I woke up today needing some external motivation to keep me achieving my wellness goals. I decided to surf the internet for an inspiring story or image that would really amp me to work hard and eat well. It is the dreaded hump day after all. What I found in my searches upset me, and here’s why:
I found this ecard on a tumblr blog dedicated to “fitness motivation”, where there were more reasons to be discouraged than uplifted. Photo after photo featured perfect bodies in revealing clothing and sexually explicit positions. What about these photos, I wondered, is motivational?
Sure, everyone wants to look and feel sexy. This is our fundamental nature as humans to need to love and be loved. But being solely concerned with looks creates an unhealthy mindset of vanity and envy. My body doesn’t look like that, so I must not be working hard enough. Or my butt isn’t firm like hers (my chest isn’t ripped like his), I must be lazy. I must not being doing it right. I must have bad genes.
And on and on. What’s that Roosevelt saying, again?
Comparison is the thief of joy. When we look at pictures of perfectly-sculpted bodies, we will eventually start saying to ourselves, I am not yet good enough. I’ll be good enough (pretty enough, manly enough) when I have a body like hers/his. This is negative motivation–motivation based in insecurity. When you say, “I’m currently training to be the hottest girlfriend you ever had,” you are fundamentally insecure about past girlfriends being hotter than you. Self-loathing mantras, even ones that get you off the couch and working out, are destructive. Just like extreme diets, self-loathing mantras always lead back to bad habits and unhealthy choices when you aren’t feeling loved.
For motivation, try this instead: whole self health. Whole self health means not solely focusing on one body part (getting the butt of your dreams or the biceps you’ve always wanted). That’s about as effective for health as attempting to spot reduce fat. Whole self health means giving focus to every part of ourselves, especially those parts we can’t see–our hearts, lungs, digestive systems, kidneys, brains.
Our minds. Our souls.
A commitment to whole self health means focusing on wellness as a continual process or state of being rather than an end product, i.e. the perfect beach body. It means filling up on positive motivation and affirming mantras. It means clean eating, clean drinking, mindful activity, and plenty of rest. It means being grateful for the body you have now even while striving to be faster or stronger.
Remember: the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.