From the moment we get up until the end of the day, most people are in a constant cycle of beating themselves up. Whether it’s weight, kids, partners or career, we are burdened by self-expectation. Why do we do this to ourselves and what strategies can we put in place to give ourselves a break from the constant onslaught?
Working in the fitness industry for the last 20 years, I’ve spent my fair share of time comparing myself to other people and feeling at times like I didn’t measure up. I’m still doing it. Despite my ‘success’ in the industry, it’s an industry dominated by looks, body image, physical strength and endless motivation that makes it feel like everyone is constantly on top of the world. I know this isn’t the case, but I can’t deny there are times I want change in my life but can’t understand what is stopping me from making the needed changes.
There are three aspects of ‘self’ that can positively or negatively affect your life potential, and that sit under the term ‘self-concept’. The idea relates to how you think about, evaluate or perceive yourself. It is your value system, according to the attitudes and opinions that you’ve developed from early childhood right through to the present moment.
Your self-concept is the command center that sits central to performance and governs your productivity. All the changes that appear in your outer world begin with changes in your inner world. That inner world has the following aspects that contribute to ‘mental fitness’:
- Self-Idea: is what you want in life. It is a summary of your hopes, dreams, ideals and goals, and stems from your desire to be more in the future.
- Self-Image: is how you think you are viewed by others. This is usually guided and dictated by how you perceive you are being treated on a day-to-day basis. When you receive positive feedback, it’s typical that your self-image will improve.
- Self-Esteem: is how much you like yourself. People with better self-esteem typically set bigger goals, have higher standards and become better team players as a result. You need a healthy dose of self-esteem if you want to perform better at work, in relationships and in life. It removes the environment of fear, rejection and failure that stops you from moving forward.
There are two very different paths to improving self-concept. The first is one of autonomy. Depending on personality type, the autonomous person strives to seek recognition as an individual for the things they do, say, or for how they behave. We all know the people in our lives who recognize exactly who they are and where they’re going, simply because they exude confidence in their journey and display success in multiple areas of life.
The second would be a path of dependency. It is a part of our human nature to want to belong to something. There are an increasing number of studies relating to the rewards associated with being part of a ‘tribe’. The sense of connectivity and shared ownership of a thinking process lets us know we aren’t alone and have people around us who think and feel the same way we do. It’s comforting and provides emotional support.
Both methods may be equally valuable in improving self-esteem and overall self-concept, but what can we do if we feel like we’re stuck in a fail cycle that we can’t get out of?
Most of us who suffer from ‘self-concept’ issues are stuck in a game of beating ourselves up. The job is not earning enough money, the house isn’t big enough, the partner is not exactly what’s need for a fulfilling relationship, and so it goes on.
The modern world is complex. It operates at a pace that many of us are ill equipped to cope with, unless there is a genuine balance of body, mind, heart and spirit. I call it ‘mental fitness.’ Success won’t solely manifest from training the body alone. We repeat thought patterns and behaviours, and sabotage actions that see most of us invariably slip back into cycles of repeated failure. This is what we beat ourselves up over constantly. We may see momentary blips of positive action and results (in finance and stock trading they call it the ‘dead cat bounce’), but it’s an otherwise downward trend that people can’t escape unless given the correct tools to succeed.
Many of us are struggling with at least some aspects of our lives and much of the time we don’t listen or address what’s going on. So often it’s mind-set (thinking) and prescriptions (action) that together combine to produce lasting success results.
The above diagram shows three states of thinking and action inertia that stop you from feeling invincible in life, love and love handles. An invincible person is someone who is able to experience continued success and embolden others to follow their leadership. It’s also at this invincible point where you stop beating yourself up and learn to accept and create positive shifts.
The bottom left quadrant describes the ‘inanimate’ state – not accepting of the situation you’re in and indecisive over the steps that need to be taken. You are in many ways paralyzed by possibility and need action guidance on the very simple first steps of how to begin the journey.
The ‘indifferent’ state means you suffer the same indecisiveness, yet are happy with the situation. You are sailing up the river of denial and see no problem with being below the success line. Often the ‘happiness’ surrounding your reality is a front that requires a deeper level of questioning that coaching can provide. In some ways, if you fall into this quadrant, you a harder prospect to get through to because you do not feel the need to change. It’s a mind-set shift that needs to take place in order for you to move from that position.
The third stage of inertia means you are ‘inclined’ to move towards invincibility by taking advice and taking action. Your thinking is positively reframed and implementation is all that is required. You’re primed for success and need motivation and momentum strategies to keep the win once it’s been achieved.
Almost all of us can identify as being in one of the three stages of inertia. It’s time to stop beating ourselves up over not being good enough, being ‘too old’ for change or just too comfortable in our current situation.
Movement from all quadrants towards the top right is possible, but we need to first recognize where we are on the diagram, before exercising thinking and/or behaviour changes that will move us towards the ‘invincible’ state. Once we know where we are, we can then take steps to create change that will result in us giving ourselves a break and accepting that things are good and if needed, will get better. Practicing gratitude daily is a good start. Gratitude for the small things that we take for granted. It’ll set you on the path for creating that change and once it’s formed into habit, you can expect your self-concept and life to improve drastically.
Greg Sellar is a member of the BOSU® Elite Master Trainer Team and Education Programming Faculty. He is an accredited ICF-Coach with certifications in Coaching, Leadership & Mentoring, as well as being an LSI (Lifestyles Inventory) accredited Practitioner. He splits his time between the fitness industry and delivering leadership workshops and keynote speeches to major corporate clients in the UK, USA and Australia. He has recently launched his brand new 90-day LIFEHACK program focusing on mindset and behavior change, available via his website GREGSELLAR.COM.