December 12, 2023

Everyone has something they might consider their badge of honor. It could be an actual medal, or even an old high school football jersey. 

Tucked away throughout the years, or neatly packed through moves, it's there. And if not physically, it might be immortalized on your wall on social media, a snapshot of a moment you just can't let go.

That snapshot of time means something to you, doesn't it? So does mine.

That First Time Changes You Inside & Out

I once coveted one such distinction: my coach's shirt from my days as a fitness trainer. To earn it, I had to survive a nerve-wracking trial week, proving my strength, approachability, and attitude.

As the week unfolded, my determination grew, transforming the ember inside me into a blazing fire. By Friday, I had officially clinched the job, moving me from client to coach. Yet, the coveted coach's jersey still eluded me.

With the studio closing and my boss about to leave, I seized the moment to gather the courage and ask for that elusive shirt.

Timidly, I asked, "Mind if I grab a coach's shirt?" My boss apologized, thinking he'd already given me one. Turns out, he had a lone medium tank left. Feeling like Gus from Cinderella, I squeezed in. Curvy, robust, and strong— I didn't mind. It was finally mine.

In the weeks that followed, I worked hard to fit perfectly into that shirt. While other coaches effortlessly sported various uniforms of colors and sizes, I clung to my one, hesitant to request another.

Speak Up or Settle: The Consequences of Holding Back

For six months, I washed that shirt every night, feeling unworthy among the other coaches. 

During this time, I practically became a single mom. 

The jersey and I wore thin, both looking tattered. At that time my husband was in the height of his alcoholism, and his disease took a toll, making me believe hurtful words. I stayed quiet, never asking for a new one.

Around Christmas, Clif, Fitwall's creator, visited. I finally mustered the courage: "Can I grab another shirt? I only have one."

"Stiney, you've worn the same shirt every day for six months?" he asked.

"Yes," I admitted.

"Why didn't you ask for another?" he questioned.

Hesitating, I confessed, "I didn't know if I deserved it, if I had earned another yet."

"Stiney, you have.”

Clif tossed me four more shirts, saving me from nightly laundry while caring for two young kids. That small act of kindness? A huge gift, especially with everything happening behind the scenes.

His Kindness Molded Me Into My New Confidence

For the next four years, those shirts continued to be my mark of success. From Assistant Coach to Director of Community Development to Sales Manager to Head Coach and Manager, I climbed the ladder. 

Each day in that shirt meant representing hard work, fortitude, and resilience amid his disease's challenges.

I was doing it. Until I wasn’t. 

When I Lost in More Ways than One

Four years later, my third ovarian cancer scare sidelined me from coaching for three months. Then, Covid struck, permanently closing the studio. Behind closed doors, negative talk wore me down, leading me to believe it.

Enter pizza, DoorDash, anything to drown those words. It was my choice, my responsibility. Now, I truly was Gus from Cinderella. The shirt was no longer my badge, but my Achilles. Yet, I knew I couldn’t throw it away after all I had done to earn it.

Despite the humiliation, I stashed it far back in my closet, never to be found again.

Then One Day…

Then one day, still stuck in my bad habits, I went ripping through my closet. I found a piece of gray tucked under heavy boots in the back. And there it was—the defining moment that changed everything. The shirt was hidden, and noticeably pushed, to the back of the closet.

I put it on. And not only did it not fit, I still wasn’t recognizable in it. I placed it back where I found it. But this time I knew where it was. And I was only going to seek it again when the time was right. 

What I didn’t know was that time would be two long years from that day

For the next two years I stepped into the gym determined to reclaim what I had lost. With commitment and intentionality, I transformed my entire outlook and mindset.

And last weekend I mustered up the guts to find the shirt. 

And it fit. 

As I donned my coach's shirt, a symbol of hard work and resilience, I took back everything I remembered I was and could be. It wasn't about fitting into an old tank top; it was about reclaiming a piece of myself. I wasn't Pamela Anderson (never have been), but this time I certainly wasn't Gus, either.

One week later, I still have that shirt sitting on my chair. I pass by it everyday to the gym. This time I don’t throw it, or hide it. I smile, walk past, and keep going.

What's Your Badge of Honor? 

What’s that one thing that made your life exciting? 

Search for it, bring it back, and let it be your pride. You don't need an audience; it's your own sense of self, and self-worth. 

The first steps may be tough, but not as tough as denying yourself the life you want to lead.

In the end, a shirt is just a shirt, and a name is just a title. It's what you make of it, what you believe in it. 

So let go of any words that cut you down, or anything that makes you less of what you know of yourself. As Herb Brooks said in Miracle, "This is your time. Their time is done… Now go out there and take it."