To The Aspiring Bikini Competitor

To The Aspiring Bikini Competitor

An open letter to all future bikini athletes.
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Being a bikini competitor is almost the new norm for anyone who wants to take their fitness dedication to the next level. On local and national stages, their divisions are taking over -- sometimes with 30 to 45 girls in each 6 height classes. Almost everyone is either a competitor, training to become one, or contemplating giving it a shot. What people don’t realize is that preparing for a bodybuilding show is tough. It's serious business and the last word I would use to describe it is "easy." It is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging things I have ever mentally, emotionally and physically done, but after competing in five shows myself, I can confidently assure you it's equally one of the most rewarding. It's worth it. It really is. But before you get excited about the sparkling swimsuits, high heels, tan skin, and hot bod you're about to have, take a listen. You need to read this first.

Before you decide to take the plunge, you need to objectively and realistically evaluate why you want to compete.

I highly recommend not competing if you simply want to “look good” and be “skinny.” Because contrary to popular belief, that “hot” body is yours for approximately one day. Months of dieting, weight lifting, and double cardio sessions just to look your best for one day. I'm not kidding -- one day. Before you know it, the show will be over, you’ll enjoy a few post-show cheat meals and those chiseled abs and bicep veins will disappear. The body you have on show day is not maintainable, so don't expect it to stick around. It won't.

You have to come into this world (yes, the bodybuilding community is something of itself) with more of a purpose -- or else you’re going to find excuse after excuse to give up and give in to your cravings and exhaustion when your show is over. Your body will be changing, and your muscle-defining tan fades to a blotchy, reptile-like appearance, and your perfect show day makeup is wiped off. Plummeting self-image, body dysmorphia, binge eating disorder tendencies, and post-show depression are common once you survive your first season of competing and transition into your off-season. These things are real and more athletes suffer from them than you'd think.

To compete, you should be sound with yourself and everything you are and aren't. You have to be accepting and loving of your body in all stages and forms. Your worth is not equivalent to your physique. You are more than just your degree of leanness or a plastic trophy. If you haven’t found acceptance and self-love, I recommend continuing to train, building muscle, and working on yourself. It's not your time. The stage isn't going anywhere.

So when you think you’re ready to compete, be real with yourself. Are you ready? Are you actually ready for this rollercoaster? Are you ready for the mental and emotional battles you’re about to face? The selfishness it requires? The self-control you’ll be forced to develop? The pressure you’ll put on yourself to succeed? Are you ready for the constant second-guessing? The doubt? Are you ready to commit your time and energy for months on end for one day? For 30 seconds on a stage? To be judged solely on your appearance? Are you ready to climb mountains and dig ditches to better yourself on every level?

Think about your “why.” Find it. Search for it, and make sure it’s good. Decide if competing is right for you for where you are in your life. It’s not for everyone. But when you decide to take that leap of faith, make it through your first bodybuilding prep to the stage, and feel the hot lights beaming down on you, you’ll understand why your “why” matters so much. Competing changed my life, and it can change yours. But know that once you start, you probably can't stop. Thankfully, you won't want to.

Cover Image Credit: Chris Benjamin Photography

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To All The Nurses In The Making

We tell ourselves that one day it'll all pay off, but will it actually?
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I bet you’re taking a break from studying right now just to read this, aren’t you? Either at the library with friends or in your dorm room. Wherever you may be, you never get the chance to put your books down, at least that’s how it feels to most of us. It sucks feeling like you’ve chosen the hardest major in the world, especially when you see other students barely spending any time studying or doing school work. The exclamation “You’re still here!” is an all too frequent expression from fellow students after recognizing that you’ve spent 10-plus hours in the library. At first it didn’t seem so bad and you told yourself, “This isn’t so difficult, I can handle it,” but fast-forward a few months and you’re questioning if this is really what you want to do with your life.

You can’t keep track of the amount of mental breakdowns you’ve had, how much coffee you’ve consumed, or how many times you’ve called your mom to tell her that you’re dropping out. Nursing is no joke. Half the time it makes you want to go back and change your major, and the other half reminds you why you want to do this, and that is what gets you through it. The thing about being a nursing major is that despite all the difficult exams, labs and overwhelming hours of studying you do, you know that someday you might be the reason someone lives, and you can’t give up on that purpose. We all have our own reasons why we chose nursing -- everyone in your family is a nurse, it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you’re good at it, or like me, you want to give back to what was given to you. Regardless of what your reasoning is, we all take the same classes, deal with the same professors, and we all have our moments.

I’ve found that groups of students in the same nursing program are like a big family who are unconditionally supportive of each other and offer advice when it’s needed the most. We think that every other college student around us has it so easy, but we know that is not necessarily true. Every major can prove difficult; we’re just a little harder on ourselves. Whenever you feel overwhelmed with your school work and you want to give up, give yourself a minute to imagine where you’ll be in five years -- somewhere in a hospital, taking vitals, and explaining to a patient that everything will be OK. Everything will be worth what we are going through to get to that exact moment.

Remember that the stress and worry about not getting at least a B+ on your anatomy exam is just a small blip of time in our journey; the hours and dedication suck, and it’s those moments that weed us out. Even our advisors tell us that it’s not easy, and they remind us to come up with a back-up plan. Well, I say that if you truly want to be a nurse one day, you must put in your dedication and hard work, study your ass off, stay organized, and you WILL become the nurse you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t let someone discourage you when they relent about how hard nursing is. Take it as motivation to show them that yeah, it is hard, but you know what, I made it through.

With everything you do, give 110 percent and never give up on yourself. If nursing is something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, stick with it and remember the lives you will be impacting someday.

SEE ALSO: Why Nursing School Is Different Than Any Other Major

Cover Image Credit: Kaylee O'Neal

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How I Used This Summer To Teach Myself Self-Love

Summers are usually for vacations in Paris, concert festivals with friends, and once in the lifetime opportunities, but this year, I decided to love myself.

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This summer was my first summer home from my first year of college which was pretty rough. My first semester of college included me living under the shadow of an emotionally-abusive boyfriend and losing my dad and the second semester of college was me trying to get out of that shadow and being able to cope with the passing of my dad. I did not think I would even make it to the summer in one piece because of how much heartbreak and betrayal I went through. I thought college was supposed to be where you found yourself and live the best years of your life.

I was completely wrong about that, and I knew that was why this summer, I had to use it to find myself once and for all.

It was hard because I did not know what I wanted. All through my first year of college, I had friends and family in my ear telling me what I should and should not do. They controlled my actions towards things and even though I initially thought that that was the best for me, deep down I knew that that was not the person I wanted to be.

The first thing I did this summer was get a job. I had jobs back in school, but I wanted to try something new and more serious. I got a job and learned leadership skills and how to be on my own. I refused to let myself call out for friends or for 'being sick' and become much more independent by landing a serious employment opportunity. I was not about to throw it out for other people because I knew to have something to do was what was best for me.

I then kept away from a lot of my first-year college friends. I would get calls every other day asking if I wanted to go out on late nights, but I declined them all. The first reason for declining them was because of the fact that I did have work in the morning and going out at midnight was not good when you have work at eight. The second reason was that I did not want to be part of that crowd. People used this summer to drink, do drugs, and party, and I knew that hanging out at midnight meant doing just that when there is nothing else to do in my town, but drugs and alcohol. I did not want any distractions from what mattered and I wanted my mind to be free of anything that can alter it so I stayed away. I did not want to be peer pressured and come back under my friends' control so I kept declining until the invites were no more.

Throughout the summer, I ended up making new friends who would let me sit and talk to them about anything and everything and rant to them when I needed to. I am a person who likes to vent and because I had no one to listen to me before, it was all bubbling up inside me. These new friends listened until the end and gave me the best advice. They never told me to do something, they advised me and that was a complete change. I was starting to be able to make decisions for myself.

The last thing I did this summer was completely getting rid of anything that was not me. This includes clothes, values I adopted from other people, and goals. Some things I did not want to do but other people wanted me to do. I had become a puppet in people's games and all I wanted to do was fit in. However, I realized that you did not have to fit into people's mold and there are other people out there that value the same things you do without you having to change what you believe in and what you strive for. I started researching and finding out about organizations that fit my aspirations and I was blessed to be chosen to be a part of all of them.

This summer began to be filled with negativity but now it is all positive as I start my second year in college. I had to cut off everything bad and find my purpose without the control of others and now I am truly happy with myself and all the blessing I have this upcoming year.

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