“So tell me,” I started. “How did you meet your boyfriend?”
I was sitting across from my friend Tara, visiting from Colorado. After dragging her across the National Mall all morning, we stopped in Bloomingdale—my favorite neighborhood. DC’s first cidery opened just a few weeks prior, and Tara’s visit was the perfect opportunity to try it out.
I took a sip of cider and almost threw up. The flight we ordered included a sample containing 50 percent alcohol.
[To this day, I actually don’t know how that’s possible. The only liquid containing 50 percent alcohol—that I know of—is mouthwash. At that moment, I would rather drink straight from the medicine cabinet than finish that cider.]
“We used to work together. And he kept turning me down! I asked him out twice and he said no both times. I was like ‘what the heck, he has to like me,’” she gave me a smile. “He came around.”
I was amazed by Tara’s self-assurance. “You are so confident!!” I said. I don’t think I’ve asked a guy out in my life. Actually, I know I haven’t.
“Well now I am,” she said.
The girl sitting in front of me was not the girl I met at track practice freshman year of college. She didn’t even look the same. The girl across from me was chiseled, with calves that could sharpen an axe blade and lats diving into six-pack abs. She winked when she smiled and waved at complete strangers. Tara could make friends with anyone.
In college, Tara and I were wickedly competitive. We liked to compare who could down more Jager shots in the shortest amount of time. I spent more time trying to outdrink her than outsprint her.
At the end of sophomore year, Tara transferred and moved back to Colorado. Honestly, I didn’t hear a peep out of her for four years. We reconnected at a bachelorette party in Phoenix for a former teammate years later.
The girl who stepped off that plane two years ago was a new Tara. Everything about her—from the way she looked, to the way she carried herself, to the way she spoke—had changed. She continued to grow into the entrepreneur + Instagram fitness model + personal trainer sitting in front of me. We didn’t rip shots all weekend and we didn’t egg each other on to finish the fifty-percent cider (we sent it back).
The first step to being your best is surrounding yourself with the people who bring the best out of you.
“I have a question for you,” I said. “Did you become super-fit first, and then become super-confident; or did your confidence come first, and you became fit because of that confidence? Meaning, was it a chicken-or-the-egg thing?”
“Honestly, the first thing I did was remove myself from bad environments,” she said, “I put my big-girl pants on, and if someone around me put me down, made me feel bad about myself, or hurt my self-esteem; I cut them out. Instead, I surrounded myself with people who valued me and made me feel good.
“There were times when all I could think was, ‘Why do I surround myself with people who don’t like me, or don’t value me? Those people aren’t really a part of my life anymore.”
She continued to tell me about the fitness studio she trained at back in Colorado. She started as a regular member, became an instructor, and eventually got certified as a personal trainer. The camaraderie gave her the drive to distance herself from people who had an adverse effect on her happiness.
If there is one thing I regret, it’s allowing people to negatively impact my mood and self-esteem. I dated, lived with, and had “friends” who made me feel absolutely terrible. Worst of all, I kept those people around—much longer than they deserved.
It doesn’t make you an asshole; it makes you a person with your priorities straight.
I live by the credo that people are good. I believe most people have good intentions, and whether it’s a lack of understanding or lack of empathy, sometimes those intentions fall through. I also believe forgiveness is a great thing. Even if the person you’re angry at doesn’t deserve it, you deserve the peace it brings.
But there is a big, fat line between forgiving someone, and giving them the power to continuously interfere with your life.
If you are continuously working to build yourself up, and someone keeps tearing you back down, it is ok to leave that person behind. It doesn’t make you an asshole. It means you’re making yourself a priority. Only you have the power to put yourself first, and sometimes that means cutting other people out.
If someone insults you, belittles you, or is demeaning toward you; you do not have to stand there and take it. There will be people who try to bring you down, and that is not your fault. It is your fault if you continue to let them.
The amazing photos in Tara’s Insta feed are courtesy of her incredibly talented, very-sweet boyfriend mentioned in this post. Follow Lafitara for her health tips, workouts, and daily motivation; follow Teddy for photography tips and even more gorgeous photos.