American, world and Olympic track-and-field champion Natasha Hastings is on a quest to show young women true beauty is about more than what meets the eye.
By Natasha Hastings, Photo courtesy of Under Armour
I’ve been running track for as long as I can remember, but I officially joined a team and won my first race after joining at the age of 9. It was determined very early on that I had potential and could be one of the greats to compete on the professional and Olympic level. But, as many stories go, there were plenty bumps along the way.
Because of my success on the track, paired with my above-average grades, many thought I lived a perfect life. Like many, I came from a divorced household, and my mother practically broke her back every day to make sure my brother and I had everything we needed and wanted. As I watched my mom power through life as she poured so much love and care into us, I silently suffered with body image.
It wasn’t until I wrote an essay for school, which she proofread, that she learned I compared myself to other girls in my class. I didn’t feel I was as attractive, and I hadn’t developed the breasts and hips that some of them had started to develop.
Later on in life, I noticed I had an issue with self-love as well. For some reason, I didn’t believe I was as good as the other women I competed against, or even that I was good enough for my deepest desires—to be a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur. My mind was filled with so much negative talk and self-doubt, it became crippling.
Through counseling and daily self-love practices (Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that I am beautiful, smart, a champion and a child of God.), I’ve slowly grown to accept myself for who I am and who I am becoming. I’ve learned to love myself and not lower my standards for anyone or anything.
It was this process that made me realize I had a greater cause. I realized, as athletes, we’re sometimes viewed as superheroes, but I felt it was important to show that behind those amazing things we do in our sport, there is a struggle and a process to get to those moments. There have been failures, disappointments and even some days I literally didn’t even know how I was going to get through them. Many also aren’t aware of all the photo shoots, appearances and events we attend.
Last year, I started a YouTube channel, Natasha Hasting 400M Diva, to give people a glimpse into the life of an athlete behind the scenes, particularly the track athlete. I wanted to show my human side, as well as those of my teammates and competitors. I wanted to open our world beyond the two-hour-long glimpse of a track meet you may watch, of which I may only be on your screen for roughly three minutes.
From there, Tea Time with Tasha and the Natasha Hastings Foundation were born. Tea Time with Tasha, a speaking event, started with me taking questions from my YouTube viewers about myself and the sport. I found myself opening up about things I wasn’t expecting to, especially body image and self-love.
It made me realize, again, I could be doing much more. Instead of waiting for girls to become women to teach them about self-love, why not teach them now? Why not let them know the very same thing they’re battling with and think they’re in alone are the very same things I’ve gone through? Why not equip them with the tools now? So, from there, I came up with the idea to make Tea Time with Tasha for girls, and we hosted our very first event in October in Huntington, N.Y.
These events are meant to create a safe space for young girls ages 12 through 18 to talk about whatever they want to, everything from puberty to competing on your cycle to just not feeling like you’re good enough. The girls receive a curriculum, Growing Into Your Best Self, created by me and available for purchase in early 2018, in which I share some of my personal self-love practices. While the program may seem as though it targets girls in sports, it truly is a program that all young girls can benefit from.
As I think about my impending retirement from track and field, I think about what I want my legacy to be. I believe that, for women, and especially women in sports, we have to take charge. That means more women in executive positions making the decisions that affect our young girls. My hope is that Tea Time with Tasha is just the start of me empowering young women to believe they are good enough to not only be the best athletes, but also to believe they are good enough to go on to be entrepreneurs themselves and continue to pay it forward.
To learn more about Natasha Hastings and Tea Time with Tasha, visit natashahastings.com.