Life deals us challenges. Of that I have no doubt. It’s how we respond to those challenges that define us.
I have scoliosis. And since June is officially National Scoliosis Awareness Month, I thought I’d take the time to share my story with you. I’ve known of my scoliosis since the sixth grade. It’s defined as a side-to-side curve of the spine greater than 10 degrees. One look at my very curvy spine and it was obvious (well over 44 degrees).
That diagnosis day was the first day of nearly six years in middle school and high school when I wore a brace. As Leah Stoltz, the founder of Curvy Girls Scoliosis Foundation, shares, “Fitting in isn’t easy when you’re a teenager.” For me, those years were especially tough as I wore a brace for 20+ hours every day. I only took it off when I ate a little too much and for the few hours I trained daily for gymnastics.
I remember being teased in middle school because I wore a brace. I even got stuck in a desk once too. I will never forget that moment… the back of my brace latched to one of the hooks on the chair. How EMBARRASSING. I tried to detract attention from my brace by layering clothing, but in a school where uniforms were required it was hard to keep it a secret. Eventually I accepted that I couldn’t hide it through clothing nor could I hide it in my locker. From that point on, I wore my brace faithfully.
I used to be very self-conscious about my brace. It affected not only my breathing, but the beating of my heart and the compression my back and neck. Because I knew wearing the brace would have long-term positive effects and give me the best hope for a healthy lifestyle, I accepted my personal challenge. Today, I have grown to truly embrace being a “curvy” woman!
As I reflect back now, my curve gave me that little push to work a little harder and be more attentive to my own health. It allowed me to focus on my strength training and take a few extra steps to ensure that my health is top of mind. Fast forward to today — it’s catapulted my passion for total health and led to my partnering with my dear friend Jen to create Empowering All Wellness to educate and empower others to live their best lives now — despite any wellness challenge you may face.
It also taught me to seek support when I run into challenges. It’s how I discovered and connected with a wonderful woman, Leah Stoltz, a fellow spine sister, who co-founded Curvy Girls Scoliosis Foundation. The foundation is a support group that now has over 80 chapters in more than 30 states and 15 countries around the globe. Their primary goal is to impact the lives of others living with scoliosis and create awareness. Leah has been a powerhouse in helping others overcome adversity, make healthy lifestyle choices and build self-esteem. This girl is using her life to make an impact and it’s so fun to connect with other individuals on a mission towards healthy living, inspiration and embracing life head on!The support and encouragement she is providing to women around the world helps turn thoughts of shame and embarrassment through teasing and bullying into confidence and self-assurance. While wearing a back brace for several years was something that I secretly embarrassed about, I can stand with strength knowing that those challenges made me stronger and who I am today!
We all have our own personal insecurities and challenges. Nobody is without them. Trust me, I have many and will always openly share about them in hopes you know how valuable and beautiful you are. But know that you are unique in the world. You are you. You have a unique purpose. You have unique mission in life.
So you’re a little weird? WORK it! A little different? OWN it! Your imperfection is what makes you uniquely beautiful.
Live it. Love it. Embrace it. I did.