Pretend for a moment that I am sitting across from you, and I ask, “Who are you?” What would you say?
You might define yourself by the role you play to others – friend, wife, mother, sister. You might define yourself by your job or industry – accountant, teacher, marketing, sales. Perhaps you would define yourself based on your personality traits – sarcastic, intelligent, outgoing, funny. Or maybe the things you are passionate about – CrossFit, college football, music.
We all label ourselves and each other. The accuracy of such labels varies. Many people, self included, may be trying to escape labels from our past and present.
Sometimes, I find myself trying to prove than I am the opposite of a label from the past. Let’s take for example, unpopular (thank you, middle school and high school). Despite thriving in Chicago, and being surrounded by a great group of friends, I still feel pressure to prove that I am not the shy loner I once was. I worry that if I don’t go to every social event I’m invited to, that people will stop including me in things. I worry that people won’t like me when I meet them for the first time. I worry that I will be forgotten about or overlooked.
Sometimes, I am trying to live up to a long-standing label, like being fit. These labels are tricky – despite the long-term nature, after a short period break, you can begin to wonder if you can still claim it. If I haven’t been to CrossFit in a week, is the label still true? What about a month? What if I get injured and can’t train at all for weeks? What if I go through a phase where I overeat and indulge in unhealthy food for a while? At what point do I lose the label of fit and healthy? When I gain 5 lbs? 10? 25?
Sometimes, it’s a label you wrestle with. It’s funny how a handful of words spoken by someone years ago can entrench itself in your mind and then take root there. I remember being at a Phoenix Suns game several years ago with one of my best friends at the time. I don’t remember the context of our conversation, but I remember his words to me as if he had spoken them to me yesterday, “Kayla, I mean, don’t get me wrong, but…you are not a skinny girl.” Body image is something I have wrestled with for a long time, and his label is just one small piece of a whirlwind of experiences, words, and thoughts that I sometimes still get caught up in. I’ve gone from being a dancer, where being thin is the aesthetic ideal, to being a bodybuilder, where muscle and extreme leanness is the goal, to being a CrossFitter, where strength and speed and power trump physical appearance altogether. As much as my dabbling in different types of training have been about fitness, it has also been about finding the place where I can reconcile my perception my body and how I define healthy.
Disproving labels, proving labels, replacing labels – it’s an exhausting process. But what I’ve come to realize is there is really only one person who can tell me who I am – God.
As a follower of Christ, I am the following (source):
- A child of God (John 1:12)
- My former self is gone and I am new creation (Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17)
- I have been justified and redeemed (Romans 3:24)
- I have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30)
- My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me (1 Corinthians 6:19)
- I have been set free (Galatians 5:1)
- I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God (Ephesians 1:4)
- I am God’s workmanship created to produce good works (Ephesians 2:10)
- I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
- The peace of God guards my heart and mind (Philippians 4:7)
- I have been chosen of God, and I am holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12)
- God loves me and has chosen me (1 Thessalonians 1:4)
Any other label that I might give myself or others might give me can be taken away. The labels serve as descriptors of transient characteristics that can change over time. The only permanent identity I can be confident in is the one I have been given by God:
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
So, I have reached a place where CrossFit is my preferred way of being a good steward of the body the Lord has blessed me with, but not in such a way that it pre-empts my God-given identity. I make mostly healthy choices with my eating, but have let go of needing to weigh and measure everything, to eat six meals per day, or to strictly follow any specific diet guidelines or structured plan. I am not my past and I am not who I once was. I tend to cling too tightly to my past, both good things and bad – but part of being a Christian is letting go of the past and moving forward:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 3:12-14
When I first began writing this blog, I chose the name “Everyday Athlete” for two reasons. One, I thought of “everyday athlete” in the context of “ordinary” or “average.” I am not a professional athlete, I am a regular person who wanted to get in touch with my inner athlete. Two, I wanted to maintain a consistent attitude of treating myself like an athlete – living a healthy lifestyle day in and day out. Three years have passed, and now “Everyday Athlete” has taken on a different meaning for me.