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5 things I learned when I stopped trying to look good for other people

11 August 2015, 07:51Pamela Simpson

I’ve been so bad! Look, I ate the whole thing. Now I better do 120min’s on the treadmill and 1000 squats!

I used to say these things all the time. It’s hard not to, given the pressure this world puts on women to ‘sweat’, ‘work’ and ‘suffer’ for beauty. But who’s standard of beauty are we suffering for?

We are so used to being berated by society, forced to adhere to a certain mold. It’s enough to make anyone never want to leave home. Because if you do, best you “do it with no wrinkles, no dimples and make sure you lose the baby-weight first!”

After a long journey of self-dissatisfaction, I came to the end of my tether. I was sick of exhausting myself with very little results, to look the way I thought I wanted to. I would face that giant mirror in the gym, and all I could see was the love handles still on my sides and the cellulite still on my thighs.

I had to work harder. But who has the time to exercise every day, especially when you hate it? There are so many things I’d rather do after a stressful day - like sitting on the couch watching series eating cookies. I deserve a break.

But those couch sessions give me a bad back and those cookies bloated my stomach. That’s the thing about your 30’s – you don’t get away with quite as much as before. My body told me it was unhappy, and I had to listen.

I learned 5 valuable lessons to take with me every time I left the house, rather than a full face of make-up:

1. ’Fit’ is a State of Mind

I wanted to do something good for my body, but to stop letting it be about the reflection. I just wanted things to work well: more energy, better quality sleep, stress release...feeling good first and foremost for myself.

The way I look in a bikini had to become a by-product, rather than a goal. Because looking good is subjective, but feeling good is all about me.

2. Instant is for Coffee, not Life

I once believed that if I tried this pill/gadget/fruit extract I would magically drop a dress size. But it’s not true. Healthy living is a process, not a Verimark product.

I realized I needed to find something I enjoyed and thus would stick to – even then, I couldn’t expect to enjoy it right away. I joined a gym where there were no mirrors, and found a group of people who didn’t seem to mind that I came sans make-up. I was slow and couldn’t do a push-up, my bum wobbled and my legs shook. But the mirror-free people didn’t seem to care. They only supported.

Eventually I stopped caring too. I didn’t waste energy worrying about my imperfections, so had more to do what made me feel good.

3. Baby Steps

I began to add different kinds of exercise to help mobilize and stretch between the harder sessions. From yoga to Pilates, CrossFit and long walks, suddenly I was exercising everyday without even trying that hard. And my body began to thank me.

4. Internal Rewards, not External Affirmations

Someone said my new regime wasn’t working, as my body hadn’t changed much. I shut her poison out, because I could feel the changes that really mattered. My breathing became deeper and more satisfying, muscles recovered quicker and got stronger, back and shoulders hurt less, sleep was better and I was waking up energized. My goals mattered more than her scrutiny.

5. Perspective

When I did look in the mirror again, it didn’t seem to bother me so much anymore. I took on a new perspective and I could feel good without looking a certain way. Somehow, I cared a lot less about how I looked, while at the same time looking better than ever thanks to this shift in my focus. And I could do it while still eating ice-cream.

Follow Pami on Twitter or read her blog

- Women24


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