I recently read about a woman who is five foot six inches tall, weighs over two hundred pounds, and is forty percent body fat. Using standard BMI Calculations, she is at 33.73 and well into Obese Class 1. Looking at this information, one could assume this woman is inactive and unhealthy. We could make assumptions about her appearance, the way she moves, the things she does (or doesn’t do), and what her life is like. Make a mental picture of what she looks like.
Ok, let’s picture someone else. At fourteen years old, this woman swam across California’s Catalina Channel traveling twenty-one miles in just twelve hours. At fifteen years old, she broke both the men’s and women’s world records for swimming the English Channel. In her fifty’s now, she has continued to break records all around the world. Let’s picture this woman. What does she look like? How does she move? What does her life look like? Now make a mental picture of her.
Do you have both pictures in mind? Ok, if both of your pictures match then you win. Both are descriptions of Lynne Cox.
As I am closer in body type to Lynne than an idealized Barbie doll, the first thing I liked about this story is how it breaks through the stereotypes of a healthy body and appearance. But there is much more to Lynne’s story. Her amazing story is one of accepting, embracing, and fully utilizing one’s unique self. You see, Lynne’s most amazing feat is that she survived swimming over a mile in the frigid waters of Antarctica. Only one other human has been known to have survived in near freezing water. For Lynne, it is what she is built to do.
Let’s put it all together. First, she has a unique body type due to her body fat ratio. Second, she has spent decades learning and training to be a strong competitive swimmer. And finally, she has a stubborn persistence, determination, and stamina which carry her through the challenges of open water swimming. Put this all together and Lynne is able to accomplish something that no one else in the world could.
What I absolutely love is that Lynne also uses swimming to help bring people together. During the Cold War she was the first to swim from Alaska to the Soviet Union, bridging the gap of these two nations. After the uniting of the German Republics, she swam symbolically swam across the Spree River. Lynne has also swum the Gulf of Aqaba promoting peace between Egypt, Israel, and Jordan.
What about you? What is unique about you? What about you is not the norm and how could this point to what are you uniquely built to do? That unique thing about you combined with your passion and personality is your gift to the world. Uncover it, embrace it, and share it!
* Water Wise: Safety for the Recreational Boater, Jerry Dzugan and Susan Clark Jensen, University of Alaska Sea Grant and US Marine Safety Association, 1999, page