Many people – and it often seems that especially women – have extremely high expectations for themselves. But these big, often unreasonable and unachievable expectations can ruin all the enjoyment in life, and simply burn us out.
The society and social media put a lot of pressure on us. We need to be thinner, healthier, have a better diet, look awesome, and successfully handle all the million things on our plate. Because it seems that other people's lives, relationships and bodies are so perfect.
Do we have to be on a diet all the time or otherwise we get fat? Do we really need to eat super healthy all the time or otherwise it means we have no willpower? Do we absolutely need to workout two hours seven days a week, or else we're failure? Do we need to impress others all the time, every single moment, and take all the comments personally?
We're trying to be so perfect that a lot of times, it simply burns us out. Working out and dieting becomes the main focus of our lives, but most of us aren't elite athletes!
I see that a lot in women that I work with. They try to be perfect. They're never satisfied, and they never give themselves any credit.
Some typical examples:
I Workout All The Time, But Still, Look at Me…
Situation: She's a 35 years old woman with two kids and full-time job. She's working out every single day, and sometimes twice a day. She's telling me how unfortunate it is that her gym is closed on Sundays, but doesn't mean she'll skip a workout; she goes out on her own and usually runs about 10 miles.
No rest days at all, workouts at least one, but often two hours a day, and all that on top of busy work and family life.
That's a lot!
But she doesn't see it that way. Instead, she says: “But yeah, still, look at me…” pointing to her body that she's obviously unhappy with.
She looks fit and strong, and it's hard to see anything wrong with her.
Working out that much, while having all the other commitments, is actually a huge stressor on the body and mind. But is it really worth it if she's not even happy when doing it?
Don't get me wrong – I'm all about consistent and frequent exercising. But we can also be consistent in a smart way, by exercising often, but allow ourselves lighter days, or simply spending a little less time on exercising. We don't have to do high intensity training for an hour or more every day.
Working out should add value to our lives, make it more fun, prove us that we can do awesome things. What it often turns out to be, however, is a way to punish ourselves and put ourselves down, only see the things that we don't have instead of what we do, and never be satisfied.
I used to be like this too, in my early twenties. Everything revolved around food and running. I was never happy and never present; all I thought was if I get my workout done next morning and what I'm going to eat.
But I now see what a waste of time it was. We could do so many other, better, more fun things if we stopped over exercising and over worrying about every single detail about our bodies, and realized that what we do and how we look like is actually enough.
But I Could Do That 25 Years Ago!
Situation: She's a 56 years old woman, who, years ago, used to teach fitness classes herself, train every free minute, eat a super strict diet and have abs of steel. Even though all that was more than 30 years ago, she's still thinking about it. She's disappointed in herself when we're working out and she can't do things she used to be able to do decades – ago!
It's also very hard for her to accept heavier weight and softer body – because she used to be so lean!
We often compare ourselves to that person we were 5, 10, 20 or more years ago. It's very difficult to understand and accept it when we can't do the things that we used to.
But things were different then. Our lives change, and so do our bodies. We can't really expect us to be in the exact same shape we were in high school when we had pretty much no responsibilities, and now, after kids, often stressful job, and sometimes also injuries.
We can still be healthy, if we keep moving consistently, eat well and do things we enjoy in life, however, we may look a little different than we did 30 years ago. And that should be okay.
Our society, including what we see in social media, puts too much pressure on us, so we set ourselves huge expectations. We have to be super successful, super lean, super fit, never have treats or drinks and if we do, we have to “burn them off” later with excessive exercise.
Instead of enjoying working out and sometimes taking an unplanned rest day, we use workouts as punishment, which they really shouldn't be.
The saddest thing about it is that if we get trapped in this workout and food cycle, it takes over our lives.
Working out excessively and trying to eat the most perfect diet in the world are not the healthiest things to do. At times, the opposite – taking some downtime and altogether, expect a little less from ourselves – may be a much smarter choice.
Your turn: Do you feel that you ask too much from yourself, when it comes to fitness?