Serena Williams' Strength Is One of the Reasons We Love America

Serena Williams shares how she found body confidence

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty

It takes supreme talent, determination and strength for a world-class athlete to remain at the top of her game, and Serena Williams has proven time and time again that she has those qualities in spades.

But the No. 1-ranked female tennis player admits that although she is confident now, it has taken time to love her body.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t really comfortable with my body, I just wasn’t,” the 21-time Grand Slam singles winner revealed at a recent panel to promote her EPIX documentary, Serena “If you look at most athletes – gymnasts, tennis players or track – they have a totally different physique than me.”

Eventually Williams, 34, learned to ignore her own doubts and the criticism of others to power through and win major victories on every tennis surface.

“It took me a while to find the strength and the courage, to embrace … and to feel like I love my physique,” Williams told moderator Gayle King. “It doesn’t matter what people say about you or how people feel. You have to love yourself, and when you love yourself it will manifest in everything that you do.”

For more on Serena Williams – and to celebrate all 100 reasons to love America – pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

And even when she loses a match, Williams uses the experience as an incentive to be better the next time. “Even though it’s difficult, I have the opportunity to win every single match because I have that talent,” she said. “So, when I don’t I’m trying to figure out, why didn’t I do it, what could I do better.”

In addition to trying to live up to her own expectations, Williams also feels pressure from others to always be on the winning side of a match. “It takes a lot of strength to do what I do,” she said. “Everyday I wake up, and I am supposed to win every single match of every single day of the rest of my life. And very few people in sport in general have had that.”

RELATED VIDEO: Justin Timberlake, Laverne Cox, Chris Pratt, and so Many Others on Reasons to love America!

But Williams, who will next compete at Wimbledon – where she has won six singles titles – has also found a way to manage those expectations.

“I’ve been going through this journey of trying to embrace that and trying to take all that on and still be positive about it,” she says. “I just feel super strong and I feel super confident and I don’t think I felt that confidence that I needed to feel, like I had it but I wasn’t feeling it from inside from my chest.”

“I really just feel super confident… I wish Wimbledon was tomorrow, I’m so ready to play.”

Reporting by MAGGIE PARKER

Related Articles