Archived Story

Jessica Sieff: Find beauty in strength

Published 10:44pm Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to the CrossFit Central East regional competition in Columbus, Ohio. It’s not every day, even for us writers, that one finds herself or himself in the beginning stages of loving something and then getting to write about it. Like, suddenly developing an interest in baseball and then someone says, “Go watch a game from the dugout at Yankee stadium.” (Yeah, that’s right — I said “Yankees.”)

I’ve become hopelessly addicted to CrossFit and have been writing pieces about area athletes for the region’s media division, so being able to go behind the scenes of this regional competition was pretty big. Especially being the caliber of athletes from this area draws a lot of attention. They include last year’s winner of the 2011 CrossFit Games and “Fittest Man on Earth” Rich Froning Jr. and University of Michigan pre-med student Julie Foucher.

ESPN was on site to cover the three days of competition, and the truth is, I could go on and on about this last weekend forever.

The excitement, the sport, getting to meet some of the most notable athletes in the sport of fitness, getting to cover my first athletic event, doing so side-by-side with other elite athletes commentating for CNN, immersing myself in the world of this sport

I’ve become so grateful for over the last nine months, learning more than I could have imagined in three days … I really could go on and on.

But when all was said and done, when the rental car was returned and I was home clicking through posted pictures on Facebook, there was something else that struck me.

Early Sunday morning, I woke yet again with only a few hours of sleep, packed all my bags and checked out of my hotel room. It was the third and final day and there was plenty of energy around the Ohio Expo Center, where we were set up at a small table overlooking the main floor. This would be the last day. Athletes would break a few more records and get their medals and start mentally preparing for the games in July, while their bodies recovered from three days of grueling, demanding workout events.

Before everything got started — before I knew I’d be too busy writing up midday reports to do anything else — I sent out my Mother’s Day wishes and went back to my chair and saw again what I’d been seeing all weekend.

In between their workouts, these women — who were fit, healthy, conscious of their eating habits, with their own careers or still students in college — were walking around smiling and preparing for their competitions while little girls watched them in awe.

It’s nice to see young girls look up to women who are strong, capable and smart — and for them to see that as beauty, rather than defining women by the word “attractive,” which stems from looks alone and can often lead to attracting things like body issues, self-consciousness and really bad taste in men. These women are mothers, daughters, sisters, students, nurses, coaches, writers and members of the military.

I thought back to my own mother and my grandmother. All my life I’ve thought of them as beautiful; I never did define that beauty by their appearance. It was defined by their strength.

My mother worked and raised us (with manners) while going through a divorce, and my grandmother, well, if you know her, you know she’s made of steel. Any woman who can raise 15 children and take cookie sheets out of the oven with her bare hands is pretty damn awesome.

But it was those characteristics that defined their beauty to me.

Toni Morrison once said, “When a child walks into the room, does your face light up?” I have kept those words in my mind since I first heard them.

The idea being, that when a young child walks into a room and your face is hardened with stress or annoyance — that is what they see as your reaction to them. So be conscious of that and always look excited to see them. He or she is, after all, a child. A wondrous and fun little human.

I would ask all of you to keep another thought in mind. When you tell a girl she is beautiful, are you complimenting her looks or her abilities? Her dress or her creativity? Her size or her smarts? Or her strength?

Mothering by nature is a beautiful thing. Let’s do all the girls out there a favor and redefine that term, “beauty,” for them, shall we?

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