Last week in the UK The Times newspaper ran a story based on a study that found over half of all British woman have done no vigorous exercise in the last 12 months.
If you’re a female, it’s hardly headline news.
For over 30 years I’ve long experienced the barriers woman face when it comes to exercise.
Complicated and multi-faceted – it involves things like role modelling, gender, opportunity, socio-economics and your location, whilst at a more micro level things like attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and motivations ALL influence a woman’s pathway onto a mat, tennis court, football pitch or whatever.
Whilst I would gladly pick any of these to look at in more depth, for this blog post I wanted to keep it related to what I’m seeing and experiencing as a teacher so I’m going to write about one of the BIGGEST reasons I see woman holding themselves back from taking action with their own health and wellbeing.
And it’s the increasing belief that woman think everything has to be perfect before they can start.
They will often look for the perfect time (by this I mean both season of life AND duration), the perfect place, the perfect athleticwear, the perfect routine, the perfect equipment.
So they wait and wait and wait, working towards getting everything lined up in the correct order before they start, meaning they very rarely do.
This is something psychologists call ‘sequencing’ and it’s the idea that you can’t take action on one thing, until the thing before is done or in place.
This type of thinking is perfectionism in action and is a hallmark of procrastination.
From perfectionism to hyper perfectionism
But why are we procrastinating so much?
In 2001 I submitted my Honours dissertation which was called “The Body Beautiful: Media Representations of the Female Body as ‘closed perfection.’
It looked at the increasing rise of consumerism and the commodification of being ‘feminine’ in a post modern world and undertook a visual and textual analysis of over 200 woman’s weekly and monthly magazines ranging from the 1940s all the way through to 2000.
It concluded that the print media was heavily responsible for perpetuating and upholding idealized and unattainable visions of what it meant to be a woman whilst all out rejecting any notion of what culturally philosopher, Mikhail Bakhtin, called the ‘grotesque’ female form.
I was awarded a First for it and I can easily still draw parallels to that piece of work and what I see happening in the online space of today.
Nowadays, we are becoming subject to what I call hyper levels of idealism / perfectionism in our everyday lives through mediums like Instagram and open access to well meaning ‘influencers.’
From routines to rituals, to workouts and wardrobes, holidays, homes, hair, food, fun, even our coffees are being highly idealized (how many ‘perfect’ iced coffee pours have you seen on instgram this summer?!).
And whilst use of the hashtag #BodyPositivity is on the rise and campaigns like Sport Englands #ThisGirlCan have to be applauded for the ground breaking work they’ve done around all of the big barriers to exercise and sport for woman, as a publicly funded body, it’s hard to keep up momentum against the 80 million+ images that are uploaded to Instagram every single day.
Why embracing imperfect living sets you free to take action and make progress
There is no doubt that, online, pilates has a “look.” There is even the phrase “pilates body” to denote a recognisable link between the method and what your body ‘should’ look like. The problem with this is, there is no such thing as a ‘pilates body’ only the perception of what you are fed, it lacks depth as to the true functional benefits of the method, especially as you age, and it also turns down the volume on the all important unseen benefits you stand to reap from a consistent pilates practice (you can ready what they are in this blog post).
Day in and day out we are fed image after image of the ‘perfect’ workout. From the athletic wear, to the environment, to honed and toned midriffs, to the exercise method itself and what’s happening in the process is that we are not giving woman a license to do it their own way; a way that gives them a starting point, a way that truly fits with where they are in their life right now; a way that not only shows them how to do it all imperfectly but that it’s MORE than ok to do it that way.
This, to me, is becoming one of the greatest barriers of our modern day age when it comes to women taking up any form of exercise – vigorous or not.
What my dissertation proved all those years ago seems more relevant than ever – our bodies and our everyday living are becoming a highly idealized, commodified and pretty much unattainable vision for the vast majority of us and it’s becoming an increasingly more challenge hurdle for woman to cross meaning we all too often take no action.
But your health is the best and most worthwhile asset you will ever own and you CAN take imperfect action on it to help you live your healthiest life by starting right now – where you are, with the resources you have now, with the clothes you have and with the time you have be it 5 minutes or 50.
In fact, after orbiting the sun for over 40 years, my biggest life lesson is that there is NO other way to do life other than to do it imperfectly because:
Imperfect living is KINDER
Imperfect living is REALISTIC
Imperfect living is MORE DEPENDABLE
Imperfect living helps us to MOVE FORWARD in our life instead of the perfect way always holding us back and creating tension in our life (and in our body).
The Lifetonic Club was born to help woman break away from perfectionist thinking and find freedom in embracing the imperfect in all areas of their life.
Always remember that you are a fully fallible, complex, brilliant and imperfect human. So today, count all of the ways you’re doing things imperfectly then celebrate the fact that you’re doing life just right. Your life is not an Instagram feed.
Sending TLC to wherever you are in the world
Join over 1000+ others who have already taken my FREE 21 Days of Pilates Challenge. 10 minutes a day for 21 days it includes Healthy Backs, Pilates for Posture and Pilates at your Desk.
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