As a teenage girl, social media and society in general places a substantial amount of pressure on looking and acting a certain way. If we conform to this, then we will perhaps be viewed as ‘perfect’ in the eyes of society. As such, many young females strive to achieve extreme and unrealistic body goals, holding these goals as their main source of motivation when it comes to exercise.

However, as I have recently discovered, happiness and satisfaction is by no means guaranteed when these goals are achieved. Truthfully, the people we brand as ‘perfect’ on social media are usually the unhappiest of all; they remain constantly anxious in maintaining a certain image and appearance becomes entirely consuming, overtaking all aspects of life.

I myself started exercising 7 days a week, for around 2 hours a day due to the pressure social media and ‘influencers’ placed on me. Whilst the quest to achieve the ‘perfect body’ acted as a huge motivation for me, I was never fully satisfied with my workouts and I was constantly stressed over the fact that I could have done more. This, in turn, transferred into my eating habits, and I began to view food as an enemy, vastly reducing my intake. As a result, I was definitely not reaping all the benefits exercise has to offer, and overall felt largely unhappy with who I was.

Yet, one day, I decided that my current mindset was unhealthy, and needed to change. I realised that exercise should be more than simply a means of changing appearance; I wanted to feel strong and healthy in myself, both physically and mentally.

As a result, I cut my workouts down to a manageable 1 hour, 3-5 times a week. I began to listen to my body, taking rest days when both my mind and body needed it, and filling my body with healthy and wholesome foods until it was full. Now, after a workout, I feel generally happy in what I have achieved that day, simply because my motivation is coming from a more realistic and healthy source.

In effect, the pressure placed on the female body image is immense, particularly for teenagers. Because of this, it is easy to forget that exercise can be fun, and we often view it as a chore essential to looking a certain way. When I switched my motivational source from unrealistic, appearance-based goals to ensuring my mental and physical wellbeing, my whole outlook on myself, and life in general was transformed.

Essentially, exercise should be viewed as a release, a healthy and sustainable way of life. To view exercise as a chore, necessary for achieving unrealistic goals, is to deprive yourself of the full benefits that exercise has to offer.

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