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the pressure to look perfect in public


Today my father told me he wanted to walk to our local café for coffee.

We’ve both been walking a lot more recently because my parents have downsized to one car and, as my mum is still working, she has the car the vast majority of the time. I thought it would take the both of us a little while to adjust, but we’ve done pretty well so far. My dad freely admits he’s a very sedentary person, so not having a car has forced him to walk places he used to drive. He’s enjoying the exercise and is amazed by what you can see when you don’t have to concentrate on driving or whizzing past something. We’ve had some awesome conversations about our neighbourhood and how it’s going. We’re both lucky in that we can do this and don’t have any medical or physical conditions that prevent us from doing so.

I was already in my exercise clothes because I’d planned to go for a walk on the treadmill at home later in the day, but I had a moment of panic. I was about to go out in PUBLIC, wearing these clothes, with a sports bra and unwashed, extremely greasy/sweaty hair? Unshaven legs and underarms, no makeup, and visible pimples and oil on my face?

Hell, at least I remembered to clean my teeth.

When I exercise, it’s in the privacy of my own home. I’m getting much better at not freaking out if someone happens to come across me exercising on the treadmill, but I still have that internal AHHHHHHHH feeling if I’m going to exercise in public. Part of it is being a woman and being hyper aware of her surroundings, but if I’m being completely honest, it’s mostly because of my vanity.

But this wasn’t even an exercise situation! This was a spontaneous, let’s go for coffee, no Sonya I will not wait while you wash your hair and put makeup on situation. Being a lifelong caffeine addict, there was no chance I wasn’t going (also, he wouldn’t bring me back coffee anyway, CURSE HIM). So, I sucked it up and went.

I felt self-conscious the entire time. I tried to pretend I was like one of those women in the Lorna Jane ads, all sporty, matchy matchy and fresh, and then realised, yeah, not so much. My stretched out chesty and shorts weren’t winning any sports fashion parades.

I know it doesn’t matter. I’ve TALKED about how it doesn’t matter. I know I should practice what I preach, but I’m only human and will have setbacks.

I’ve spoken before about how makeup can be armour – well, so can washed hair and clothes that aren’t bummy exercise clothes – you know, ‘proper’ clothes. It’s hard to pry yourself out of your comfort zone (or discomfort zone as the case may be). I’m glad I went and challenged myself and my perceptions of being seen as a lazy and sloppy fatty, but I reckon I’ve got a very long way to go before I’m comfortable enough to be seen in those clothes again, without it being during exercise times.

(Image Credit)

2 thoughts on “the pressure to look perfect in public

  1. I’ve been so happy since I haven’t been so afraid to leave the house in exercise gear. I have bad feet, and feel 5 times better when I’m wearing my sneakers and orthotics compared to any other shoes. It took some getting used to, but I’m not embarrassed anymore. It’s such a silly thing – that fear of appearing as the ‘sloppy fat woman’. Like when I get oinked at or woofed at when riding my bike, I think, ‘HEY! I’m exercising! Shouldn’t you be happy that I might eventually be acceptable to talk to?’ (but probably won’t).

  2. I know! Pretty much every woman will get yelled at when they’re outside, exercising or not, but it seems that whenever a fat woman is outside exercising, they’re the ones who get the worst derogatory comments. I remember being so confused and thinking, “But .. I’m exercising? Isn’t that what you WANT me to do??” and then realising it’s not about that.

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