This article originally appeared on EricaSuter.com
Dear Strong Female Athlete,
Take up space.
In fact, so much space that the world rumbles from your strength, people's hearts vibrate from how loud you roar, your friends drop their jaws at your relentless confidence, and the weak are inspired by how hard you go after your dreams.
I know it's hard to own your power, broadcast your accomplishments, and be confident in a world that tries to make you small.
They might call you "cocky" or "too hard-working" or a "workaholic" or "arrogant" or "too much" for showcasing your strength and achievements.
I'm calling bs.
If you're cranking out Pull-Ups in the 8th grade, own it.
If you're deadlifting 1.5x your body weight, own it.
If you're leading scorer, own it.
If you're getting a compliment about your six pack, own it.
If you're going to soccer practice instead of sleepovers on the weekend, own it.
If you're saying "no" to Instagram photo shoots to practice your skills, own it.
And if your friends fit shame you, or berate you for chasing your dreams, for going the extra mile, and for dialing in on your athletic pursuits, don't get defensive. Lend them a hand and be compassionate.
In fact, rise above their judgements and offer empathy. Inspire them to follow their dreams, too, and to fall in love with something that matters to them.
Sure, they might say, "you're not normal," but tell them, "define normal."
Sure, they may say, "your legs are thick," but tell them, "these legs give me strength and power to perform."
Sure, they may say, "you take your sport too seriously," but tell them, "find a passion to take seriously."
Sure, they may say, "you go to the gym too much," but ask them, "why don't you come with?"
Sure, they may say, "you always have soccer," but tell them, "it makes me happy and fulfilled."
Sure, they may say, "your hand callouses are gross," but tell them, "these callouses allow me to overcome feats of strength I never imagined were possible."
Strong female athlete, with great strength comes great responsibility—not only to receive jabs and criticism with grace, but to take the negativity and to turn it into positive energy to help heal the world.
Because more often than not, the people critiquing you are the ones who aren't making exuberant things happen in their own lame lives.
Keep sprinkling the ground with your glitter, and let others pick it up to create their own magic one day.
Of course, not everyone will come with you on your dazzling journey, so keep being your robust, beautiful self.
A strong female athlete like you will organically birth haters, nay-sayers and critics, but the more you can take the high road and invite others on the journey, you've done your job.
You can encourage others to follow their passions with your infectious love for yours. And that's all you can do.
So be compassionate.
Be the example.
Oh, and the next time you say no to plans, parties and sleepovers, say, "I can't…I have soccer," with conviction.
A Fellow Strong Female Athlete
Photo Credit: Erica Suter, fotokostic/iStock