The Day I Stopped Working Out For Societal Approval Is The Day I Fell In Love With Exercise Again

The Day I Stopped Working Out For Societal Approval Is The Day I Fell In Love With Exercise Again

I'm working out for me — not for you — and I'm done apologizing for that.

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When I was younger, my exercise came in the form of soccer. Soccer was my first love, always has been and always will be. I played for the love of the game and for the joy it brought me to spend countless hours of my week with a ball under my feet and a goal in front of me. Then, when I was 15, I gave up on my first love, and I will always regret that.

What does this little anecdote about soccer have to do with exercising for the approval of others around me? Well, during the summer, just prior to my last season of soccer, I suffered from an undiagnosed eating disorder. I won't go into all the gory details about that here because that isn't the point I'm trying to get across, but it does deserve to be mentioned because it was during that time that my mindset towards exercise completely shifted.

The girl who had once played soccer simply for the love of the game became the girl who spent hours out in the sweltering North Carolina heat running because she was trying to transform herself into this "ideal" person based on society's standards. Let me tell you something, striving to be something that you can physically never be in order to fulfill this unrealistic expectation that society presents us is both physically and emotionally draining.

That summer, my mindset towards exercise was solely focused on what everyone else thought of me and how much I needed to work out in order to continue to lose weight. It wouldn't be until well into my freshman year of college that my mindset would shift once again — this time for the better.

When I first started college, I loved the idea of having free access to a gym that was only a short walk from my dorm. I hadn't really had that in a long time, seeing as how by this point it had been nearly four years since I'd given up soccer, and running around my neighborhood brought me back to the summer of 2012. First semester I didn't really find a ton of time to get to the gym, mostly because I was still trying to figure out what it meant to be a college student and how to balance all of my responsibilities. That all changed spring semester of my freshman year. I found myself going to the gym almost every single day, and if I'm completely honest, I hadn't felt that good in a really long time.

For the first time in four years, I was working out because I enjoyed the feeling it gave me or to help deal with the stress of a long week, instead of having the hurtful words of someone ringing in my ears the entire time. That was the moment I made a promise to myself. I promised myself that if I ever started to feel that way again in the gym — as if I wasn't good enough or I was working out to make someone else like me — I was to immediately stop whatever I was doing and leave right then and there.

In the three years since I've been in college, I have yet to have to implement that self-imposed policy. To some people, it may sound stupid or as if that isn't that big of an accomplishment, but for me it is. I went from being the girl who ran for societal approval to the girl who remembered what it felt like to fully enjoy a workout again. It was at that moment, freshman year me carving out the time in my chaotic schedule, that I fell in love with exercise again.

Words can't fully express how amazing of a feeling this is to me. Now I long to get back in the gym because I love the feeling of accomplishment of completing an intense workout. I may not get to the gym every single day, but I now realize that it's perfectly OK if I miss a day or two, or even a full week. I'm done letting other people dictate how or when I workout. I'm letting myself fall back into exercising for the sheer love of it. So this one goes out to the 14-year-old soccer-loving girl inside of me that has been brought back out by letting go of societal expectations.

Stop letting an unrealistic societal standard of beauty dictate how you live your life, whether it's in exercising or how you dress or what you eat. Be the person God created you to be, and don't apologize for that.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Poetry On Odyssey: Some Days

A poem that reminds you that you're not alone.

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Some days,

You dread the sound of your alarm. You snooze and snooze and snooze and snooze.

When you finally pull yourself out of bed, pressed time forces you to throw on stained sweats

you find yourself chugging a cup of coffee.

You sit on the couch and contemplate calling out of work

You caught the stomach bug,

Or perhaps the flu,

Maybe you broke your collar bone

Or need a new phone

The endless list of excuses repeats through your head as you sit on the couch, wishing you were still in bed.

It takes every ounce

Every breath

Every fiber of your being to pull yourself off the couch

And into the car

And into the building where you work

Some days,

This is just how it goes

You are not alone.


Some days,

You awake to the beautiful sound of birds

Chirping outside your window

The sun sneaks its way into your room

A smile creeps across your face as you realize you are awake to see a new day

You make a good breakfast

You read a few pages of your favorite book

You get your mind ready for the things it will accomplish today

Before you know it you've worked an entire day

Your job is done

As you pull into your driveway,

you take a few breaths

Feeling grateful for another meaningful day.

Some days,

This is how it goes

You are not alone.


Every day is a gamble,

Every day is a gift

The key to getting more good days

Is believing that everyday is one.

You are not alone, this is just how it goes.

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