Contributed by RWF Gym member Sam de la Bertauche
“Enjoy your body, Use it every way you can… Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own…” — Baz Luhrman — Sunscreen
Embracing the adventure of improving your body is one of the best things that you can do with your time.
This message is reiterated every January as millions of people use the beginning of a new year as an opportunity to start a fresh and improve their lives. Many will join a new gym, start running, begin an exercise routine, or even just start to walk more.
What do we do though when our motivation wanes, and worst still, when those in our lives do not offer us the support that we deserve?
After all, there is only so much motivation that we can absorb from our personal trainer or motivational quotes. Even a well written and thoroughly thought out article may only provide a temporary reprieve. What we seek, and what we believe we need, is the support of our family and closest friends.
It would be easy for someone to offer one sentence of advice. I could simply say, their opinion doesn’t matter, you should do it for yourself.
The problem with that is that it’s far too simplistic, and not nearly sincere enough. We are complex, emotional people and it takes extreme bravery, self-confidence, and years of working on yourself to reach a point in our lives where we are open to living our freest lives without the need for validation and judgement from others — it’s even tougher to be free from those bounds are the opinions and thoughts of our family members.
So what can I advise to those who are struggling to receive the appropriate support from their loved ones? Let’s have a look.
Understand just how important it is
The first step in dealing with this dilemma is understanding just how important it is to look after your body and to continue on this fitness journey.
The biggest motivation to care for your body is to understand what it would mean to not care for your body.
It means losing your breath at the top of the stairs.
It means aching every time you get up.
It means not being able to play with your children.
It means a higher risk of catching illness and disease.
It means not liking the person you see in the mirror.
It means a higher chance of dying younger.
There is irrefutable evidence that staying fit and healthy, and specifically weight training, improves your mental and physical health as you grow older. The important thing to remember is that your fitness, to a large degree, is within your own control.
Ultimately, we can be whoever we want to be. If you offered anyone the chance to be able to instantly have whatever body they desire, they’d snap it up in a heartbeat. The problem is, rarely do people want to put in the effort to make it happen.
Your body is the most valuable tool you will ever have, and you only get one of them. You look after your car and ensure it is clean and tidy, you make sure it is well maintained and serviced regularly. If not, you pay the price of breakdowns and the inconvenience that causes. Why do we do this? Because it is an important tool and it is valuable to us.
So why do we do not put more emphasis on looking after our bodies? The older you get, and the more damage is done, the harder it is to repair the damage. Ultimately, it will reach a point where your body is beyond repair. Will you look back and regret the chances you had to look after it?
Who you are doing it for?
Ask yourself this whenever you feel under pressure to explain yourself.
Are you wanting to get fitter and healthier for other people, or are you doing it for yourself?
Ultimately, the answer should be for yourself. You should be on this journey to improve your life, to make yourself happy.
It is far too short of a life to be worrying about what other people think.
A good exercise to do here is to review the situation from a third person’s perspective, or imagine you are advising a close friend on the same problem. What would you tell them?
Instead of trying to rationalise with yourself why a family member would be pressuring you into not spending enough time with them, and instead you are making yourself healthier and fitter, switch it around.
Imagine the following: a friend comes to you and explains that they’d be working really hard lately to get fit and healthy, and that they had lost weight and were feeling great about themselves — but you see a sadness in their eye. You ask what’s up, and they explain that whilst they’ve been doing great their partner hasn’t complimented them. In fact their partner thinks they should quit the gym completely and stop all this working out.
How would you react?
There are moments in your life when you must be selfish. You are after all, the main character in your story. Should you not embrace the starring role you will forever be resigned to the side-lines, an extra in someone else’s movie.
You are either at cause or at effect. If you are at cause, you make things happen. You grab life by the scruff of the neck and you take responsibility for your life. If you are at effect, life happens to you. You are always the victim because you are always the afterthought. Instead of going after what you want, you sit by until something happens to you.
Your health needs to be your priority. Do it for yourself because no one else is going to.
Understand why they say what they say.
So why do the people in life not encourage you? Why do they actively seem interested in derailing your efforts and sabotaging your progress?
Why do people scoff at you when you refuse to eat unhealthily? Why do they scoff at you if you tell them you aren’t drinking? Why do they tell you you’re boring for working out?
It’s important to understand that these people are being selfish. But it’s even more important to understand that their selfishness is not coming from a desire to hurt you. Whenever someone acts, no matter how odd or wrong it may seem, they act with the best possible intentions based on their own internal representations.
With regards to family members who sabotage your fitness goals, their judgement and actions are clouded by their insecurity, their fear, and simply not knowing any better.
We all have a natural defence mechanism to not be alone, and to not lose those who we care for. Whilst it may seem selfish in nature, these people have a deep insecurity that you getting better means a) you are better than them and b) you may leave because of it.
This insecurity and fear are consequently linked in many ways. Not only are they subconsciously afraid for themselves should you leave, but you getting better is also a reflection of how afraid they are of who they are. They lack the discipline and control to do what you are doing, and that scares them and makes them feel vulnerable.
Why do so many people seemingly hate successful people? Sure we put it down to “arrogance” or some other fickle quality that we’ve read somewhere, but the truth is they show us what is possible with hard work and commitment.
One of the scariest things for me would be to see the version of myself that worked harder and smarter and braver. How would you react if you saw that version of yourself? Your natural reaction would be to make excuses. “Yeah, but you missed out on x, y and z”.
We all have an image of how we wish we were. The truth is, we can all achieve that image. What most of us lack is the motivation and determination to follow it through.
You want to be brave, lean, and kind? Next time a situation arises when you need to be brave, try it. Start a diet. Practice being wholesome and kind today.
We must also understand that not everyone has had the same education as us. It may be obvious to most of us that eating a load of sugary food is bad, and sitting down all day watching TV is bad, and drinking alcohol is bad – but some of us do not see it so clearly.
Some of us have grown up with it. Maybe we grew up eating snacks. Maybe our parents didn’t push us into sports. Maybe they just didn’t know any better?
So we can blame them? Of course not. They would argue that they themselves knew no better, and they acted as their parents taught them.
The buck needs to stop somewhere, and it’s time that someone (you) took responsibility and made a difference.
What to do now
This may be the hardest section for some of you to digest.
The person with the most choices has the most control over a situation. As such I will lay out three scenarios that I can see:
First, you could continue as you are going and pay too much attention to those around you. Your progress will falter and invariable you will slip out of your healthy routine. You will hold this against your family member(s) or friends for a long time, but nothing will change. The next generation will grow up the same. Whenever they strive to be more, they will not be met with the respect and support that they deserve and nothing will change.
Second, you remove them from having a close connection to your life. This could be seen as the nuclear option, but in most cases it will be the most beneficial to not only your health, but your life. You must understand your own self-worth. Birds of a feather, flock together. You must surround yourself with like-minded people who encourage you to grow as a human being – or even people at a level far above you who want to drag you UP. If you allow yourself to be dragged down by people who are unable to encourage you, and who actively try to bring you down, you will never reach your potential. I appreciate this option sounds rash, it’s meant to. When I read this, I’m not thinking of their feelings or their lives, I’m thinking of yours. I can be selfish for you, and you can choose how to react to it. It is tough when these people are your family members.
Third, you realise your self-worth and fight on. I’m not here to encourage you to leave your family or change all your friends. You must reach a point in your life where you are not restricted by those around you. You must communicate your feelings and objections to them and explain that you are doing what is best for you, and that they must either change their behaviour or risk losing you regardless. If someone cares for you enough, they will change their behaviour. If their stubbornness and inability to see your needs blocks this, then you already know what to do.
We get one life. Don’t live it catering to other people’s insecurities. You are the main character of your story, and unless you step up and start taking responsibility for yourself and your life, you’ll always be a subplot.