Guest post for the Positive People Army.
We all have that little voice inside our head that can prevent us from doing and being the person we want to be. Thoughts that tell us life is impossible, success is unattainable and we are not worthy . Yet none of this is true!
Each and every one of us is unique and beautiful in our own way and we can accomplish and do anything we want in life. All we have to do is believe in ourselves and embrace the beauty within.
For Sophia, her moment of belief came during one fearful moment, high above the ground. It was then that Sophia decided to surrender and let go of the discouraging voice in her head and realized she can do anything!
Sit back and fall in love with Sophia’s inspiring story.
“Don’t look at my ass!” I shouted down to the group of 10 people staring directly up at my bum protruding out, in a decidedly unsexy way, over a ropes-course platform suspended 50 feet in the air.
I was hanging on tightly, getting ready to hoist my approximately 300 lbs of flesh onto a 3’x3′ platform that my climbing partner, Sue, was already crouched on. As I shimmied my thighs onto the wood slats, I received a needed boost from the 18-year-old belaying me, effectively lifting me by the harness enough to half-kneel, half-fall onto Sue’s lap. I looked down and saw that two other tribe-mates were helping the kid hold me, and I was moved to tears by their love and wanting this physical accomplishment for me.
As a kid, I was called big-boned by family members who wrapped their thumb and middle fingers around my wrist attempting to complete the circle that my bones were often too big for. As I became a teenager with hips and breasts, I was called pleasantly plump or curvy or voluptuous. In university, adjectives became less complex as if my body’s growth out-paced words. Large. Big. Fat.
I did every diet from the carb-abhorrent Atkins Diet, to Vitamin B injections with Dr. Bernstein, to group shaming disguised as community with Weight Watchers. I went to therapy where we tried in vain to uncover some past sexual abuse, because, seriously, the only way I could hate myself enough to be this fat is if I’d been assaulted as a child, right? I worked out with trainers and joined gyms, and while I loved the physical movement and feeling my muscles strengthen and harden, I never became less visible.
As a way to compensate for my largess, I grew my extroversion to match. The loudest laugh, the need to be the centre of the party, I always had something intelligent and funny to say in every situation and to every person. Blessed with big eyes and big boobs, I liberally applied Blackest Black volumizing mascara and then directed the gaze downward with v-neck shirts, tightly focusing attention to the features of my body that were more passable by societal standards.
Every failure was because of my weight, and every disappointment could have been avoided had I been thin.
I didn’t fit anywhere. Robes at the spa would never meet in the middle of my body, so I would drape a towel down from my breasts to cover my stomach, and then clutch the various pieces of fabric together. I would purposely trick the flight attendant into thinking my seatbelt was buckled by strategically arranging my sweater over the metal clasp so they couldn’t tell that I was willing to risk death rather than ask for a seat-belt extender. In Italy on my honeymoon, we went to a Michelin-starred restaurant on the Amalfi Coast, and three tuxedoed servers watched as I could only lower my body halfway into a small, wooden chair with arms.
So, when standing at the base of a ropes course in Sonoma, California, surrounded by the 25 people in my Leadership Tribe, I looked up at the web of ropes and zig-zagging wood slats and knew my body would let me down again, like some bulky carcass I was cursed to shuffle around. Worse, I would let down this group of people who loved me so deeply and who had become my soul family, my biggest fans, and my most honest mirrors.
Ropes-Course-John, the smart-assed, mountain-man who led us through each exercise, and who knew exactly what to say to piss you off right when you were hanging precariously from ropes, says that how we show up on the ropes course is how we show up in life. In my case, silently crying at the bottom of the ropes course because I just KNOW that my body can’t make it’s way up this daunting web of strings, wires, and wood. I am not strong enough, flexible enough, or fit enough. I am not enough.
I watched the others go first, many of them struggling with internal gremlins like fear of heights and fear of failing, but also with the athleticism needed to put legs over heads, balance on small wires, and climb loose rope ladders. They were thin. They were fit. There was no way in hell that I could do this thing.
Sue looked over at me, saw the turmoil I was in, and came over to me immediately. I choked out the hot, embarrassing words, declaring myself unworthy of being her partner, I mean, she’s a former mountaineering guide, and I was going to ruin this experience for her.
We began a conversation about what was possible in this moment, rather than focusing on all the things that were impossible, and that slowly started to move me out of my shame spiral. I began to feel my feet standing solidly on the rocky ground, feel the strength in my legs as they held me up, feel my chest expand and contract as my lungs remembered how to breathe.
Connecting to my body in this way, I knew with complete certainty that the only way I was going to be able to take that first step on to the ropes course was to turn my brain off, which would stop the stress and fear and shame. Instead, I would have to…SURRENDER.
Surrender is a word I have been indoctrinated to hate. My parents were poor immigrants from Greece who struggled for everything they achieved. My mom worked at a vegetable stand just so that she could buy two outfits to wear to school, and she wore one every day for a week and then switched to the other one. Her poverty lit a fire inside of her and turned her into a hustler, fiercely determined to use a university education to escape her humble beginnings. Surrender was never an option. No pain, no gain. Only the strong survive. Be a strong, independent woman. These are the mantras I learned along with my ABCs.
“Surrender,” I whispered to myself as I took shuddering breaths and the tears stopped sliding down my face. I would try my best, and since I can only do what I can do, why was I freaking out about what my body couldn’t do?
I COULD trust Sue to guide me.
I could trust the kid to belay me.
I could trust my hiking boots to grip the rope.
I could trust my tribe to cheer for me and love me no matter if I made it one step or rang the bell at the top.
I felt a deep sense of calm flowing over me as my tears dried. Sue and I agreed that I would let her be my brain, which felt blissful because I could turn mine off (since it was only stressing and worrying anyway!) and simply look in her eyes and follow her instructions. With my brain on mute, my body was free to connect to its own wisdom and strength, and I started enjoying the physical challenge of each step up the ropes course. I could feel strength flowing through each muscle, even as they were trembling with exertion.
Tightropes, planks of wood suspended mid-air, and a rope spider web led us obstacle by obstacle, higher and higher. Sue did the move first, and then directed my body’s movements like a virtuoso conductor. Every time I started to argue or say I couldn’t do it, she paused, asked me to look her in the eyes, and said the word “surrender,” which turned the volume down on my self-judgement and connected me back to my physical body.
When we were finally kneeling on the wooden platform at the top, we looked at each other in surprise, as if jolted out of sleepwalking. We had made it! The kid on belay started yelling up directions on how to position ourselves for the descent, but Sue and I just laughed and shouted back that we weren’t coming down yet- there was still a bell to ring, and it was hanging from a wire about 10 feet above us.
“They’re going for it!” we heard a tribe-mate yell, and everyone on the ground started cheering.
Pressing into the wood platform with my shaking knees, I grasped the slim rope that connected the platform to the bell as Sue climbed up onto my shoulders and reached high overhead. She was still at least a foot shy of the bell, and I could feel her weight shift as her arm swung dejectedly back to her side. She asked if I could stand up, but I was barely able to kneel.
I was pissed! We we so close, and we wanted to ring that damn bell!
“Stand on my head!” I yelled up to her, straightening my upper spine and tucking my chin back into my neck.
“Noooo!” shouted Caroline, one of our Leaders, “Absolutely not!”
My mind was out of ideas, so instead I took a breath, leaned into surrender, and trusted my body’s wisdom. I reached my palm up and grabbed Sue’s hiking boot by the heel, and I used my last bit of strength to shoot my arm straight up and over my head, closing the gap on those last 12 inches. Sue grabbed the bell and rang it loudly as our tribe mates cheered and clapped. Tears streaming down both our faces, amazed at what we’d done, I realized I didn’t care at all who looked at my ass as I was lowered back down to the ground. I had just done something I thought was impossible, and it happened because I trusted myself and recieved help from others.
Since that experience, I have grown to deeply love and care for my body in a whole new way, and it’s helped my binge eating disorder almost completely disappear.
Realizing how much my self-judgements limit me, I’ve learned how to quiet my inner critic and instead live from my Inner Guide.
Practicing getting present to each moment, living in the now, and being mindful, have allowed me to tap into clarity and certainty that serve me with every decision I make and discussion I have, instead of being led by fears and worries.
And I also quit my six-figure, Sales Director job so that I could spend all my energy, passion, and skill helping other women fall in love with their bodies and truly understand that they are “Curvy and Confident…from the Boardroom to the Bedroom!”
If you’d like to learn more about how to boost your confidence, please check out my site, and you can book a free Confidence Chat with me at Sophia Apostol
AAAANNNND…the ropes course climb I’ve described above is on video! Check out my ass here on YouTube