Bodybuilding as an Act of Self-Love

By Anya Obolonskaya

My name is Anya and fear has always played a huge role in my life. There were so many moments where fear paralyzed me and kept me from moving forward, but each time I somehow found the strength to move ahead.

Whether it was moving from a small city in Russia to the capital to get my Master’s degree; immigrating to the United States; sky diving; speaking a new language; or starting my own company — fear made my life difficult.

But, when I discovered Michelle Poler’s project, 100 Days Without Fear, I thought about the biggest fear I overcame and how proud of that I am now.

I look at all that I’m doing now and I can’t help but remember that little girl in a city called Lipetsk in Russia that everyone called ugly and teased. Just typing that makes me feel the same embarrassment I felt those days…. I was convinced that I wasn’t attractive. I felt like the only person who might have thought I was pretty was my mom. I was so afraid to show my face anywhere. I wanted to hide because I was so ashamed of feeling less than beautiful. That shame kept me from speaking when I should have or sharing my thoughts and opinions. I didn’t feel good enough or worthy enough to have a voice. I felt less valued and important than other people.

I’m somehow grateful for that experience because it allowed me to get to the place I am right now.

As much as it hurt me, I’m somehow grateful for that experience because it allowed me to get to the place I am right now. I worked hard to overcome those negative feelings and found my calling. I spent a few years after college working in the digital marketing industry before realizing that my heart really belongs to fitness. I found people who truly supported me and worked towards my goals.

With the help of my boyfriend, I was able to push past my fear and compete as a bodybuilder. In the past, thinking about showing off my body would have made me hide in shame. I spent so much time and energy working out. I trained hard to shape who I am. I fought past my fear of showing myself off and competed in the bikini division of a bodybuilding competition. The little girl from Lipetsk who felt so ugly and ashamed could never have imagined that this is who she became. I had never felt more beautiful and powerful.

After that, I started a company that provides services to help other women feel just as beautiful. We offer fitness programs that pay close attention to mindfulness practices rather than on high intensity or sculpting workouts alone; creativity workshops; and fitness photoshoots so they could embrace their beauty. I really wanted to empower, inspire, and motivate other women so they could achieve their goals and love themselves too.

More recently, I’ve started a project called “You Deserve Magazine Cover” where I share stories of people’s fitness and self-acceptance journeys. This project details their weight loss journeys, athletic feats, injury recovery progress, and other fitness-oriented stories. We take photos of that person and create a magazine cover to show how these people are incredible role models even if they’re not celebrities.

I believe there are thousands of people who deserve to be on the cover of a magazine. I hope to inspire others and show the world that we all are capable of achieving goals and being happy and comfortable by taking care of our bodies. I want to remind everyone that we are unique. Each of us is a work of art and beautiful ones at that! I wish I could talk to every girl who feels the pressure to be beautiful according to society’s rules and feels like she isn’t good enough so I can let her know that she is wonderful and worthy regardless of what other people might think.

I still feel afraid and struggle to love myself at times. I may not think that I’m the most attractive woman in the world, but I’m grateful to have found my own way of accepting myself. I’m so proud to have gotten this far. I would never have been able to compete as a bodybuilder or had the opportunity to motivate and inspire others to achieve their goals if I hadn’t faced my fears and anxieties head on. I’m going to keep working towards my goals, facing my fears, and hope that I can help others to do the same!

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For more inspiration from Hello Fears, follow the YouTube Channel and Facebook Page. Also, check out Hello Fears’ founder, Michelle Poler