You’re at the grocery store, debating what foods to stock up on for the coming week. You know that you really want to buy that chocolate cake, but you hesitate.
“I really need to stay in shape for when I go to the beach next weekend,” you think to yourself.
You’ve made the right choice for your health, but you made it for the wrong reason.
I started thinking about what motivates people to get in shape after reading 36 Ways to be Irresistably Attractive over at Live Bold and Bloom.
It can be difficult to find the motivation to eat right, go to the gym, and live a generally healthy lifestyle. Oftentimes we will attempt to get in shape because we want to impress others.
Which thought process do you think is more common: “I should do these bicep curls so I can get hyooooge and have girls hanging off my arms!” or “I should exercise today because it will make me live longer”?
Unfortunately, too few people are self-motivated to live a healthy lifestyle. And there are very real consequences.
Emotional Pitfalls Of Trying To Impress Others
If you only practice healthy behaviors in order to impress somebody else, you will be disappointed.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but it is completely impossible for you to win.
Sure, maybe you have one specific person you are trying to impress and you succeed in doing it. Congratulations! You now get to enjoy some very fleeting pleasure before the negative emotional consequences kick in.
“But Mike! I got what I wanted! What could possibly go wrong?”
I’ll get there.
But first, let me ask you something. If you got yourself in shape and then your target gave you the validation you were seeking, what do you assume they like about you?
Your looks, obviously!
After putting in all that hard work, slaving away at the gym for hours, meticulously tracking everything you ate, you finally achieved your goal. Now you can just sit back, relax, and reap the rewards.
Haha, you’ve got to be kidding me.
The fact is, it’s not easy to stay in shape. You may have thought that the effort you were putting in at the time was totally worth it because when it was over you would finally have the girlfriend/boyfriend of your dreams.
But it’s never over!
You will forever be fighting a losing battle against ageing and laziness.
You HAVE to keep it up though, because if not for your good looks, they wouldn’t be interested in you at all. Do you see how just maybe this could be a problem?
Suddenly you have an obligation to maintain these behaviors that are time consuming, challenging, and require you to sacrifice a number of things you enjoy.
Note: I’m not trying to convince you not to get in shape and live a healthy lifestyle. Rather, I’m trying to show why motivation through validation is a terrible strategy.
Please, do not fall into this trap. There is no easy way out.
The worst part about all of this is how it ruins your self-esteem. In your own mind, your looks become your only real asset. Any other good thing about you simply wasn’t enough. What a horrible feeling!
Let’s take a look at some of the emotions that this circumstance may elicit:
- Guilt: Any time you deviate from the healthy behaviors you feel obliged to perform, you will feel a sense of guilt. You know you “shouldn’t” have done it, because you “need” to keep doing the “right” behaviors in order to get and keep what you want.
- Insecurity: Your looks take on a disproportionate amount of significance. Any minor flaws you notice will be magnified 100-fold.
- Disappointment: What happens when you don’t get the reaction you want? What happens when you lose what you once had?
You Won’t Get In Shape Unless You Do It For Yourself
Although many people believe that their motivation doesn’t matter, it makes a serious difference in whether or not they will succeed or fail.
It’s Not Going To Be Easy
There is no getting around the fact that getting in shape is a challenging process, requiring discipline, perseverance, and patience.
Different motivations will have different effects on those qualities. Someone who cares about their own health is far more likely to do what it takes to achieve their goals than a person motivated only by other people’s reactions.
Did you ever make a New Year’s resolution that you couldn’t sustain for more than 4-6 weeks? We all have. And it’s because we failed to motivate ourselves in the proper way.
It’s easy to get discouraged when visual results aren’t immediate, when people don’t notice that you lost weight or gained muscle, or when you must make a particularly difficult sacrifice in order to impress others. When faced with a one of these challenges, you are far less likely to persevere, and far more likely to “relapse”.
And when you relapse, you are more likely to overcompensate by binge eating, potentially destroying everything you have worked towards. And then, of course, you feel guilty about it.
You Won’t Do It The Healthy Way
But that’s not the only problem that having the wrong motivation will cause.
When you just want to “look good naked”, you might perform exercises that are bad for you, and you are more likely to start a fad diet or unhealthy “starvation” diet.
The best exercises for your health and your mood tend to be compound exercises, meaning that they work more than one muscle group. Yet when I go to the gym, I see all these guys trying to gain muscle by doing bicep curls, which only work one small muscle group.
And the girls who go on those ridiculous 500 calorie per day diets before Spring Break? Forget about it. They may lose a couple pounds, but it is unhealthy and will come right back.
There is more than one way to try to get in shape. Some of them at best do nothing for your health, and at worst get you injured or malnourished.
Your Beliefs Impact Your Results
When you try to impress others, you probably don’t understand the benefits of the behaviors you are engaging in. Most of the people I know who “want to look good at the beach” have no idea what they are actually doing.
Interestingly enough, believing that what you are doing is good for will improve your results! If your motivation is to become healthier, simply believing what you are doing is healthy will make it so.
By focusing on how your healthy lifestyle is improving your life, its effects will be stronger!
But if you are only concerned with how others perceive you, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle will not be at the front of your mind.
Making the decision to live a healthy lifestyle should be a positive thing.
It should make you happier, healthier, more productive, and yes, better looking.
But unfortunately, the wrong motivation can sabotage both your mind as well as your results.
When you only get in shape because you seek validation, you risk a lot more than just how you are perceived by others.