Monday, November 10, 2014

intrinsic vs. extrinsic goals

If there’s one thing that anybody knows about me, it’s that I love to set goals. Love with a great big capital L. While I’m not entirely sure where I would be without them, having never actually given it a shot, chances are I would spend my days lying in the sun with a good book (by good book I mean re-reading the Harry Potter series for the 10000000000 time) and drinking my body weight in earl grey tea. Now on the surface that doesn’t sad bad at all (actually it sounds amazing), but as I get older I am starting to learn more and more about how vital it to nourish your mind, body and soul in a variety of different ways.
While I usually reach the goals that I set in regards to my mind and soul, I have never quite gotten the hang of the body part of equation. It wasn’t until midway through this year that I realised why those goals weren’t as achievable at the others, even though they weren’t any more difficult: the intention behind them was not the same.
Most of my goals are for myself and myself alone: I set them because working towards them and meeting them is fun, and it fills me with a sense of accomplishment. These aren’t goals that I make with the expectation of impressing anyone other than myself; they are simply a tool I use to move forward (and not read every single day away) and satisfy my creative side.
However, my exercise goals have always been different. Though being a coeliac vegetarian means that I don’t have to worry about my weight, my body certainly isn’t the kind that would grace magazine covers or wind up on someone’s instagram as fitspo (don’t get me started on fitspo. Worst. Thing. Ever.). I’m equal parts bony and soft in alllll of the wrong places, and despite being a staunch feminist often have to swallow my pride and ask my husband to open jars for me because I’m just too darn weak to do it myself (I must stress that I’m not weak because I’m female, I’m weak because I have been too lazy to build up my upper-body strength).
Due to having a touch of low self-esteem when it comes to my figure, when I have set exercise goals it has been with the intention of changing my body. And while I’m a little ashamed to type this, always being the first to loudly say that looks don’t matter, the only reason I attempted to change my body shape was to impress other people. I certainly wouldn’t feel any differently about myself were I to suddenly wake up with abs and buns of steel, because that sort of thing doesn’t matter half as much to me as say, good grades and kindness. But a small part of me couldn’t help but think it might be nice to look appealing in order to gain the approval of others.
Needless to say that, as is the case with most people, my desire to impress others was simply not a strong enough motivator to combat my deep set loathing of exercising. So any fitness goals that I have had have lasted maaaybe a month or so before I have crawled back to the couch in defeat.
However, something has happened over the last year that has turned my ‘move’ goals from extrinsic into intrinsic. This past year I have been a bit unwell, and it was when I went in for surgery that I realised my body wasn’t working quite as well as I have been used to. While there isn’t much I can do about that side of things, it was a great big wake up call to just how awesome being healthy actually is. I realised how much I appreciated my body: not in terms of how my body looks, but in regards to all of the things that it does for me: I can walk, dance, run, sing, smell, taste, hear, breathe, see. And hell if I don’t want to look after it as well as I possibly can.
I have since started running and joined a lunchtime boot camp – two things I have previously avoided like the plague – and am already feeling far healthier and stronger. Where once I would have said things to myself while attempting to run like ‘no pain, no gain’, now when I feel like giving up I remind myself that I love and care for my body, and it is this intention that keeps me going forward.

So many people, such as myself, attempt to ‘get healthy’ for all of the wrong reasons. We do it out of a place of hate; out of the idea that we’re not good enough as we are. Getting outdoors and moving shouldn’t be about trying to force your body into changing. Rather, it should be about nourishing ourselves because we want the very best for the skin, bone, fat and muscle that we call home.

We need to stop trying to mould our bodies to fit to match the unrealistic representations of men and women thrown at us constantly by the media, and start appreciating and caring for the bodies that we do have, no matter what shape or size, simply because we recognise how completely awesome they already are.

(Image credit: 1.)

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