I recently got into a conversation with someone about how much I hate the gym. It’s not really something that one should admit these days: you hate the gym? You’re not 100% dedicated to working out and getting fit and being ultra lean and instagrammable? How dare you. But nope, not me.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like the idea of being unfit and out of shape. My body has changed a lot in recent years thanks to a shift in lifestyle, a stable relationship, various life obstacles and a more acquired taste to Cadbury’s chocolate buttons. But no matter how hard I try, I just can’t fall in love with the gym. Or running. Or Body Pump.
During this conversation, it hit me that over the last couple of years, I’d been trying desperately to make myself be that person that loves the gym. Be that person that is super motivated and won’t eat chocolate unless it’s a special occassion. Be that person that has absolute willpower and craves spinach, kale and acai bowls. I’m not that person. Of course, there’s nothing “wrong” with people that are all of those things. They just aren’t me.
As a twenty-something woman in modern society, there’s a huge amount of pressure. You only have to go on Instagram, flick through Women’s Health, watch Netflix or just chat to friends and colleagues to feel pressured to be someone else. I’m not just talking about fitness and exercise; I’m talking about life in general and the things we like to do. How many of us harbour an interest or a passion for something but don’t dedicate enough time or shout about it because there are “other things” we feel we ought to be doing?
My friend told me, after I voiced this realisation with a slight tone of shock and disappointment in myself, that perhaps I had to learn to accept the real me; not the me that I think I should be. Should is a word that comes up a lot in my vocabulary: “I should have gone to the gym”; “I should really put down this chocolate bar”; “I should really be tweeting at least 50 times to fulfil my dream of being a well known blogger”; “I shouldn’t be doing this, I should be doing something else”. Should, should should. God, it’s sabotaging.
Why should I do anything that I don’t want to? Or can’t? Or don’t feel comfortable with? And, when it come to hobbies and downtime, why should I do something that just isn’t me when there’s a tonne of other things I could be doing that would make me a damn sight happier?
My friend said: “What makes you happy? What can you tell me right now that, in life and in your hobbies, apart from the obvious friends, family and health, makes you happy?”
I answered: “Reading; writing; walking; being creative; photography; eating good food; baking; watching TV; listening to podcasts.”
She said: “Well then; do more of those things.” Simple. Be unapologetically me.
Because those things I listed are ME; if you asked anyone who’s known me my whole life (ya know who you are), what hobbies and extracurricular activities sum up Emma, they’d probably list the exact same things. I’ve always had my nose in a book and have always loved to write. I’ve always preferred walking to running; I’ve always been creative and loved my food and loved crime documentaries on Netflix and psychology podcasts such as TED Talks. And that’s OK. Just because I’m not running marathons or setting up my own business or volunteering at weekends doesn’t make me any less of a person. It just makes me Emma.
I guess the point of this (very rambly) post is that we should not be ashamed of who we are. We shouldn’t not do the things we love because we think we “should” be doing something else. I almost didn’t publish this very blog post because I thought: “I shouldn’t really be admitting that I hate exercise and telling people this very personal story about me and I should be writing something else.”
I now have a list of things that I genuinely love doing on my phone and I’m going to refer to it every single morning and make sure that that day, I do at least 2 of those things. Reading before I go to bed; writing a blog post; walking to work rather than getting the bus or planning a weekend hike with Toby; listening to a podcast at lunch; taking my camera to family events and random days out. All of those things genuinely put a smile on my face.
Never let anyone tell you what you should be doing or that you should be doing something difference. Just be you. Unapologetically.