In my twenty years on this planet, I have known my fair share of locker rooms. Middle-school and high-school locker rooms were the source of a great deal of embarrassment in my adolescence, and not just because I was always a bigger girl. The cattiness and cruelty in a locker room full of self-esteem-challenged teenage girls is overwhelming. I remember specific incidents, ranging from getting my period for the first time (to the general amusement of everyone there), to having a popular girl tell the boy I liked what kind of underwear I was wearing that day. So, after high school, I vowed that I would never set foot in a locker room again. Why would I want to return to a place that scarred my self-worth for life?
Luckily for me, I gave it another chance.
A few months ago, I started to feel that I wasn’t moving enough, so I swallowed my pride and signed up for a membership at the YMCA. I loved the clean, healthy environment, but I was still hesitant about the locker room. I had no idea what I would find when I went in. Well, now I know:
There is beauty, confidence, and love—pure acceptance.
My time there has been full of naked bodies, young and old, big and small. I have seen scars, cellulite, hair, and wrinkles—all uncovered, exposed, and unashamed. I know that some people are uncomfortable with the naked truth of the locker room, but I think it’s awesome. It’s like all of these women are here to say: This is my body. I have loved it and lived in it my entire life. Every scar, every blemish is a mark of my legacy, why would I hate them? Why would I hide them? And really, why should they?
Every time I enter that room, I am filled with confidence. My body is not perfect, but it is mine. I’m there to make it healthy and strong, but it’s already beautiful. It is the temple that holds my organs, the movement of millions of brain cells and nerves, and it is a beautifully designed piece of art by evolution and God. This feeling is my manifesto: I am nobody’s stereotype. I am powerful. I will be free from my insecurities.
Unfortunately, out in the real world, this feeling fades. I often feel broken down, ugly, and sad after a week of work and self-deprecation. However, locker-room confidence is my goal. Someday, I will be able to walk down the street, and feel comfortable in my skin. On that day I will throw my hands to the sky and shout for joy.
My life is changing, my heart is changing, and I owe it all to a random impulse, a locker room, and a few anonymous women—women who love their bodies.
I have a feeling that I will owe everything to them.