In the Sister-in-Strength Snapshot series, I want to introduce you to some of the fantastic women I’ve had the pleasure to meet and befriend on my own journey. The pursuit of strength can sometimes seem like a lonely affair, in a world that works hard to convince us that we should shrink ourselves instead of taking more space. Each woman highlighted in this series is one that you should definitely get to know!
Name: Kara Stewart-Agostino
Location: Toronto, Ontario
WHAT DOES STRENGTH MEAN TO YOU?
Strength is the confidence to sit in the comfort of my own skin. It is the knowledge that I am worthy, I am beautiful, I am significant, I am powerful and I am loved because I love. It is knowing what I am capable of accomplishing and being willing to explore the things I have yet to achieve. Strength is not being afraid to stumble or fall because I know that I have the ability to get back up.
Strength is giving space to others to be true, authentic representations of themselves—without fear, animosity or jealousy for the strength and beauty that they possess.
HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH STRENGTH EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
I didn’t used to think of myself as a particularly strong person. I’ve always been one of those people who cries easily during confrontations (or Nicholas Sparks movies) and figured that meant I lacked emotional strength. I think I was drawn to strength training as a way to make myself physically strong and “make up for” not feeling emotionally strong.
But strength training has taught me all kinds of lessons. That solitary time with my thoughts, my body and a set of dumbbells started to teach me what I’m capable of doing. It taught me to stand taller, prouder and more confidently. I started to understand that my resilience – my ability to fail and try again and again in life and in the gym was a demonstration of my inner strength.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SOURCE OF INSPIRATION IN LIFE?
I was born and raised (at least until I was 9) in Winnipeg, Manitoba by my Jamaican mother and my white-Scottish/Irish descended father. My mom immigrated to Canada in the mid-1960s as a teacher and quickly enrolled at the University of Manitoba to complete an M.A in education. During this period she made life-long friendships with other young students from African and Caribbean countries.
We didn’t have any biological family in Winnipeg but many of her early friends became the aunties who helped raise me. I know their stories of being among the first people from the Caribbean to be allowed to immigrate to Canada. I know the hardships and racism they they encountered. And I often think about the strength of character that they had to leave their birth countries in their early 20s to begin life in an often hostile place.
I was raised by a fierce group of women. My moms Mary, Celeste, Birdie, Joyce, Suni and Lorraine —they are my inspiration to not be afraid of challenges, to look within myself for answers and to surround myself with a supportive community.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL MANTRA OR FAVOURITE SAYING?
I have two! The first one is tattooed on my arm and is also the motto of Jamaica, “Out of Many, One People”. To me that means, although we all have our differences (race, class, gender, religion, sexuality, ability) we are all ultimately on the same team. Our humanity unites us and we can love and respect each other despite our differences.
My second personal mantra is “Let Your Light Shine”. It’s a reminder to show up authentically and with my whole self. It’s also a reminder to give space and love to others to show up in the same way.
These mantras are intertwined and represent my belief that if I show someone that I value them that they will, in turn, recognize that they are valuable. That sense of value, of worth, by being exactly who you are allows your inner light to shine brightly. That’s the glow we see in another person’s eyes. These mantras lead me through my career as a personal trainer and as a woman of the world.
WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU WANT TO SEND OUT INTO THE WORLD ABOUT WOMEN AND STRENGTH?
To the world, I want to say, “Don’t underestimate us”.
To women—“Don’t underestimate yourself, you have no idea what you can accomplish until you try.”
But we are stronger together and there is only so far that you can get on your own. Find your community, your tribe. Asking for help is not weakness. Recognizing that you need help and finding the right people to help you towards your goals will make you stronger—more unbreakable.
Strength is never as simple as it seems. It is a dynamic force in our lives. It can help us push through the hard times and enjoy life’s sweet spots. Fitness teaches me new lessons every day—its constant reminder is that I continue to have untapped strength. Every day we are capable of more.