I may technically be a personal trainer but sometimes I feel more like a psychologist. And not in the way you’d probably think. Yes, I get my fair share of clients having a little moan about their lives. But that’s not the bigger issue here. People simply love to complain, sometimes I feel like it’s part of what makes us human. I mean, it’s actually proven that you bond more with people who share the same dislikes. Especially when that dislike is another person. Whinging about stuff is natural. It might not always be good for you, but it’s natural.
No, what I’m talking about here is self esteem. Almost every person who ends on the sofa with me for a consultation suffers from the same thing: the dreaded Low Self Esteem. It’s heartbreaking for me to sit opposite a girl of eighteen or nineteen telling me that she wants to lose weight because she doesn’t feel comfortable in a bikini, or that she can’t go shopping with her friends because she doesn’t look good in the clothes. She may be telling me that the problem is her figure, but if you read between the lines what she’s really saying is “I don’t feel good about myself” and that absolutely sucks.
So what is self esteem? It’s more or less how we feel about ourselves. Merriam Webster.com describes it as a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities, which doesn’t mean thinking “I’m the best at everything and also the most beautiful” but it does mean feeling comfortable with yourself even if you aren’t the best at everything (or the most beautiful). It’s accepting yourself, warts and all, and knowing that you deserve good things and you aren’t a complete failure of a human being. Self esteem is failing an exam and not thinking “I’m stupid, I should just give up on studying” but instead thinking “I’m a fallible human being, just like everyone else, and I’ll just have to study harder next time”. With the latter approach, it is easier to move on with our lives and focus on improving ourselves, we’ll be more likely to have a go at something difficult, challenge ourselves and become comfortable with the fear of failure.
So how does this relate to the gym? Well, let me ask you this: what’s the one thing that will stop my clients from seeing success in the gym? It’s not lack of skill or knowledge because that’s what I’m there for. It’s not injury. It’s not being busy or stressed out or tired or inconvenienced. All of these things can be worked around. The one thing that stops people from actually achieving their goals is that moment where they decide they’re not going to pursue them anymore. They may disguise this with something along the lines of “I’m just really busy at work/I don’t have the time and can’t make it into the gym” or “I’ve injured myself so I’m going to take some time off”. But in reality, we make time for the things that are important. People still make it into the gym even when they work 50-60 hours a week (I myself was one of those people once) and most of the time, injuries can be worked around. After the acute stage, it’s generally a good idea to be moving. I’ve seen people hopping around the gym on crutches with moonboots and casts. What’s actually happened is these people have put change into the Too Hard basket and labeled it as being “too busy” or “not good at squats”. Self fulfilling prophecy – if you feel (deep down inside) that you’re always going to be overweight and unhappy, unfortunately you always will be. Change comes when you decide you deserve to be happy and understand that you have to move away from your comfort zone.
Training at the gym can actually be a really useful tool for improving your self esteem. For one thing, exercise gives you endorphins. Feeling positive helps. If you can feel more positive in general, you’re more likely to feel more positive about yourself. You’re always going to feel better when you’re looking after your body, it can give you goals to focus on and help you to feel like what you do has meaning and purpose. Another thing is it’s actually quite easy to be successful in the gym, if you apply a stress to your body then you will get an adaptation. It’s science. So why not make the most of those successes and celebrate the fact that you’re stronger/faster/slimmer than you were when you started? People with low self esteem are more likely to write successes off as good luck, chance, etc. But it’s hard to say that about something you have worked for. Allow yourself to feel good about what you’ve accomplished.
Self esteem is a byproduct of living well. And funnily enough, so is being fit and having a sexy gym bod. The more you look after yourself, the better you feel about yourself. And the better you feel about yourself the less you will care about your exterior appearance. So don’t give up on your goals, just because you feel like it’s too hard and you can’t achieve them. I promise that you can. And by standing up and saying “I deserve this – I deserve to feel good about myself” you’re already one step ahead of the game.
As always, this post is entirely my own opinion and I do not represent anyone or anything.