Aly Raisman, Olympic gymnast, seems to have it all–I mean, she won gold in the Olympics, for starters. Because of this, it seems like Raisman would have confidence oozing out of her every pore, but this wasn’t–and isn’t–exactly the case. Raisman recently opened up about her insecurities in a piece she wrote for Elle, where she also mentioned how she was once told she didn’t have the “right body” for gymnastics.
The 22-year-old begins the piece explaining how she “want[s[ to please people and [she] want[s] people to like me,” but “that’s obviously not possible.” It’s refreshing to hear a celebrity say this, because everyone has this same thought and desire–but often times, we feel alone. Because of this, however, Raisman takes a positive approach: She focuses on doing acts of kindness (aka tikkun olam) for others–and tries to educate others to go forward with positivity, not negativity. This is especially true when it comes to social media. Raisman wrote:
“When I see something negative on social media I’ll comment back and just say, ‘So you know I did see your comment and I have feelings just like you and it really hurt my feelings,’ and I’ll say something nice like, ‘I hope you have a great day but I hope you realize you hurt my feelings and next time you won’t say something mean to someone else.’ And a lot of times they’ll write back right away saying ‘I am so sorry I didn’t really think you were going to see this’ and I say ‘I accept your apology but going forward I hope you can be kind to other people.”‘ I think people kind of [think] that just because they’re on social media, they’re invisible but we can see everything. Everyone reads it and it’s hard to ignore it because you want people to like you but you can’t please everyone.”
For Raisman, body image has been a point of contentio, especially as she was told when she was younger that her body wasn’t “right” for gymnastics. Because of that, she works hard to promote body positivity and acceptance–which she admits is easier when you surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart:
“Something like 30 years ago, maybe even 20 years ago, they probably wouldn’t have even looked at me because I didn’t have the right body type. It’s really cool now that it is 2017, there really is no ideal body type. There are so many women who are inspiring and they’re changing the way people view female athletes and it’s really incredible.
When I was younger I was always told I didn’t have the right body type for gymnastics and I obviously proved them wrong but I think the important thing is my parents and my coaches always believed in me.
It’s a really important thing to surround yourself with loving people that want the best for you and support you because my mom and [I] would always have the conversation when I was younger about the importance of being confident.”
In an Instagram post from last year, Raisman revealed that she was bullied in high school for having muscular arms–and how being bullied made her want to love herself more:
Shoutout to all the boys from 5th-9th grade who made fun of me for being “too strong”. Thanks for forcing me to learn to love myself and my body. My muscular arms that were considered weird and gross when I was younger have made me one of the best gymnasts on the planet. Don’t ever let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn’t look. There is no such thing as a perfect body type. I love being a part of the #PerfectNever campaign. #GirlPower #Supporteachother
While it’s incredible that Raisman persevered despite all of her hurdles, especially the emotional ones, the real lesson here is to think kindly of others–and to stop putting each other down for our “flaws,” or what makes us different.