to be able to get to that point where I can say, ‘My muscles are beautiful. My height is beautiful. My frizzy hair is beautiful…’ and so I think that that is the hardest part because even as I get close, someone will say something to me like, well you are not really there yet.”

Kyira: “And what was it like…so the first time you started to say that phrase ‘I am beautiful’ as you were talking, you paused for a bit and slowly allowed yourself to say it and then each time you used the word beautiful it seemed to get easier to say. What was coming up for you?”

Olivia: “I think it is more like, I mean this does feel like a safe space so I feel comfortable pushing myself into saying that and trying it on but I am not yet at a point where it feels genuine to me.”

Kyira: “Right, like you can say it here and start to play around with it but you are still rejecting the notion internally.”

Olivia: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “That’s hard because I feel like so much of it is having the courage to keep saying it, even though it will not feel genuine for awhile because you don’t believe it yet. Others do. Others see your beauty but you have to give yourself time and space to get there on your own. So it is almost like sitting at this point where you aren’t necessarily past those barriers but you are identifying kind of what those are and creating the road map on how to get past them.”

Olivia: “Yeah..”

Kyira: “So how do you nurture and celebrate your beauty now. Or how are you hoping to work towards that more in the future? I know saying that you are beautiful and believing it is a big thing for you, but what else?”

Olivia: “When I was told to lose the weight…(sigh)…eating disorders seem to be such a common theme in a lot of these interviews and stories, huh? I mean I never really ‘fell of the cliff’ per se into a full blown eating disorder but I definitely had unhealthy habits and I wasn't fueling my body with what it needed. And it didn’t feel like my body anymore. It felt like it belonged to the sport or other people. And it felt like it wasn’t for me and my accepting anymore. And so now, I work on eating what I want to and when I want to. And I try not to care as much. And I definitely listen to my body and fuel it for what it needs and like, I dance. I am on a dance team on campus and I love it. I get to still embrace all that my body can do without the pressure of being or looking a certain way or weight. So now it is just getting back to loving my body for all it is and can do and I feel like when I get to that point, I will be able to more easily embrace this notion that I am beautiful. And the road is definitely not straight. Like I feel like I work my way back up and something knocks me down a bit and then I rework and try to get past that point but sometimes get stuck or pulled back.”

Kyira: “And I feel like that says a lot to about how successful you will be with that because I think it is hard for people to really understand that this journey is not going to be in a straight, unidirectional fashion but that progression can look chaotic and consists of a lot of turns and breaks and hoops. And that there are always new barriers that are awaiting you - that will always be a part of life. Like, I remember when I moved into recovery, I stopped caring so much about certain things - like body fat and weight - but suddenly I was hyper aware of my complexion and fearful of what it would mean to have pimples or uneven skin, or whatever.  And it was like, where the hell did that come from, this anxiety that I never knew was there. And so I think that openness to the process and work is what is going to really set you up for success.”

Olivia: “Thank you. That is helpful to hear.”

Kyira: “Absolutely, And thank you so much for being a part of this project and for being so vulnerable with me.”

Olivia: “Thank you for making it available.”