Why your reasons for pursuing fitness matter.
When I began my career in fitness coaching 5 years ago, I didn’t know what I was in for.
I thought that because I had personally performed and studied physical exercise and nutrition my entire life, that adding a CPT cert to my credentials would be the one stepping stone between myself and a successful career full of spectacular client transformations.
I thought that through illustrating exercise technique to others I could help people transform their bodies.
The knowledge I have now has been purchased with grit, triumph and failure in the trenches of psychological warfare: you see, I originally thought my job was to “help people work out.”
I thought if I showed people the physical steps I took to change my body, they’d get the same results. But that’s like assuming putting the same fuel in a Maserati and a John Deere lawn mower will cause them to travel at the same speed. I was naive.
That’s not to say that one piece of equipment is inherently more “worthy” than the other- It’s to say that the less powerful piece of equipment must be rebuilt for its new purpose.
You see, I didn’t yet realize that my responsibility is to lead every single client I engage with through a massive transformation in their personal self-image.
…to lead them through a metamorphosis that will not only transform their body, but the fabric of their entire life.
To literally turn that John Deere into that Maserati, one piece at a time. That process starts with pulling the engine apart, which in this parable symbolizes the mind and soul: the places from which self-image emanates.
To change the body is to first change one’s self image. It’s an inside-out process. The way we look and carry ourselves is directly proportional to our internal beliefs about who we are, and what our identity is; Our decided identity, in turn, determines what we are capable of in our pursuits.
Perhaps some of you are nodding in assent. Perhaps some of you are not yet quite so honest with yourselves to swallow this horse pill. That very blind spot is where my role comes in: My main responsibility as a coach is to present you at every turn with accountability and truth. I am your mirror.
People often come into my studio very poorly motivated- Don’t misunderstand me here: I’m not saying they lack motivation, after all, they’ve shown up. I’m saying they literally have a crappy reason for getting in shape in the first place.
Such poor reasons may include: Feeling that one is not personally attractive enough to find a mate. They may struggle with frequent feelings of inadequacy in this new modern world where we are constantly surrounded by images of perfect bodies on social media. They may feel their spouse doesn’t look at them the way they used to.
Those who come in with these toxic points of motivation are often convinced that they will merely perform external physical exercises with their body to achieve an external muscular result in terms of a beautiful physique. On paper this seems a reasonable expectation; however when you look at how humans are motivated, it doesn’t stack up over time- We will come back to this point in a moment.
To give some counterpoint: Examples of healthy motives for getting in shape would be to achieve improved endurance and strength, to achieve a more attractive physique (in this case in the absence of harmful mental compulsions and perfectionism), longevity, improved sex-drive and sexual performance, and so on.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not wrong to start a fitness journey with a crappy reason- But it is absolutely essential to the sustainability of one’s fitness lifestyle that one’s motivation at some point make the transition from what psychologists call “extrinsic” motivation (being motivated by external result that is perceived as desirable, rather than personal enjoyment or well being from an activity) to “intrinsic” motivation (motivated by sincere feelings of joy and well-being received from an activity.)
Granted, having healthy motivation doesn’t mean you’re always going to jump at the chance to workout. However, you must at some point transition into enjoying the exercise that you do and the health it brings you in order for it to consistently stick in your routine.
Just to really overstate things here: IT’S OK DESIRE TO BE ATTRACTIVE, and to workout to achieve this goal. It’s not shallow. To belittle or criticize this universal desire is to belittle one’s own humanity.
Temper truth with truth by also accepting that while pursuing beauty is okay, pursuing it compulsively, obsessively, or perfectionistically is toxic.
The antidote is to learn to love our own physical idiosyncrasies that we see as imperfections.
We all experience some level of negative self-talk.
We all at times have treated ourselves poorly and practiced self-hatred, perfectionism, self-punishment, and shame: These are universal human experiences. Know that you are not alone.
As a fitness coach my job is to stoke the primal fires of passion, strength, and latent potential within you, and challenge you to break through every wall that has hedged you in- It’s my responsibility to do everything in my power to equip you to dismantle lies, shame, perfectionism, laziness- Anything that has held you back from health and physical wealth.
You ARE capable, and you ARE enough, and you WILL get there as long as you don’t quit.
When you experience the majestic power of your body and mind, their ability to heal, and your ability to change the fabric of your thought life and self-image; when you realize you have full power to set the bearing of your life with your daily decisions and discipline- Then you will be on a new and triumphant journey, and forever changed.
I’ll leave you with a timely excerpt from “Daring Greatly,” by author Brene Brown:
”Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move.
It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.
Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval.
Somewhere along the way we adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect.” Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle.
Perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement.
Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside of the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds.
Last, perfectionism is not a way to avoid shame. Perfectionism is a form of shame. Where we struggle with perfectionism, we struggle with shame.
Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.
Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because perfection doesn’t exist. It’s an unattainable goal. Perfectionism is more about the perception than internal motivation, and there is no way to control perception, no matter how much time and energy we spend trying.
Perfectionism is addictive, because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. Rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to look and do everything just right.”