Working Out For Myself Taught Me To Love 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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A list Of 15 Inspiring Words That Mean So Much

A single word can mean a lot.
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Positivity is so important in life. A lot of times we always go to quotes for empowerment but I have realized that just one word can be just as powerful. Here is a list of inspiring words.

1. Worthy

Realizing your self-worth is important. Self-worth can really make or break a persons personality. Always know that you are worthy of respect. And also, never compare yourself to others.

2. Courage

Be courageous in life. Life has so many opportunities so do not be scared to grasp any opportunity that comes your way. You have the ability to do anything you have your heart and mind set to do, even the things that frighten you.

3. Enough

When you are feeling down and feeling that nothing you do is ever good enough, know that you are more than enough. And yes there is always room for improvement but when it comes to my self-worth I always have to remind myself that I am enough.

4. Blessed

Be thankful. A lot of times we forget how blessed we are. We focus so much on stress and the bad things that are going on in our lives that we tend to forget all of the beautiful things we have in life.

5. Focus

Focus on your goals, focus on positive things, and focus on the ones you love. Do not focus on things that will keep you from not reaching your goals and people that do not have good intentions for your life.

6. Laugh

Laughing is one of the best forms of medicine. Life is truly better with laughter.

7. Warrior

Through the good and the bad you are a warrior. Be strong, soldier.

8. Seek

Seek new things. Allow yourself to grow in life. Do not just be stuck.

9. Faith

During the bad times, no matter the circumstances, have faith that everything will be all right.

10. Live

Start living because life is honestly way too short. Live life the way you want to live. Do not let anyone try to control you.

11. Enjoy

Enjoy everything that life has to offer. Enjoy even the littlest of things because, as I said before, life is short. And plus, there is no time to live life with regrets.

12. Believe

Believe in yourself and never stop. Believing in yourself brings so many blessings and opportunities in your life.

13. Serendipity

A lot of times we look for things to fill an empty void that we have. Usually what we are looking for comes when we are not looking at all. Your serendipity will come.

14. Create

Share your ideas with the world. Creativity brings change to your life. However you chose to use your creativity do not be scared to show your intelligence, talent, and passion.

15. Love

The world is already full of so much hate, so love unconditionally with all your heart.

Cover Image Credit: Tanveer Naseer

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Your Health Journey Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Perfection takes time.

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When you first start to do something, you have all of the motivation in the world to accomplish that goal set out in front of you, especially when it comes to being healthier. The problem is as you continue through this journey and food and laziness kick in, motivation slips. It's human, and it happens to everyone no matter how physically strong they are.

Trying to be healthier doesn't always mean losing weight. It can be so your knees don't ache as much, so you don't feel as out of breath climbing stairs, or any goal you have set for yourself. Being healthier is personal and different from person to person.

I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of changes I would love to make about myself. From my weight to my body type and many other things about myself inside and out. I am by no means the most confident person about how I look, but I have worked hard for the past year to be an overall healthier person.

Becoming healthier isn't about looking thinner or fitting into a specific size of clothes. It is about taking care of yourself from eating better to working out more. There comes a feeling of confidence in what your body can do if you put a little love in it.

Perfection takes time, and I know firsthand how frustrating trying to be healthier can be.

Pizza tastes so much better than salad. It is so easy to fall into a rhythm of something that seems never to change whether that is your weight or your mile time. Sadly, you can't build a city, or become healthier overnight.

We see people who are thinner, curvier, smarter, faster, and so much more than us. We all waste time comparing ourselves to people around us and on our timelines, but some of our biggest strengths are our individuality and the gift of getting back up after falling down.

All I can say is, please don't give up on your goal of being healthier because this is solely for you. We can have a great support system in the world and have everyone in our corner, but that isn't enough.

You need yourself. You need to know that if you don't entirely put yourself in this journey, then you won't fully succeed. Your commitment to bettering yourself can keep you going even if you want to give up.

Your motivation may not be at its peak level right now, and you may have every cell in your body screaming at you to quit. Don't do it. Prove to yourself that you can keep going no matter what. Not giving up will be worth it. The results and taking the hard way will make you a stronger person inside and out.

You can do this. You can do anything you want to accomplish if you just believe in yourself. You need to understand that becoming healthier takes endurance. There will be periods where you slow down and may not be going at your fastest pace. The difference is that you are not giving up and you are still trying and moving.

Don't treat becoming healthier as a sprint: short term and quick. That mentality will only leave you feeling deflated and defeated. It is a life-long marathon of pacing yourself and pushing yourself further than ever before.

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