Exercise and Self Esteem

Exercise and Self Esteem

Today while I was walking through the purple doors of my local Planet Fitness, I was SO angry. I was pissed off at the world, stressed with school, and frustrated with x, y, and z. But, as I placed the barbell on my shoulders and dove deep into a squat, the weight of the world was replaced by the weight of the barbell.

This is why I go to the gym every day. It is my outlet and my release. The real world is hard but my endorphins work harder, running wild during my workout. And when I exit those very same purple doors, I am a new person. Happier, less stressed, relieved.

“Ew, you exercise? Every day?”

Yes, I do actually. (Well, most days, anyway). But I don’t do it solely to improve my outward physical appearance; the fact that exercise improves overall body composition is just an added bonus. However, I exercise daily in order to improve myself inwardly (boosting my self-esteem, improving my mood, and relieving myself from daily stressors).

When people think about exercise, their immediate thoughts are usually negative. “I hate exercise” or “Running makes me feel like I am going to die”. These are common complaints I hear almost every day. But in reality, exercise does not have to be running or weightlifting. Exercise is any type of movement such as walking, dancing, Zumba, running, weight training, etc. And any movement is good for your self-esteem, self-love, and self-confidence. Let me tell you why.

What Happens In Your Brain?

When you engage in physical activity, numerous things happen in your brain. Your levels of Serotonin (the mood influencers, and controllers of impulsivity), Norepinephrine (in charge of amplifying signals that influence attention, perception, motivation, and arousal), and Dopamine (reward and motivation) all become raised and balanced after a certain period of time. Which is why if you are new to exercise, you still hate it after you are done with your first workout. This is also why people tend to give up on staying active very easily. After engaging in physical activity for a routine period of time, the chemicals in your body increase on a general level. This causes your Dopamine and Serotonin levels to remain higher throughout the day and leads to more constant positive feelings and more stable levels. However, if one were to quit exercising, the levels would return back to normal. Lastly, BDNF’s or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factors encourage the synapses in your brain to talk to each other and create new connections as well as develop nervous tissue in the brain. Pretty cool, huh?

How Will It Change How You Feel?

Physically, it will take about a month for you to notice a change in your body, however, after just two weeks you will notice a significant increase in your mood. This will lead you to feel better about yourself mentally because of the higher endorphin levels on average. After about four weeks of routine exercise, you will start to notice physical changes in your appearance and also begin to feel more emotionally positive about yourself leading to increases in self-esteem. After eight weeks, other people will begin to notice that you are changing emotionally, mentally, and physically.

You will begin to see yourself in a more positive light once you begin to feel and notice these changes. You will begin to think of yourself differently and you may notice an increase in confidence. Perhaps others will notice this change as well.

 

Please remember that compliments from others will help boost your self-esteem,

but those compliments are not long lasting. You must truly love yourself;

find that love from within, not from the outside.

 

People will begin to tell you how different you look and that you look happier and more energetic. They may also tell you that you were just fine the way you used to be. Or, that you shouldn't have to change the way you live to love yourself. Remember that their opinions about you and your journey do not matter.

Important Things To Remember

The first few weeks will be difficult and you may feel like giving up. You will be sore and tired and maybe even feel worse than you did before you started exercising. But please, do not give up. Push through because after that second week, you will start to feel the changes happening and then after the fourth week you will see those changes.

Try to find the right fit for you. If you hate running, don’t run! There are so many different forms of exercise such as weight lifting, yoga, dance, pilates, etc. Find the right fit for you.

Lastly, this is your journey and no one else's. It is full of self-discovery, excitement, and accomplishments but you may regress sometimes, and that is totally okay. None of us are perfect and you must not try to hold yourself to that standard. If you make a mistake, apologize to yourself and move on. It will be difficult and you will experience ups and downs, but the end goal is totally worth it.