My Journey of Self-Acceptance

World champion beach sprinter and podcaster Katie Williams reflects on her identity journey and learning to love herself.

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Katie Williams, world champion beach sprinter and podcaster shares with us her journey of self-acceptance, how she navigated coming to terms with her sexuality and where she finds the courage to show up authentically each day.

lululemon:  Tell us about yourself; who is Katie Williams?

Katie: I am an ex-Australian sprinter, podcaster, content creator and trainer. With a major passion for holistic health, wellness and self-development, I try squeeze the most out of life, I lean into the things that scare me and I do my best to keep evolving personally and professionally in every way I can.

lululemon:  When do you feel most proud and present?

Katie: I feel most proud and present when I get opportunities like this to work with iconic brands and tell my story as authentically me.

I feel proud and present on social media and my podcast, being able to fully own my sexuality and express who I truly am with no limitations and no worries about the trolling that it comes with.

I feel proud and present when I’m with my partner Georgia, being affectionate in public and going to events as a couple in love with nothing to hide.

I feel most proud and present in the gym, boxing, lifting weights, running, feeling fast and explosive. Clothing is a massive expression for me, wearing more masculine clothing and feeling sexy in it. My most natural state is in a pair of sneakers and activewear. That’s when I feel my best.

 

" The biggest challenge has been accepting myself for exactly who I am and knowing that my sexuality and identity journey evolves, and changes over time. "

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lululemon:  What role has sport played in your life?

Katie: I spent most of my life as a professional athlete. Sprinting played a massive role in my life. Nineteen years in my sport – starting at age four – my sport was my career. I did it full time for 10 years, whilst balancing full-time study and my sponsorship commitments.

Sprinting completely shaped the woman I am today. It taught me lifelong habits of extreme discipline, structure, creating boundaries and the ability to commit to something 100%. I learned the power of determination and focus. Being coached and having mentors for 10 years turned me into someone who’s coachable – keeping promises to them, and keeping promises to myself – which is a powerful habit that has also transferred into my career.

The biggest lesson it taught me was that with hard work, a great team and self-belief, anything is possible.

It was not an easy path, but it was an amazing one. Looking back on my career, I wish I could’ve done things differently, but I was young, and I was fearless.

lululemon:  As a retired professional athlete, how has your definition of success evolved over time?

Katie: When I was a professional athlete, success for me meant winning. If I wasn’t first, I was last. This attitude was extremely detrimental to my mental and emotional health, but it also fired me up and fueled me. I wanted to be at the top for as long as I could and to be the best athlete I could be.

This level of obsession wasn’t helpful as I retired. I had to unlearn perfectionism and to quieten my inner critic. I was so good at fixating on the one percenters and tiny improvements, but this was exhausting.

Most of my life I was validated externally being captain of the team, getting gold medals, accepting awards in front of crowds, waving to the cameras. It’s been a really long journey, but success for me now is driven by internal validation and a sense of pride with who I am, not what I’m doing.

The athlete’s mind or A-type personality will never leave me but I’ve found better ways to manage it so I don’t burn out and can feel proud of my small wins along the way. I did a lot of therapy to work through my high expectations and black-and-white thinking

 

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"By belonging to a community, I feel like I’m part of something that’s bigger and more important than myself – which is why sitting here today sharing my story matters. "

 

lululemon:  What has been the biggest challenge for you since coming out?

Katie: Self-acceptance. The biggest challenge has been accepting myself for exactly who I am and knowing that my sexuality and identity journey evolves, and changes over time. It’s accepting that I’m not going to be accepted by everyone, and that’s okay.

I think another key challenge for me has been accepting that coming out happens on the daily; when I’m getting in an Uber and the driver asks me about my boyfriend, when I get comments from trolls on social media or when I run into olds friends at weddings – every new interaction, I am coming out for.

As hard as it is to be vulnerable and open, I know that speaking up is what I must do. When I was navigating my own sexuality, I needed to see women like me owning who they are, I needed to see that acceptance. I will continue to show up as authentically as I can.

lululemon:  What do community and belonging mean to you?

Katie: Belonging is a core human need. For me it’s unconditional love, it’s support and it’s freedom to be exactly who I am – and be accepted for it.

By belonging to a community, I feel like I’m part of something that’s bigger and more important than myself – which is why sitting here today sharing my story matters.

When I was a professional athlete, I felt a strong sense of belonging with the running community.

Since retiring, I felt a sense of limbo and not having a community to be part of. It feels so beautiful to be welcomed into the Pride community, loved for who I am and to have the freedom to be whoever I want to be. I’ve truly learned to belong in my own way, and not judge myself along the process.

I’ve met the most beautiful women over the past two years, who helped me so much during my coming out. Without them, I don’t think I would have been able to accept my sexuality as quickly as I could.

lululemon:  Acknowledging everyone’s journey will be unique, do you have any advice for someone who might be struggling with navigating their sexuality?

Katie: Seek help and speak to a professional. My healer and my mentor helped me greatly in navigating my anxiety and inner identity battles. Be aware of your environment, surround yourself with people who love and accept you for who you are and who are happy within themselves. Audit who makes you feel good and who doesn’t.

Identity and sexuality evolve over time and there is no rush to label yourself. Labels can feel really definite and scary, or you might not feel like you belong to any label – and that’s okay.

Be kind to yourself, get to know yourself, listen to sexuality podcasts, follow LGBTQ2IA+ artists and role models, start to expand your horizons and question the status quo.

Embrace what makes you different. You don’t have to have it all figured out yet – I don’t!

 

Pride has always been about holding space for all people to be seen and to be heard. In recognition of Pride 2023, we are amplifying voices from our LGBTQ2IA+ community; sharing stories on being Proud & Present. Click here to read more

 

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