I am not strong because I lift weights, I am not strong because I have muscles and I am not strong because I’ve played soccer, ran a half marathon, snowboard, have competed in a bodybuilding competition and am a powerlifter. Sure, all of those things have made me stronger but they are not what make me strong.
I am strong because I am ME. I am strong because I wake up in the morning and I am Tessa Yannone. I am strong because no one else on this Earth lifts the way I do, has muscles that look like mine, or has had the same journey as I’ve had. I am strong because I am who I am and I have fully accepted that and we are all strong because we are who we are. I believe with every ounce of my being that each and every one of us can only get stronger by being more of who we are.
I keep going back and forth on this topic trying to truly decide what being strong means to me and I always end up at the same conclusion—what I believe now to be true about being strong will change and should change as I grow, learn and get stronger. What won’t change though, is that as I grow, learn and get stronger I become more of myself and that is what being strong is all about.
As a little girl, I was a fiery little tomboy who always wanted to be as strong as the boys. Has that changed? A little bit but no not really. Instead of wrestling with boys in the backyard and out-running them on the soccer field I work in an industry flooded with men and make it my goal to show women that we belong in the weight room too. This is often scary, intimidating and sometimes I feel like I don’t belong. It takes strength to stick up for what I believe in and to sometimes stir the pot a little. As a little girl, I was a strong writer but was scared to talk to strangers and go anywhere without someone I knew. Has that changed? A little bit but not really. In college, I decided to get on a plane and fly across the world to write about a small olive vineyard in the heart of Italy. Terrified that I would have to talk to strangers and travel to a foreign country all on my own I became stronger because I came back with more experience and a greater awareness of who I was as a writer and as a person. As a little girl I was a competitive soccer player, pushing myself to win starting positions on teams and to take the sport as far as I could. Has that changed? A little bit but not really. I may not be a soccer player anymore but I am still an athlete, continuing to find new ways to challenge myself, channel my inner athlete, and yep, you guessed it…get stronger.
Being strong isn’t about the muscles you have or the amount of weight you lift—physical strength is just a catalyst for strength in other areas of life. It’s failing and getting back up, something you learn pretty fast when heavy weight knocks you down or you lose in a sport. It’s not living inside your comfort zone like boarding a plane and flying across the world. It’s about being who you are with no apology and discovering what makes you happy, like deciding lifting heavy weights in a singlet is way cooler than strutting around stage in a sparkly bikini. Every step of the way is an opportunity to get stronger because we’re going to fail, we’re going to get embarrassed, we’re going to be turned down and denied by people, and bad things will happen but it’s in the way we respond to those situations that either makes us stronger or makes us weaker. Choose to be stronger. Whether that’s physically, mentally or emotionally choose strength.
What does being strong mean to you?