Body image.

It’s tough, with its unrealistic expectations and eye-roll worthy descriptions. Society has somehow been able to manipulate us into believing how we ought to be and convincing us of the activities that will fulfill our lives.

Recently, a couple others and myself agreed to participate in a six-week study that involved dedicating ourselves to a more healthy lifestyle. Some of our goals included:

  • Drinking around five bottles of water a day
  • Utilizing the stairs, not the elevator
  • Working out every day
  • Eating one fruit a day (at least)
  • Eating only a single sweet (treat) a day

Out of the fifteen goals set, these five seemed to have the largest impact or need of motivation to complete. We laughed as we created a list of punishments and rewards, but the determination required to succeed was more difficult than expected.

Although I’m only a week in, I’ve already experienced the benefits this new lifestyle has given me. College, in general, gave me to freedom of choice, which has had its ups and downs. I have the choice of watching a movie with friends, or I can stay back and study. It takes willpower to prioritize what’s a need, and what’s a want. However, these skills don’t just apply to schoolwork, but with your free time as well and the lifestyle you strive to live.

For me, coming from a high school background where I had after-school practices nearly every day after school, I wanted to continue with an active lifestyle. After my first few weeks as a college freshman, I saw that my motivation had declined, and I enjoyed not having to go to a daily practice or run that extra lap on the track. I had the freedom to sit back and relax, but eventually, I grew tired of that.

The six-week study has taught me an important fact about myself, in both the mind the and body. For example, I used to be the one that was terrified to go to the gym alone, since I was clueless on how to use the equipment, and I was nervous of others watching me who were more experienced. It was a self-esteem issue I’d never really noticed until my workout buddy became unavailable on workout days, and I was left with the choice of chickening out or biting the bullet and going alone. I backed out several times, not going to lie, but I felt guilty. I missed the feeling of accomplishment after I pushed myself further and further and achieved my goal. When I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I felt better. I felt lighter, healthier, more awake, and prepared for my day ahead.

It was after that discovery, I realized how awful stereotypes and social standards are. We’re told and shown, ever since we were little, that there is a particular image we need to portray. It’s all about outer appearances rather than internal, mental peace. We’re always told how to be happy, and often times it isn’t based on the inside. How to be slimmer; how to look younger; how to be what other’s want.

Now, not all the time are these suggestions negative, but sometimes I feel that it’s necessary to be happy with yourself the way you are. You be the one to set whatever goal you aspire to life, and you be the one who sums up enough willpower to push yourself to achieve those goals. Setting up a schedule for yourself that refreshes both your mind and body results in an all-around improved self, and a happier life, despite the rest of the world’s expectations.