Guest post by Julia Greenshields
I’d like to start off by stating that I have a strong sense of confidence in my body but it has been a work-in-progress for me, especially at the beginning of my career in national level rugby. Just like everyone else, I too have struggled with body confidence at times. I feel very blessed with the body I have today, and I’m extremely proud of what it’s capable of. As a national level athlete I’m very lucky to spend most of my days working out, pushing myself physically and mentally. I’m beyond grateful to have access to the greatest strength and conditioning coaches, as well as nutritionists and team chefs. Representing Canada in sport is an honour and a privilege. I must not forget to mention I am also surrounded by a team of diverse, amazing, and powerful bad-ass women who I love very much, in all the wonderful shapes and sizes they come in.
Today I’m writing about discovering my purpose through my body.
I decided to try sports when I was a pre-teen, and at the same time I was becoming more aware of my body, I began paying attention to what was considered attractive in the magazines and movies. At this point I was quite aware that my body wasn’t curvy or “feminine”. I started to compare myself to the women I saw in the media, and I felt lacking in shape, I was straight up and down, I didn’t have hips or a big butt and I didn’t have a large chest. I still don’t have hips or a big chest. I struggled a lot when shopping for clothes and envied my classmates who had more feminine figures. As my body went through changes it was easy to find all the things I didn’t like with my reflection. We are our own worst critics. In high school I participated in many sports such as basketball, volleyball and rugby. Eventually I chose to focus my energies on rugby, and moved from the high school team to the city, then provincial, then national level. I found myself in a sport sometimes stereotyped as “masculine” and “butch” as it is still a male dominated profession, despite women’s success on the pitch. My parents weren’t very athletic and didn’t participate in sports growing up, my mother is very petite, and my father was very thin and lanky when he was my age. I am a combination of both, my body is petite with lanky limbs. Turns out there’s a place for my body in rugby, but more importantly a place for my mentality, an important aspect of sport.
In many instances in my career as a national women’s 7’s player I’ve been encouraged to gain weight in order to be more successful in rugby, specifically in tackling and big contact situations on the pitch. Just imagine a big collision, a big hit to the stomach! The idea of the number on the scale going up gave me an immense amount of anxiety. I love my sport, I’d do anything to become better, so why was the idea of gaining weight so hard for me? It had been engraved in my mind by the media and society that gaining weight was exactly what everyone was trying to avoid. So many magazines were covered with tips on how to lose weight and slim down. For me, there was so much pressure to gain weight, to increase the number on the scale. After some time on my new weight gain program, I was quite unhappy with the way it was going. I felt heavier but not stronger, bigger but slower. I struggled with my approach to gaining weight, I knew it was part of my job, but I didn’t want to accept the way I’d changed physically. I didn’t want to look too masculine in clothes, I didn’t want to look too big, but at the same time I wanted to be an amazing rugby player. Things changed for me when a new coach entered the program and proposed the idea of focusing on getting stronger, and not to worry too much about what the scale said. My main focus became improving my strength and power in the weight room and to focus on what my body CAN do on the rugby pitch. I can honestly say, I was able to rediscover my passion in lifting weights and I found joy in conditioning sessions with my teammates. When I refocused mentally, things felt a lot better for me physically, and I was able to remove the number on the scale from my mind. Reframing my mind to not worry about the scale and to focus on other ways I’d be enhancing my performance was what my mind needed. I allowed myself more freedom around my diet, and regularly met with my nutritionist and coaches to share my progress and express how I was handling it mentally and emotionally. This journey wasn’t just physical, it was a tough mental obstacle for me to overcome.
During this progression I wondered if I was strong enough and big enough to be dominant on the pitch, but still felt too broad and masculine to wear cute feminine clothes. I wondered what men thought of me. Did they think I was too “manly”? Was I completely over thinking it? It took me a long time to accept my body for all that it is. I still get frustrated when I can’t find clothes that fit me quite right, I struggle to find cute tops that fit my ribcage and shoulders and chest. I have good days and bad days like everyone else. When people don’t believe I’m a rugby player because they think I look too small, I’ve learned to laugh it off and open their eyes to the idea of rugby players coming in all shapes and sizes. I’ve battled between feeling too feminine for rugby but too masculine to wear some women’s clothing. Rugby is a strong part of my identity, my body has done a lot of great things on the rugby pitch, and for that I’m so grateful. My woes are truly minor when put into perspective, and I’ve learned that. I started to value all of the things my body can physically do, not just how it looks in some women’s clothing.
After reflecting on my goal to become an Olympian, I realized my body has a purpose. This body, makes me ‘me’, it can achieve great amazing things, one of those things is my Olympic dream. My body’s purpose is to play rugby. Yes I am one of the smallest women on my team, but I play bigger than I am. As much as I get tackled, I make big hits. One thing I love about this sport is how diverse we all are physically, no two of us are the same. The game is so much more than size. I’m one of the fittest and fastest players on my team, I have pretty good vision and my hand-eye coordination isn’t terrible either. The way I feel about myself physically has a lot to do with who I am mentally. I’m mentally tough, and work very hard to help the team. I push my body to its limits regularly, and put my body through a lot, I’ve learned to trust this process. I know my body is capable of so much, and has a purpose. The way I hold myself physically has a lot to do with my mentality, and for me it’s all about my performance on the rugby pitch, pursuing my dreams and confidence in my body’s abilities.
This is why I love Swimco, and all that they represent. When I slip into my Swimco bikinis I am comfortable and confident. One of the many great things about Swimco’s products is the variety of sizes and shapes available for everyone, and the ability to mix and match pieces and patterns. Swimco has pieces that fit my muscular body, but the prints and colours provide a sense of femininity that I need. This allows me the freedom to buy different pieces to fit my body, and it’s fun mixing tops and bottoms in endless combinations. Thanks to all the traveling around the globe my job affords me, I get to wear Swimco bikinis all year round. The brand Swimco also shares a beautiful message to women everywhere, celebrate the life your body lets you live. This message resonates with me deeply, that is exactly what I set out to do, and I encourage every woman to find their own purpose and show appreciation and love for all that they are.
What is your purpose?