Serena's Bigger Victory

Theodore Roosevelt once wrote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” At a time when we, as Americans, should be celebrating Serena Williams’s Wimbledon victory, we are reading and talking about her body. We are comparing her body shape and size to other women in the sport. We are printing articles about what Williams, herself, has said to criticize her own body in the past. And, as we continue to beat the topic and perfect the art of comparison, we are robbing her, as well as anyone else who follows, of the opportunity for joy. The joy of sweet victory.

Just before Serena Williams was to compete for the Wimbledon title, the New York Times published an article referencing how women in tennis balance their ambition to win with their body image. The article went as far as to compare Williams’s physique with those of other women in the sport, highlighting that others don’t want to bulk up to look like her.

While others are focused on Williams’s body and what it looks like, perhaps this is also an opportunity to highlight what that body has accomplished. Serena is one of the most decorated American athletes in history. Of the 25 Grand Slam finals in which she competed, she has defeated her opponent 21 times. Let us not forget, Williams has also competed in 13 Doubles Grand Slam finals and has never lost. Never lost! Those wins do not include her Olympic gold medals, of which she has one for singles and three for doubles.Off the court, Serena Williams created the SW Fund to assist communities around the world that have suffered at the hands of senseless violence and support access to education. Williams has also used her stature and influence to serve as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.Serena 3Through all of her accomplishments on and off the tennis court, Serena Williams admittedly has struggled with her body image. Believing her arms are too big and muscular, and describing them as one of her most recognizable features, she’s designed flattering long-sleeved tops just to hide them. Those are the same arms that have given her the ability to accomplish her coveted wins. Negative comments on Twitter and articles honing in on her physical features in global circulation certainly don’t help build her confidence. Some even argue that the criticism is less about Williams’s physical stature and more about her race and color, as described in a recent Huffington Post article.What, then, is the answer? People will continue to judge and criticize. Newspapers and magazines will continue to publish articles about women and their bodies, comparing one type to another. Our society will continue to focus on image over accomplishment. Perhaps, then, we have to look for the answer within ourselves. Neale Donald Walsch once wrote, “If I do not go within, I go without.” Meaning: if I first do not look within to find the answers, it is inevitable that I will miss the opportunity to actually find them.We live in a society that is focused on image and materialism. We are always seeking perfectionism through body image and wealth. Media outlets continue to paint a picture of feminine beauty that almost no woman can achieve. Yet, what are we all really after? Acceptance and happiness. The moment we as women, or anyone for that matter, start to accept who we are and use our voice, our platform, our written word, and our outlets to demand we are enough, is the moment we break free from perfection. That’s how we all break free from comparison and experience the joy of sweet victory.