The Aussie ninja warrior athletes are on the rise after Australian Ninja Warrior made its debut in 2017. Ninja Warrior’s impact is clearly stretching across the globe, connecting nations through ninja athletes that share a love for defeating obstacles in the sport, and creating a community that can safely share the obstacles they have faced in their own lives. Among this growing Aussie ninja group is ninja athlete Jolene Kelly, who started training for the show as soon as Aussie ANW announced its first year. Jolene said she treasured every minute competing on the first season of Aussie ANW, where the “course was lit up like a Christmas tree.” As a high level qualified ballet dancer and a pet snake owner, Jolene is a living proof that grace and grit can exist simultaneously.
There’s an inner fire within Jolene’s soul, and it is definitely spreading around the globe. This fire, so to speak, is Jolene’s internal drive that propels her towards her goals. It’s her motivation, dedication, and the reason she persists through each day, even the ones that feel less than fiery. Jolene has risen above the ashes of expectation and doubt and is using them to fuel her current fire. By digging up past hurts and defining our unconditional worth, we can overcome the challenges that attempt to quench the fire in our own lives too. “Some women fear the fire, and some women become the fire.” Jolene has undoubtedly embraced her flames, and her story is an encouragement for us to do the same.
However, Jolene’s story didn’t start this way. When she was unhappy with her body image, she discovered that she wasn’t living up to her full potential. Through a 44-pound (20kg) weight loss journey, her body became the source of her empowerment, instead of the vessel of her struggle, all due to a mindset shift. Jolene changed her focus from what her body looked like, to what her body could do, and that’s what made all the difference in her life. When she started focusing on fitness activities that she genuinely enjoyed, her goals became about achieving higher levels of fitness. Taking the focus off of her body image freed her body to do more than she could ever imagine because she was training with this new, uplifting purpose.
With this being said, Jolene is working hard to eliminate the negative voices that threaten the strong and loving foundation she is rebuilding. As someone who has fought many of the same battles in my own life, I have struggled with the negative effects of social media on my own self image. While social media can be a voice of inspiration, I often find myself scrolling and scrolling, only to come out of that time feeling unhappy and thinking more negatively about myself. Jolene says, “If I’m not using social media to inspire or be inspired, then what am I using it for?” This has been challenging me to make adjustments to my social media accounts so that they reflect the positivity I am determined to seek out and the positivity I strive to give back. Following only people and pages that I feel genuinely close to, passionate about, or that inspire me has allowed me to make more space for what brings me happiness. The reality is that life is truly too short to intentionally cloud your mind with anything that does not make you happy or make you live better.
While social media can speak volumes into life either positively or negatively, the most powerful negative voice Jolene is learning to quiet is her own. When fears start to seep in, she reminds herself of her internal foundation: I love my body. I love myself. I am proud of myself. Fear can’t be your barrier if these truths are your foundation. Owning these foundational truths have allowed her to create stronger dreams, simply because they have created a stronger dreamer.
By the end of Jolene’s podcast, I forgot she was an athlete on the other side of the world. Her fears, doubts, hopes, and dreams mirrored my own. Jolene may be countries away, but our hearts are closer to the same. I believe this must be true for all athletes and people wherever we are in the world. My feelings on this can be summed up in a beautiful quote I read from the novel Kisses from Katie: “In all nations of the earth, people long to live lives filled with purpose and love. They want to be able to give back. They want to feel important, be beautiful, and be needed. We are all the same. We do not live in different worlds; we live in the same world.”