There is a bookshelf at my work that I walk past everyday. On the shelf there is a book titled, “Strong is the New Pretty.” A girl about 10 years old is on the cover. She’s wearing a racing swim suite, her arms are crossed, and she’s leaning back on one leg with a tough look on her face. She has defined and toned muscles in her arms. Again she’s about 10 years old.
Strong is the new pretty?
If this is new definition of pretty, then I was fairly ugly as a child and am still fairly ugly now. The problem I have with this picture is that we are still teaching our daughters to be in competition with each other. Yes, it is better than teaching them they have to be attractive to be happy, but it is kind of on the same level.
When I was 10 years, I just wanted to run through the woods and play make believe. You also see it in a lot of outdoor blogs geared toward women. We have to be in competition with the men. We have to be tough. And now we are now told that strong is the new pretty.
But what if you are not the best basketball player on the team. You are strong in the fact that you overcame cancer or knee replacement surgery? Your are strong in just getting out the door and walking a mile down a trail?
Now don’t get me wrong. I am all about keeping up with the boys, taking on new challenges, and making myself stronger. And I actually believe strong is the new pretty. But I don’t think it’s measured the correct way.
We don’t all have to be the first female to summit [insert mountain here], or do it without oxygen, or whatever is new accomplishment of womankind. Those women are inspiring, but so are the ones who overcome their own battles.
Like my 10-year-old self, I just want to run through the woods. I don’t really want to rock climb, ski black diamond runs, or any other kind of extreme sports that get featured in Outside Magazine.
But I also think of myself as strong. What makes me proud of myself is setting goals and accomplishing them. I am not a runner and never have been. When I turned 30, I started running to keep myself in shape. In 2014, I set a goal to train for and run a half marathon. Before then I never even thought a 10K was possible.
Did I win the race? Hahaha, umm no. I was about a 12-minute mile. Marathoners were finishing at the same time as me. But did I feel strong and beautiful. Yup! When I completed a thu-hike on a trail near where I live, I felt extremely strong. It wasn’t the Appalachian Trail, not anywhere near close in distance. But it was a goal I set out to accomplish and did it.
So what’s your strong?
Maybe your strong is hiking again after double knee replacement surgery. Or maybe it is overcoming your fear of hiking alone in the woods. Maybe it’s simply getting out the door and becoming active after illness or living a life on the couch. If strong is the new pretty, what is your strong?
My mother’s strong is not unique. She had knee replacement surgery on her left knee and recovered with no problems. But her right knee was another story – there were many complications. And after a year of complications and six surgeries on one knee, she finally made a full recovery.
After a real fear of death and the loss of her leg, she is simply happy to just to be able to hike again, a passion she has loved her whole life. I think of her as just as strong as the muscle-toned 10-year-old on the cover of the book. She is just as strong and just as beautiful.
My fellow Hike Like A Woman Ambassadors had some excellent thoughts on this. Michelle said, “When I learned not to compare my strength to others, it makes all the difference in my accomplishments.” I love how she put that. What’s YOUR strong? We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others.
We are all unique, why should our strong be the same as others.
One thing I love about being a Hike Like A Woman Ambassador is I feel excepted and valued for who I am and what I can contribute. I don’t have to pretend to be hipster-cool or try to pretend I can totally scale that mountain with a technical rock climb.
Tina said,”My strong is just getting out there whether I feel like it or not – no matter the weather or having to go it alone. If I only have 10 minutes or 10 hours or if I can only only hike for a mile, I get myself out there. I schedule it, and then I do it. And I always come away feeling recharged and ready for anything.”
My mom had the option to give up and say that she had to give up her passion because she now had bad knees. She could have wallowed in self pity, but she didn’t. She got out there, and still enjoys nature. She’s not scaling 14ers, but she overcame what life handed her.
Gretchen pointed out the healing powers of nature as well. Perhaps what we need to overcome is emotional. Knowing how to travel, hike, and camp entirely alone and knowing how to benefit from the healing power of nature is true strength to her, she said.
Life can knock us down in a variety of ways. I believe the definition of strong is overcoming those setbacks. We are not all athletes. But the fact that we are not all models doesn’t mean we are not all beautiful.
Lorna pointed out that your strong also doesn’t have to be outwardly physical. It can also be getting out despite breathing problems.
“For some to get from the car to a picnic table is big!” Loana said.
Jennifer echoed Loran saying, “Exercise induced asthma kicks my ass, but I don’t let it stop me.” That’s pretty strong.
I also consider my best friend, Crystal, a very strong person. After giving birth with some complications, she not only got back out on the trail, but is introducing her baby to the joys of nature.
Elisa said she is working on a piece for her blog, Live and Let Wander, for new moms. She wants to encourage them to be active and get back on the trail, even if it is hiking around their yard.
There are so many ways to be strong. I’m sure if I asked 100 people, I would get 100 different answers. I do believe strong is the new pretty, but I believe just as we are all uniquely beautiful, we are uniquely strong.
So … what’s your strong?