Permission to be Unsexy at Least 100 Times a Day

Permission to be Unsexy At Least 100 Times a Day

There is tremendous freedom in caring a little bit less about what people think of you.

This morning I ran 20 minutes on an elliptical trainer. A few weeks ago, running for 60 seconds felt like a near impossibility. Then 90 seconds felt hard, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 8 minutes and now 20 minutes. They were all challenging until they weren’t.

I know it’s only 20 minutes and it’s only on an elliptical, and maybe that’s not as a sexy as a 5K or an ultramarathon. But to me, today, it feels super sexy.

I was going to wait to write about my running progress until I ran a 5K, and then I remembered this wonderful quote, “Big sexy dreams are only accomplished one tiny, very unsexy step at a time.”

A few of my many unsexy steps

  • Gasping for air during a 3 minute run.
  • Including the theme song from Rocky on my running list today.
  • Accidentally throwing my planner down the trash chute and then retrieving it from the dumpster.
  • Eating spinach for breakfast every morning.
  • Emailing an ultra-marathoner to celebrate my 8 minute run.
  • Bringing my own salad dressing out to dinner.
  • Jumping off the treadmill without my phone, with the earbuds still attached.
  • Laughing out loud in the dressing room when I had to buy a smaller pair of pants.
  • Pitching bad ideas that I thought were brilliant.
  • Developing good ideas and losing interest.
  • Falling asleep at 8pm.
  • Writing about my unsexy moments.

What aren’t you doing because you don’t think people will approve?

Do you want to go back to school, but wonder if people think you are wasting time and money?

Do you want to learn a new language, but think you will sound silly practicing?

Do you want to start a blog, but think no one will care what you have to say? (help for that coming next week!)

Do you want to eat healthier, but know your friends and family will think you are boring?

Do you want to try something new and different but are afraid people will think you can’t stick with anything.

Do you want to give away all of your stuff to discover what you what you really want, but are worried that your friends will think you are crazy?

Do you want to try a ballet class even though people might think you are too old to start?

Do you want to create a capsule wardrobe, but are afraid people will notice and think you are weird?

Do you want to live in a new country, quit your job, start a microbusiness, become a vegan, go to a new church, write a book, or run a marathon even though you can’t run around the block today?

What do you want?

It’s yours if you want it, no matter what anyone thinks, if you are willing to be unsexy at least 100 times a day.

Being unsexy means that you …

  • can laugh at yourself
  • will try things that people tell you are impossible
  • will try things that you think are impossible
  • ask for help and know that admitting weakness is a sign of strength
  • will care less about what people think
  • understand that you are fully responsible for the highs and lows
  • can stop trying to prove your worth

If we are driven by what other people think about us, we are frozen in a shell we create to give other people a better view. We can never be who we really are, who we want to be, or even do what we want to do. Instead we keep saying the right things, wearing the right shoes, and owning the right stuff.

It is possible to care about how other people feel without yielding to what they think. We need to stop selling a version of ourselves for more approval and start being who we are.

Give yourself permission to be unsexy, uncool, silly, confused, weird, daring and always curious.

It’s time to be you. What’s sexier than that?


  1. says

    Such a great piece! Even when taken quite literally in our society that teaches women and girls that we are sex objects…what if we dare to go without makeup and perfectly coiffed hair? Like my white roots that I just don’t have the time to fix right now and am finding they really aren’t bothering me all that much.

    I think it becomes easier to ignore what people think as you get older. At least it has for me. It started when I turned 30 and has gotten easier each and every year…

    • Courtney Carver says

      Love that Susie. The more we talk about it, the better chance people can consider the idea long before it started making sense to us.

    • Marla says

      Dare I admit that I have chosen not to dye my silvers as they come in? Sometimes I used to pretend to have “forgotten” to do it. But guess what? I’m a 40 something who actually likes being natural. That has lead to an acceptance (and lack of attempts to tame it with products and styling tools) of its new texture.

      Susie, I agree that 30 was a turning point for me.

      Courtney, amen to your article.

  2. says

    This is amazing. It’s being human at it’s most raw and authentic state. I’m growing up in different aspects away from worrying about what others think about what I do, what I wear, how I think, where I’m going, etc. thank you for sharing this. It’s a nice reminder knowing it’s ok to be our unsexy selves outside of the perfect image we like to create.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Thanks Mariel. It’s great to learn that our imperfections are what make us who we really are so when we share them, we can connect with the best people.

  3. says

    I love this post! This past year of writing and working toward publishing my novel has been about the most unsexy process ever. Doubt, fear, big ugly cries, lost showers…it’s all been a part of the journey. And you know what, those unsexy times have paved a trail for some really sexy moments: my cover reveal, having people read my work and like it. I’m so glad I dared to be unsexy, even though I didn’t even know that was what I was doing.

  4. says

    20 minutes!! Whoop good for you!

    Thank you for writing about your baby steps on the elliptical trainer. You inspired me to get up and moving. I figured if you could do it, so could I. Today I jogged for 5 whole minutes. That may not seem that long, but for me it is huge! When I started I could only manage 1 minute. Now I can do five whole minutes!

    I aiming for 30 minutes! I will increase my jogging time 30 seconds each week and there will be plenty of unsexy moments as I huff and wheeze my way to my goal.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Awesome Sharon. I am using an app called C25K that is really helping me train gradually.

  5. says

    This is probably one of my favorite posts Courtney! My unsexy moments: dropping a cupcake on the floor (I was very sad), putting pajama pants and an old t-shirt on as soon as I get home, super silly dancing with my little man in the living room, spilling a drink in my purse and using a plastic bag as a makeshift wallet. I think we should all embrace the unsexy in our lives so much more than we do!

  6. Alexandra says

    Im usually creeping around here reading and staying quiet but THIS was everything I needed today. Thank YOU!

  7. says

    I agree with Susie’s comment above that it seems to be easier with age. I think with experience we learn a few things:

    – that other people really don’t care as much about what we’re doing as we think they do.
    – that even when they do care, most of the time they still love/like love us just as much.
    – if they don’t, they aren’t the kind of people we need in our lives.

    • says

      My favourite quote is from Dr. Seuss:

      Be who you are, and
      Say what you feel, because
      Those who matter, don’t mind…
      and those who mind, don’t matter.

      Thank you Courtney for sharing what matters to you so we can all remember to recognize what matters most to us.

  8. Stephanie says

    I just discovered your blog and I’m loving it!
    I recognize what you write in this blog.
    Over the last 20 years I started running many times. But I also stopped again because of all those unsexy little steps. I was afraid what other people might think.
    Now I don’t care about the opinion of others anymore. I realized this a few weeks ago.
    A few weeks back a teenager was biking by and slapped me on my but.
    Instead of becoming angry I thanked him for his encouragement!
    He didn’t know how to react. But I had my best workout.
    I’m usually the slowest runner on my block. But now I don’t care. I just love being outdoors and feel my body move.
    Thank you for sharing your great insights. I’m looking forward to read your next post.
    Greetings from Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  9. janey says

    I studied Karate for several years, and aside from the meditative aspects and the [endless] quest for perfection, I found that it’s impossible to be self conscious and to take yourself too seriously when you’re sweaty, exhausted and have just been knocked on your a** by either an incredibly gorgeous guy or a woman half your size…

  10. says

    I love this, Courtney. Thank you! :) I especially like “It is possible to care about how other people feel without yielding to what they think.” That’s been sitting on the edges of my mind lately but you said it so clearly. I’m thinking that being a bit weird gives other people a permission slip to do their weird stuff too. It’s fun being uncool and growing like crazy! Love the daffodil photo.

  11. caroline says

    I want to work less, quit my flexible, well-paying with great government job, reclaim my time, enjoy life, develop myself (reflexions, relationships, health), cook, travel, learn, write a successful blog, be outdoors, laugh and share…
    But I’m scared to run out of money (even though my debts paid and I have my emergency fund (1000+3months worth of salary)… and I’m scared to deceive.. but mostly lack money… :s

  12. says

    Hum… Got many of those… Most recently I annoounced I would run a marathon… Only to find out weeks later that my body won’t let me… Had to announce that….
    The unsexy moment I am hoping for is the day I stop dying my hair… It os super short… And mostly grey amd white even thus I am only 41… Really really can’t stand dying it cause it is almost the only unhealthy thing I am doing to my body… But won’t stop because I am afraid of what people will say… Afraid of looking 10 years older… Afraid of…
    Thanks Courtney for this lovely post as always…

  13. says

    This was very motivational and rather timely! I’ve just recently started my own blog after wanting to do it for so long. I’ve always been worried about what people will think and if anyone will find what I have to say intersting. But in the end I decided I just have to do it for myself, if anyone else enjoys it then that’s a bonus :)

  14. cheryl says

    Some of my recent unsexy moments:
    * wearing two pigtails in the front of my head on a walk through the neighborhood because my toddler wanted mama to match her
    * deciding to stay two fewer days on vacation with extended family–even though we were tempted to stretch it–because staying longer was out of our budget
    * taking more than 3 months to work through courtney’s (excellent) microbusiness course because I can only grab 15 minutes at a time right now
    * high-fiving my husband with great, sincere joy when we successfully packed all our lunches for the week on sunday night

  15. Matthew says

    I’m already an expert on being unsexy; just ask my wife. Taking voice lessons, announcing I signed up for a marathon (being 275 pounds at the time), and deciding to homeschool our kids resulted in unsexy moments too numerous to mention.

    In the future, I hope to be unsexy completing a 24-hour run and learning an instrument–oboe or accordion…I haven’t decided yet.

  16. says

    I did just that this month. I chucked in my soap making business and have started painting abstracts. It feels so new, so fresh,so wonderful.

  17. Tonya Magonigal says

    Thanks for sharing! I have been doing a lot of unsexy things the last few years. I let my hair go naturally gray, no more dying, I don’t pluck my eyebrows cause I hate it, I just pluck a little to keep them neat. I lost 70 pounds. I went back to college at 45 and got a degree and had a 3.8 GPA at the end. I just got a full time job that I love, when women my age want to quit working. It has been great for me and helped me to blossom in new ways. My husband and I are totally out of debt and bought our dream house 8 months ago. Life is fantastic as I know it.

  18. says

    Awesome job on your running progress, that’s something to be really proud of! I am currently almost 9 months pregnant so feeling unsexy is my status quo at the moment… However, I have found that one of the strangest things is that it’s often those things that are best for us and the environment that appear at first glance to be the least stereotypically sexy. For example, picking up litter while out walking the dog (and toddler). At first glance, it seems terribly ‘unsexy’ until you turn it around. Yes, this person may be wearing gloves, hauling a rubbish bag and are possibly a touch sweaty. But, they are also clearly interested in staying fit and healthy, looking after their environment and contributing to their community. Sounds pretty sexy to me!

  19. says

    unfortunately many of us don’t realize how we live our entire lives according to what other people think of us. These thoughts are so insidous and creep into every area of our lives. I am so saddened by it and I am afraid I will not be able to break out of this prison I feel I don’t have to be in and yet I do. I think perhaps if I moved from here and start fresh with people who never knew me and couldn’t compare me to my former self, it would be easier. I am not sure I would do many things differently, but my home would be different for example, I would spend a lot less on things I don’t necessarily need and I would look very different. I am one of those who know exactly what I would do differently and think about this every day and it gets to me, yet I feel it’s like a prison I can’t get out of. Just a small example is that I have recently moved and I still need a few items in my home. I have bulbs but I haven’t bought lamps, light fixtures yet. But I have noticed that the bulbs I have are perfectly enough, who needs lamps, I most certainly don’t… But they don’t look so fine, and everyone has lamps and people will come visit……….this is how we live and this is how we come to buy things we don’t need. We would all be minimalists if we listened to our true selves.

  20. says

    Unsexy is so sexy. I love your blog. Let’s see…today I thought that I can’t think of a recent day I was sans ski cap, I decided to skip my workout- I always go, go, go. I ate the kids leftover berries even after chasing the puppy away from them- he may have licked them but they’re organic and expensive- and he licks me so what’s the difference. I could go on but really look forward to poking more around your blog.

  21. says

    Amen and Wahoo! I am so glad that being weird is considered “normal”. For me I embrace my weirdness,geeky,nerdy self and just enjoy going against the norm of being a vegan in a mainly meat centered world. Thanks so much for an awesome post.

  22. Mitch Lewis says

    When I get up on Saturday mornings I put on my paint-spattered shorts and saggy blue singlet that shows a bit too much of my saggy top half because it puts me in the mood for gettin’ stuff done. And with every item I tick off the list I feel a bit more George Clooney. These posts of yours are great, simple but effective. Can only speak for myself, but they’re excellent inspiration for somebody who has woken up and realises he has to cut out all the baggage of life.

  23. says

    I think I’m one of the lucky few for my age who didn’t give a crap about what people think. At least I didn’t let it affect me, and I stayed true to my authentic self. I already know there are people frowning upon me deciding to become a blogger, but I couldn’t care less. If I feel this is what I want to do, then you can be sure I’m going to do it. And I’m going to do it well.

    Awesome article, I love the way you write about being unsexy!

  24. says

    My unsexy moment-leaving a job I couldn’t stand anymore, all my friends, family and town I had lived in for the last 33 years, packing up everything I needed in my Honda Civic, and starting over in a new town where I knew no one!!! Now I wonder why I didn’t do it 10 years earlier!!!

  25. says

    I don’t know about anyone else, but this was probably one of the sexiest blog posts I’ve ever read. :) Real is sexy.

  26. says

    I guess I have been unsexy for a long time! I just turned 60, no make up ! Never have I died my hair! It is to my waist and a wonderful combo of silver and chestnut! I have my own small business, a website, and a partner who loves me JUST how I am!
    Loving your blog!!!

  27. says

    Spreadsheets, Courtney. Spreadsheets. What’s unsexier than a glorious, black and white spreadsheet? To many people, nothing. To me? Well, spreadsheets are my lifeline. And I smile every time I build on one of my own or get one from someone else.

  28. says

    Courtney, I LOVE this! I recently wrote in my summer goodness list that I was laughing at myself in a new fitness class I’m doing. I laugh because I fall behind instructions, or lose my balance. I no longer am pushing to be perfect and athletic, but rather just having fun. I seem to giggle in every single class and the friends I’ve made are smiling along with me. It’s a wonderful freedom. And congratulations to you on the outcomes of your unsexy moments!

  29. Renee s says

    Just found your blog and I am so happy that I did! It is a breath of fresh air and I can’t wait to read EVERYTHING. :) Thank you!

  30. Julia says

    Thank you for this! Love that you cover mental minimalism. I physically don’t own much, but need help with clearing out my mind.

  31. Rose says

    On my desk is the saying “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail” for years I have looked at that and in my head the answer always was I would quit drinking. Today is day 22 that I have not had a glass of wine. Go me. I think that is “sexy”. I am 58, we are raising two teenage grandsons and there is nothing “sexy” about me. :-)

  32. emma says

    Just love this post!!
    Heres my list of unsexy moments that I that when I embraced I realised I was embracing me!!!
    Not dying my grey like everyone else even though I have a lot and I am only 39. I am being true to my desire for simple natural beauty
    writing poetry rather than being social.I have now published a whole book. I have gone back to university and sit up the front and study hard. I love giving myself permission to being a nerd. I didnt allow these things when I was at school as I wanted to be thought of as cool.LOL!!
    hugs and love

  33. says

    Hello! Here is my list… I have stopped dying my hair and gone back toy natural grey color at 41! My hair is about 1″ long all over and color is much more grey than anything else. Abd I do not wear make up! Moved from Montreal with a 60K job to Moncton with the hope to get a 24K job as a barista at Starbucks… My dream job! We can eat off about a list of 20 meals all year round. I love to cook… But I love using the same recipe that are simple and inexpensive as well as vegan.
    This is how I live withy husband and son who’s dad his still back in Montreal ( it was his choice to move with us).