With a background as a gymnast, rugby player and more recently a Strongman competitor & powerlifter, Daniella May Lee Means often gets asked what being strong means to her.
Strength has so many meanings to different people. Daniella shares with us her version of STRONG and her views on the hashtag #StrongNotSkinny.
Strength doesn't lie in just your physicality. “I always say it's simply being able to do something you previously thought you could not do. This relates to being physically strong, mentally strong, and spiritually strong.”
The human body is an amazing thing, and women especially do not seem to realize that. We produce babies, can run ultra-marathons better than men, have a much higher pain threshold, and we are STRONG.
So USE that strength. It's often our own brains telling us we "can't" be strong(her), or perhaps it's society!
After many conversations with women from all walks of life, I found that it was women who imposed these barriers on themselves - “I could never do that, I’ll never be that strong/fast/disciplined/whatever…” Putting ourselves down mentally before even trying physically or comparing ourselves to whatever #fitspo is the current flavour of the month, ultimately affects our spirit.
When will we stop doing this to ourselves?
Many of us have had our own issues with how our bodies look to us and/or to others. Often, we struggle with this especially during the time of the month, when our hormones go whacky.
The phrase 'Strong Not Skinny', to me, is a celebration of what our bodies, as women, are capable of. We should be honouring the amazing things we can do, not just what it looks like - whether it’s through flexibility, endurance sports, childbirth, or my own passion: strength sports. Pursuing something you LOVE shines through your soul and catapults you into another dimension of self-love, self-worth, and happiness.
MENTALLY STRONG: Aside from being physically strong, having the perseverance and drive to see things through and bounce back from setbacks are just as important. You can be a victim to your fears, or you can take the bull by the horns and be the lead in your own life.
SPIRITUALLY STRONG: This means being able to live in the solution, rather than hiding in the dark. Have faith in yourself and those around you, express gratitude and have hope. Be able to sit with yourself, and nourish your soul.
With the rise of social media, the likes of Instagram, YouTube, and the popularity of fitness models, this idea of “Strong Not Skinny” has been attached to images of women with super low body fat, in perfect lighting conditions with the most chiselled six pack you have ever seen in your life. This inevitably leads to women looking into the mirror and seeing something they aren’t happy with, or focusing on one specific thing they wish were better.
I’ve had my share of personal ups and downs, body image issues, especially as a teenage girl...I am so grateful that I’ve come to the point where I have a very healthy relationship with food which includes all the gluten free stuff, but also involves pop tarts and more importantly, I do not stress out over it anymore.
I’ve embraced my body, and celebrate what it can do! By focusing on strength as a goal - I’ve been able to reach my body composition and aesthetic goals almost as a side benefit.
Everyone wants to look as amazing and as healthy as we feel, but “amazing and healthy” comes in many shapes and sizes. Take the focus away from what your body looks like, and put that into what your body can do, and stop comparing! You can only control your actions, so take it into your own hands and go out and DO something that makes you feel good.
Strive to be the strongest expression of yourself - mind, body and soul. And do it for yourself, not for anyone else.
Article contributed by Daniella Means. Daniella is a Project Manager at Ultimate Performance Hong Kong. She is a competitive powerlifter, "Strongman" competitor and was named the 7th Strongest Light Weight Strongwoman IN THE WORLD at this year's Arnold Sports Festival in Ohio!