Watch Mandy’s Powerful TedX Talk


Redefining Strength: The Real Power Behind Rest and Self-Acceptance

In my TEDx talk, I touched on a revelation that has profoundly changed my life: My definition of strong was all wrong. As a society, we tend to have a very narrow idea of what strength looks like—often confusing it with perfection. But let me tell you, perfection doesn’t exist, and neither does one single definition of strong.

I was once the poster child for society's definition of strength. I won marathons, set personal records, stood on podiums with medals around my neck. But the irony was that when I was “strongest” in society’s eyes, my body felt anything but strong. In my TEDx talk, I said, “I once misunderstood strong, seeing it in narrow, rigid terms. My definition of strong was all wrong. True strength is found in rest, in attuning to one's body, in mental fortitude, and most profoundly, in the complete acceptance of oneself.”

The things that are truly strong—rest, self-compassion, self-love—were the things I struggled with the most. Here I was, able to run five marathons in a year, run with broken femurs, broken feet, and clearly a broken understanding of what health, strength, and wellness looked like. At the depths of my anorexia and exercise addiction, it was impossible for me to take a rest day. I was convinced that a day of rest would undo everything I had worked for. I believed that if I rested, I hadn’t earned the right to consume calories—or worse, that I hadn't torched enough calories to deserve them. To me, rest equaled laziness.

I also struggled with showing myself grace and compassion. Forget about self-love—I was trapped in a cycle of self-hate and constant body shaming, a game where there were never any winners. I lost every time but didn’t see it that way. I thought being strong meant going non-stop, never taking a day off, subscribing to the no pain, no gain mentality that desperately needed a rebrand.

It took me over a decade to realize that my definition of strong was all wrong. Real strength is kindness. Rest. Self-love. Worthiness. It's about listening to your body and giving it what it needs, not punishing it for what it isn’t. It’s about mental fortitude, the courage to show yourself compassion, and the profound power in accepting yourself exactly as you are.

We need to shatter the myth that strength looks like perfection. We need to redefine it in a way that celebrates our humanity, our vulnerabilities, and our imperfections. True strength lies in our ability to rest, to be kind to ourselves, and to love ourselves fiercely despite our flaws.

Ways to Rebrand Strength

1. Undo what you have been taught is strong to redefine it in a way that includes balance, acceptance, and honoring your body. Break free from the rigid and narrow definition that has been imposed on you. Embrace a new definition that celebrates the multi-dimensional nature of strength—one that encompasses rest, self-love, and mental resilience.

2. Identify 3-4 people from different generations whom you view as strong and reflect on why. You’ll likely find that they all look different but possess qualities of strength nonetheless. Maybe it’s your grandmother’s unwavering patience, your friend’s unyielding determination, or a mentor’s ability to show vulnerability. Strength comes in many forms, and recognizing this diversity helps broaden our understanding of what it truly means to be strong.

3. Set a goal for yourself this year that feels empowering and strong. Whether it’s taking a rest day without guilt, practicing daily self-compassion, or pursuing a passion that you’ve put on hold—choose a goal that redefines strength on your terms. This goal should make you feel empowered and aligned with your new, authentic definition of strength.

It took me a long time to realize that strength isn’t about perfection or pushing through pain—it’s about kindness, rest, and self-love. I challenge you to rethink your definition of strength. To find the courage to rest, to show yourself kindness, and to accept yourself as you are. That’s the kind of strength that changes lives. That’s the kind of strength we should all strive for.

If you haven’t yet listened to my TEDx talk, I encourage you to do so. Share it with anyone who might need it, and join me in redefining what it means to be truly strong.

Let’s set the world on fire with this new, empowering definition of strength. Together, we can make it burn bright.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder YOU ARE NOT ALONE. The National Alliance for Eating Disorders is there for you. It's FREE & Confidential. Their Hours of operation are Mon - Fri, 9am-7pm EST. Call 1 (866) 662-1235, or visit their website:


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