By Huyen Minh (@goldtogreen)

The Naked WalkAs a girl and now as a woman, we are constantly thinking about and confronted with our bodies. There were always people around me, taking the right to say something about how I looked. From my parents, to kids from school, to magazines and advertising all over the place, it was too skinny, too brown, too tall, too flat – yes, flat chested – too this and that, 24/7. Growing up you get tired, so tired but also used to it, you start somewhat accepting it and overlooking it. Thus, I was never comfortable within my own skin, the largest organ that we have, that protects us and that keeps us safe.

When I started running more regularly and more often with a group, I noticed one thing had changed. I remember clearly the day, on the track – the day I took off my shirt for the first time. It was the summer of 2015, on a very hot and humid day. Being very conscious about my appearance, I decided to not give a fuck. Yes, I might not have those abs, might not be as skinny, might not look like her, but that night, it was just. Too. Hot. So that I decided to run in my sports bra. It was later on that I learned more about body image disorder and that it is a serious disease, which is sadly not often discussed about in our new lives on and off the screen.

For more serious runners and track athletes ‘running in a sports bra only’ is part of their everyday life but to me, as a beginner runner, doing this was new to me. And I needed some guts. Going through transformation and menstruation cycles all the time, on that particular night I was going through some discomfort, some doubts and some insecurities, all condensed into one single track session, too. But I let it happen. Let the discomfort happen and let the relationship between the mind, heart and body happen. Slowly, my eyes got used to seeing me being in a sports bra and short shorts only. The more I ran in the summer heat, the less I cared about what others would think, and the less I was striving for a body which was never mine but belonged to the world of Photoshop. To feel comfortable in my own skin, I had to strip off the clothing. To feel good in my own skin, I had to accept my body. To feel happy in my own skin, I had to start embracing what I do have. Ten healthy fingers and ten healthy toes.

The Naked WalkSuddenly, I was naked all the time. And I grew into it. Into my own skin. Into my own body. Grew into seeing myself with flesh, and muscles, and curves, and bruises, and scars, and hair. It’s interesting to say and to see it as self-growth, but it was exactly that, I ‘grew’ to appreciate all of it. It wasn’t only on the track, but also on the road, in the trails, on my bike, in the grocery store, and yes, even at home, in my room, in front of my mirror. I started to feel less weak, less naive, but more confident, more strong. No, I don’t have to fit into anybody’s picture, but in mine. And mine became more real than ever before.

Running was a tool for transformation.