When I was younger, I was never comfortable in my own skin. I wanted to be—badly. I would see the girls around me in middle and high school that were so confident and gorgeous and seemingly perfect and I wished I could be that way too.

My body image was poor for the last few years of middle school and the first few years of high school because of my own petty comparisons to the people around me. As it turns out, it was something that would haunt me for some time.

It all started in sixth grade, when I ran a mile for the first time in gym class.

After 11 minutes and 16 seconds of pure pain and self-loathing, I vowed to make myself a better runner. So in seventh grade, I started running track.

Lina Mowat

As a girl who cannot sprint to save her life (my friends and family will back me up on this), track was not my thing. I was incredibly slow and had it in my head that others made fun of me for my speed (or lack thereof).

I compared myself to all the girls ahead of me, wondering why I was so terrible and wishing I was more like them. I spent my time hoping that I would miraculously become more like the others.

Unfortunately for me, it took three years and lots of tears to realize that track was not right for me.

Due to a good friend's recommendation, I tried out cross country in high school and ended up running all four years. I loved it and had so much fun with my incredible teammates, but I definitely lagged behind for a couple years. I worked so hard, but just couldn't keep up with the other girls. 

Lina Mowat

I was the tallest girl on the team by a bit, and felt that my body proportions were just way off. (Anyone's arms longer than the average long-sleeved shirt? Because same.) I thought maybe if I was shorter, I'd be more able to sprint, since that was the case with the other girls. 

The things I could literally do nothing about were holding me back from loving my body. The real issue, as it happened, was how I was viewing myself. I was focusing on what I saw as negatives instead of turning them into positives.

My height is something that has made me stand out among my friends, most of whom are significantly shorter than me. My legs, when well-trained for distance running, are strong and steady and get me where I need to go. My arms... well, I'm still pushing up the sleeves of long-sleeved shirts that are too short, but we're getting there.

Once I could see the positive aspects of my body, I began running a lot better and truly began to believe that I could do whatever I set my mind to.

Lina Mowat

After I had worked on changing the negatives to positives, I began to see my body in a new light. I realized that I should and could totally be confident in how I look, awkward arms and all.

I found that what made all of the other girls beautiful was, in fact, their confidence.

Confidence and body image are things that had always been preached to me, but things I hadn't exactly had before junior and senior year of high school.  

With my newfound confidence, I began to carry myself differently and truly learn to love my body. I began to eat much more healthily and exercise more.

Over the years, I got faster and ended up cutting around four or five minutes from some of my freshman year 5K times. My biggest moment was senior year when I crushed a race that was incredibly challenging my freshman year.

It was at this point that I began to actually realize how good I had been to my body and how good it had been to me in return. That realization helped me out a ton for that cross country season, and I made it my best.

Last year was my freshman year of college. I started running again—after having stopped after senior year cross country season—mostly to get into shape and stay healthy.

As hard as it was to start back up after having not run for about eight months, it was all worth it. The reasons I ran were coming back to me, and I felt much better about myself.

Running is what helped me learn to love myself and all of my flaws, and coming back to it after taking time off felt so right. 

Lina Mowat

Through running, I have learned loads about how strong I really am, despite how weak I may look or feel sometimes. I was able to push myself through grueling practices in the heat of the summer, through my own mental barriers telling myself that I couldn't do it, and most recently through 13.1 hilly miles.

You've got to be both mentally and physically tough to run long distance, and having a positive body image goes hand-in-hand with the mental aspect.

In my eyes, knowing that your body is powerful and capable and not comparing your body to others are imperative to be successful. Knowing just how capable I am is so fulfilling and relieving after being slowed down by the mental hurdles I had to overcome—and I've never been good at jumping. 

The moral of the story is, be confident in yourself. With that confidence, you'll be able to do absolutely anything you set your mind to and be able to crush it.