Thank You for Sharing Your Story

Three years ago, as part of a campus-wide event, I stepped up on stage in front of hundreds of my peers and spoke my truth. I spoke about perfectionism, anxiety, body image, and struggles that so often manifest in ways that go unnoticed, even praised. “Wow, you eat so healthy—I wish I could be like that,” or “You have such low body fat—what an athlete!”

These were snippets of the stories others wrote about me in their minds. That I was healthy, driven, and fit. When it came to my story, however, these ideas couldn’t have been further from the truth. Sure, I was driven, but only by guilt and self-loathing. I may have been “healthy” on the outside, but my mental health was an everyday struggle, and my skewed perspective told me that I was never fit enough.

Owning my story was one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done. The process of self-reflection, taking the time to find the right words to articulate my emotions, and finally voicing them to friends and family was exhausting. It was emotionally draining to confront my experiences head on…to acknowledge them and ultimately appreciate them as an inextricable part of my journey. It was a process to remove the shame and the insecurity, but in doing, so I recognized the power of owning my story.

I was the author. I got to frame the way my experiences impacted me and what they meant for who I was and what I wanted to represent.

I chose to be a part of this event because I had been in the audience a year before. I sat in my seat and had my breath taken away by the raw honesty and vulnerability of the voices I heard. The experiences of the women who spoke may not have been my experiences, but I could relate in some way with each of them.

I walked out of the theater that night inspired by the bravery of those who spoke, and feeling a part of something bigger than myself. The women who came together to share that night were a community, and they invited those watching to join them. Rising to that challenge was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Standing in my truth and exposing the true motivation of my behaviors was scary, yet freeing. Looking back, I see it as the catalyst to my journey of healing both my body and my mind.

There is immense value in owning our experiences, in sharing our voices, in building community around our stories. I urge you to reflect. What’s your story? How have you taken ownership of it? What’s holding you back from sharing it? Who, in addition to yourself, might benefit if you did?

I will forever be grateful to the women who spoke before me. Thank you for sharing your story, and for giving me the gift of the courage to share mine.

Mackenzie St. Onge

About the Author | Mackenzie St. Onge

Mackenzie St. Onge is a recent graduate of Dartmouth College, where she was a psychology major and two-sport athlete. Growing up in Vermont, she's always loved the outdoors, and you'll rarely find her inside or sitting for too long unless she's reading a book or enjoying a cup of tea. She's currently working on her own story collection project where former athletes can reflect on transitioning to life after sports.

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