Female weightlifter's inspiring letter to haters goes viral

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Sometimes, people are deterred from going to the gym because they're afraid of being judged. This weightlifter unfortunately faced that adversity -- but had the best comeback for it.

When Stephanie Lynn Holdmeyer began working out with her boyfriend, Chris, she said they were "judged hardcore." She wrote an open letter to those who thought they were the "buff couple" who thought they were "hot s--- because they wear belts all the time." Holdmeyer shared it on Facebook:

As it turns out, Holdmeyer wore a belt because she had back surgery soon before she got a membership to that gym.

See photos from Holdmeyer's Instagram

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Weightlifter Stephanie Lynn Holdmeyer
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Weightlifter Stephanie Lynn Holdmeyer
Be stronger than your struggles.
Compete because you train; don't just train to compete. I've been itching to get back on stage. I know I can crush this girl physically, but I really just want to prove how much mentally stronger I am than her. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ I decided to take a lot of time off for various reasons. I really needed to grow, which wouldn't occur naturally without substantial time off. I really needed to increase my calories and follow an off season diet. I really needed to focus on school and save money. But mostly importantly, I needed to work on myself mentally. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ This girl is smiling, but the journey was not easy. It uncovered a lot of insecurities and eating issues that I thought were resolved. I did not do my prep healthily. I was eating little and doing excessive cardio, had a very distorted body image and resumed cycles of binging and purging. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ This is the first time I'm talking about this, but I think it needs to be said. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Just because you "look great" ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ doesn't mean you're healthy. Throughout this prep, I preached "love yourself" and "be confident". Everyone probably thought I was speaking to a crowd, but I was really speaking to myself. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Prep was difficult because I was not mentally prepared for it. Everyone acts like it's all glitz and glamour alongside difficult dieting and training, but the most difficult part is the mental part. The "am I on track?" "Do I look good enough?" "I'm too small, I'm not lean". The tears, the doubts, the mental mind duck. That's the part that will get you. Not the diet or the training, but what's inside your own head. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ After I competed, it was really hard for me to be able to look in the mirror as I gained weight and put on body fat. I had to spend months redoing ED therapy and learning how to have a healthy relationship with my body again. Finally I found peace with my body and was truly able to love it and value it for all that it was. This was how it should have been before ever deciding to compete. (Continued in comments)
When Chris & I first started working out at the Rec, we were judged hardcore. Someone even posted on Facebook about the "buff couple" & how they "thought they're hot shit because they wear their belts all the time". This was about two months after my back surgery & I did indeed wear my lifting belt during almost all of my workouts for support. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ My point is, everyone gets judged. People don't bother to understand where you're coming from or why you do the things you do. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ That overweight guy? Someone judges him because of his weight, but little do they know he's already lost 100 pounds & has changed his entire life around. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ That guy with the skinny legs? He's had seven knee surgeries & he's currently trying to strengthen his legs. It's just a long hard process. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ That skinny girl you think "really needs to eat"? She's actually super self conscious about her thin figure & has been trying to gain weight, but her metabolism is super high. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ That kid who follows you around & watches everything you do? He looks up to you and wants to learn your workouts, he's just scared to approach you. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ That girl with really bad form? She had to mentally prepare to enter the weight room because she was terrified of people judging her. She second guesses every exercise, but she's too intimidated to ask anyone for advice. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ That buff dude you think is cocky? He grew up in poverty and working out was his alternative to drugs or alcohol. He's not cocky-just focused. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ That woman taking too long on the equipment you want? She's a single mom exhausted from working two jobs & raising three kids. She's trying to push herself to finish her workout, but she needs a little extra rest between sets. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ That old man doing strange exercises and talking too much? He decided to get a gym membership to stay active & socialize after his wife passed away last year. Talking to you makes his day & has helped his depression. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ There is more to people than what you see. Instead of jumping to conclusions or making judgements, take a moment to consider someone else's perspective. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ Don't judge a book by its cover.
Ladies, do not fear that weightlifting will give you ginormous muscles and make you look "manly". ⠀⠀ ⠀ That just doesn't happen naturally. ⠀⠀ ⠀ What weightlifting will do is improve your bone density, promote a lower body fat, improve your strength and overall functioning, and boost your confidence and self esteem. ⠀⠀ ⠀ Women are strong beautiful creatures. Don't be afraid of letting that strength shine 🌟💪🏽
Positivity attracts positivity. ⠀⠀ ⠀ I am a firm believer in this, and the response to my previous post on understanding others has only strengthened this belief. I am touched by so many of the comments, shares, and direct messages where people share personal stories and insights. These motivate me to continue striving to be a better person, and also give me hope that the fitness industry and world can become more understanding and supportive. ⠀⠀ ⠀ I thank you all very much. ⠀⠀ ⠀ You may say I taught you something, but it is YOU who showed me that one of my previous posts is true: ⠀⠀ ⠀ "Your vision, your knowledge, your skills and your drive have the ability to change a life or even hundreds of thousands of lives. It may mean nothing to one person, but to someone else it can mean the world." ⠀⠀ ⠀ Never think that your thoughts aren't valued. Never think you cannot make a difference. Never think that no one cares. ⠀⠀ ⠀ You have the ability to be something spectacular. ⠀⠀ ⠀ Whatever spectacular thing that may be, go out there and be it.
I used to think I was genetically cursed with small shoulders, and I remember being ecstatic when I could finally see some definition on the left. Eventually I realized that I was doing my side lateral raises (a staple to building deltoids) incorrectly. ⠀⠀ ⠀ Thank goodness for Nicole Wilkins. After watching her tutorial on side lateral raises last year, I corrected my form and my delts are now growing like crazy. ⠀⠀ ⠀ The key to side lateral raises is to pull with your delts, not your wrists or your back/traps. Your elbows should lead the movement, not your wrists. Your arms should have a slight bend as you pull the weight up to shoulder height. As you lift, lead with your pinky up, as though you are pouring tea! Form is more important than the weight, so don't be ashamed if you start super light. Lighter weight with proper form will get you better results and prevent injury!
In light of all of the recent messages asking about my back, I have been reflecting on how it has changed my perspective. ⠀⠀ ⠀ For those who may not know, I battle chronic back pain every day. I have a 35° scoliosis curve and a congenital defect with a partial fusion at L4-L5. I have degenerative disc disease and frequent disc problems. I most likely have a spinal fusion surgery in my future, but I am attempting to make the best I can and do as much as I can until that surgery is absolutely necessary. My back hurts every day. Some days are worse than others and just performing daily activities is hard. As tough as it is physically, the mental aspect is sometimes even more challenging. I have so much that I WANT to do, and it is so frustrating when my body fights to the point where it limits me. ⠀⠀ ⠀ The surgery I had was minor, though I did have complications. I had a lumbar discectomy at L5-S1 after suffering a severe herniated disc for 2 years which compressed two nerves and caused severe sciatica. The severity of the herniated disk resulted in a CSF leak and nerve damage in my left leg from nerves nicked during surgery. ⠀⠀ ⠀ That hospitalization changed a lot for me. To be on flat bedrest, have a catheter, rely on someone else to help me eat food and wash my body, to be exposed as doctors and residents examined my surgical site-it made me appreciative, both for people's assistance and the capabilities of my own body. As I lay there for five days, I had a lot of thinking time. Would my leg ever work right? Would I ever walk normally? Would I ever be able to do all that I wanted to do? To live an active lifestyle? Nurse others? When would I need another back surgery? Would Chris want to stay with me given my decrepit spine? How limited would my life be? Is it downhill from here? Was that the peak of my physical capability? Was it all gone, just like that? ⠀⠀ ⠀ (Continued in comments because I write too much for IG 😬)
Got to the gym and realized I was black on black on black in @flagnorfail today. Guess it's a #workhustlekill type of Friday 💥💪🏽 #ninjamode #killeverything
When someone says "Don't get too big" or "Weightlifting will make you manly" 😂😐🙃
"What keeps you motivated?" ⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀ My answer: "Myself" ⠀⠀ ⠀ I usually get a blank stare or a "that's all you got?" in return. But to me, that one word sums it up perfectly. ⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀ I work hard for myself. I show up EVERY SINGLE DAY for myself. Not for someone else. Not because I want to show off or impress anyone. I don't do it to compete or to win. I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone else. ⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀ I do it for myself. Simply because I want to be better. ⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀ Motivation for other things can fade. You get a significant other and decide you can let your body slide or you decide you "don't have time" or your contest is over and you don't have a reason to train. Now you need a new reason to keep you going. But when you are motivated purely because you want to challenge and better yourself, you are motivated every day of your life. ⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀ Some days you show up to kill your workout or smash a new PR. Other days you show up sick, tired, injured or weak, and you fight like hell just to make it through and prove to yourself you can. Either way, you are fighting your battle for the day and striving to be better, stronger, and more resilient. ⠀⠀ ⠀ I don't have a secret to motivation. There is no magic insight or revelation. The key to motivation is YOU. ⠀⠀ ⠀ Be your own motivation.
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Throughout her post, Holdmeyer commented on people that are initially shamed because people don't know their story or reason for working out; if they took the time to get to know these people, you'd know why they do what they do in the gym.

Holdmeyer herself has scoliosis and suffers chronic back pain. One would not know that by simply looking at her; they may make wrong assumptions at first glance.

In light of all of the recent messages asking about my back, I have been reflecting on how it has changed my perspective. ⠀⠀ ⠀ For those who may not know, I battle chronic back pain every day. I have a 35° scoliosis curve and a congenital defect with a partial fusion at L4-L5. I have degenerative disc disease and frequent disc problems. I most likely have a spinal fusion surgery in my future, but I am attempting to make the best I can and do as much as I can until that surgery is absolutely necessary. My back hurts every day. Some days are worse than others and just performing daily activities is hard. As tough as it is physically, the mental aspect is sometimes even more challenging. I have so much that I WANT to do, and it is so frustrating when my body fights to the point where it limits me. ⠀⠀ ⠀ The surgery I had was minor, though I did have complications. I had a lumbar discectomy at L5-S1 after suffering a severe herniated disc for 2 years which compressed two nerves and caused severe sciatica. The severity of the herniated disk resulted in a CSF leak and nerve damage in my left leg from nerves nicked during surgery. ⠀⠀ ⠀ That hospitalization changed a lot for me. To be on flat bedrest, have a catheter, rely on someone else to help me eat food and wash my body, to be exposed as doctors and residents examined my surgical site-it made me appreciative, both for people's assistance and the capabilities of my own body. As I lay there for five days, I had a lot of thinking time. Would my leg ever work right? Would I ever walk normally? Would I ever be able to do all that I wanted to do? To live an active lifestyle? Nurse others? When would I need another back surgery? Would Chris want to stay with me given my decrepit spine? How limited would my life be? Is it downhill from here? Was that the peak of my physical capability? Was it all gone, just like that? ⠀⠀ ⠀ (Continued in comments because I write too much for IG 😬)

A photo posted by Stephanie Lynn (@stephanielynn996) on

She urges others not to judge. "There's more to people than what you see," she wrote. "Instead of jumping to conclusions or making judgements, take a moment to consider someone else's perspective."

Her post resonated with many and quickly went viral. Among the thousands of comments were supporters applauding her refusal to give up -- and let those who shame her bring her down.

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