Gymnastics to the Rescue

img002Growing up for me was tough for many reasons. I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri in an area with quite a bit of new money, something of which we definitely didn’t have. We weren’t poor by any means, but my sister and I regularly got made fun of on the bus for our off brand outfits. It was made clear to us that we didn’t fit in and our clothing choices were not ok.

img001To make matters worse, I was one of the only Jewish kids at my school and faced quite a bit of anti-semiticism. On top of feeling out of place because of my clothes and religion, I was lucky enough to hit the ugly duckling jackpot. I had coke bottle glasses that took up much of my face, a mouth full of metal, dumbo ears and a huge mop of permed mall hair. Let me tell you, it was not a good look :)

It didn’t help matters that I started speaking late (my dad says I’ve been making up for it ever since) and I had quite the speech impediment when I finally did begin to communicate. I went to speech class all throughout elementary school. For many years after, people still asked me if I was from New York because I still couldn’t pronounce my r’s correctly.img003 All of those things mixed into one package, left me feeling different and not good enough. I definitely faced bullying from the neighborhood kids and it was a very tough time in my life. The one ray of light for me was when I started taking gymnastics at Olympiad West. It made a huge impact on my life. I loved being a part of something bigger than myself, where it didn’t matter where my clothes were from, what religion I was, how I looked, or how I spoke. I finally made friendships with people who accepted me and shared a common interest.  Being on the gymnastics team gave me a sense of belonging that I so desperately needed. What a powerful feeling!

I recognize there are many out there who had it much worse than I did, but elementary and middle school were definitely tough for me. I truly wonder how different my life would have ended up without gymnastics and the sense of belonging at such a formidable age. Without having something I was passionate about and a place where I felt at home, my life could have gone down a very different road. Gymnastics gave me the support network I needed that instilled in me a sense of confidence. Also, I feel so thankful for the coaches I was surrounded by who taught me discipline, dedication, and determination.  Those skills have stayed with me and have helped me tremendously in many aspects of my life.

My experiences in gymnastics served as an inspiration and one of the reasons for starting the Girls Dreaming Big family.  I want to create a place where young women can come and  find friends who will support them through the good times and the bad.  My goal is to help girls feel good enough, build strength, and instill a sense of belonging.

Now it is your turn…In the comments below I would love to hear what growing up was like for you?  Did you struggle with the feelings of not being good enough?  What caused it?

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10 wonderful thoughts on “Gymnastics to the Rescue

  1. Hi Stacy,

    I wish I had known you then only because I have grown up feeling very isolated from my “extended” family. I could have told you that with two extremely good-looking parents there would be no way for you to be unattractive. ( I am sure that Susan and Melvin told you that you were beautiful.)

    For some reason we only identify with our popular peers when we are young and their fluff and ignorance seems to carry more credibility than what important people i.e. parents have to say.

    Thank goodness for individualism and for those who find it at whatever age. There is a quote from Ibsen’s in the “Doll House” that goes….”when we dead awaken, we will realize that we have never lived.”

    By the way, I too had a speech defect — “s and t’s” — “see the sun set” I would have to pronounce a hundred times a day. Family whom I loved, like Aunt Lena, would make fun of the way I talked — not maliciously, but enough for me to know that I was different. It took many years to grow up into my own.

    I am much older than you but all I can say is that life is good and beauty runs in our family. Confidence has to be learned along the way.

    Nancy Kolman Ventrone.

    • Nancy,

      Thank you for the wonderful message! You are too kind and I appreciate you sharing your story. Thanks for the ongoing support you have showed me! It means a lot to me :)


  2. Very brave to share! And I have totally been there too. From one recovering “ugly duckling” to another, I have to say we’re doing pretty darn well! LOL Great story to share about how gymnastics provided you with friendships, structure and the foundation for better things to come. I hope all kids can find this for themselves and realize they’re not alone, things do get better, and sometimes it just takes a while to find and grow into your greatness. :)

    • Jenn,

      Thank you! Your feedback is so sweet and greatly appreciated! I agree that it would be amazing if kids could realize they are not alone. I think about how powerful it would have been to have gotten all this positive feedback and support back when I was young.


  3. This post is truly transformative. It’s like seeing the fitness before and after photos. The blog demonstrates to your readership who you are now, and by boldly supplying your back story we can from whence you came. You have dreamed big and are causing other women to dream big also. It’s so sad to taste the torment many young people endure from peers who haven’t learned to look at the heart. Thank you for helping to build better tomorrows.

  4. Hi Stacy,

    High school is a rough time for everyone isn’t it? I was the kid with unruly red hair, both my parents were teachers and I was so painfully shy. Funny thing is that now I love the colour of my hair and wouldn’t change it for anything and am immensely proud of the work my parents did in their lives to help educate the likes of me.

    Physical pursuits like gymnastics, dance, soccer, hockey (the list goes on) are such a lifeline to so many people. They provide the pathway out of your headspace and into the here and now. The lessons learnt in those training sessions are indeed the ones that give us the opportunity to develop and practice life skills like the determination and disciplne that you talked about. They also give you a chance to share experiences with others rather than just comparing yourself unfavourably to those around you.

    It tooke me a loooooooong time to find my confidence and what a wonderful feeling it is to find it. If you are having a hard time going through the the high school years I promise you that life gets better.

    Warm regards

    • Helen,

      I think you are absolutely correct about high school being a tough time and definitely one of the reasons I started Girls Dreaming Big. Finding confidence is something so many people struggle with, but you are correct that it is a wonderful feeling once you find it. Thank you for the wonderful comments and insight.


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