The Monkey On Your Shoulder: Self Compassion And The Importance of Positive Thinking…

“What progress, you ask, have I made? I have begun to be a friend to myself.” Seneca, Epistulae Morales Ad Lucillum

“Strewth Tom, that’s a deep start to a blog post that I’m mainly reading to make my sandwiches more interesting…” Is probably what you’re thinking right now, however my aim here is to get you to reflect on how you view yourself.

Roman philosophy aside, here’s some more questions:

· What does the word ‘motivation’ actually mean for you?

· Aside from the non-negotiables (EG the need for air, heat, light, water, food, shelter, protection from harm etc), are you more ‘motivated’ by positive (wanting to improve) or negative (fear) stimuli?

· When thinking about fitness and health, which aspects would you most like to improve for yourself?

· Are you someone that can only be ‘motivated’ by a specific target or are you someone that is more happy to ‘enjoy the process’?

The reason for all of the above questions is that the subject of this month’s blog is self-compassion.

Before we proceed here’s a quick definition of self-compassion: basically it means accepting who we are and everything we have done completely, whether good or bad, rather than ignoring or wishing our faults away or becoming overly self-critical and stuck in negative cycles of thinking ourselves worse. It means taking full responsibility for ourselves, our thoughts and actions whilst accepting that we can’t change who we were in the past or our ‘failures’, we can only improve for the future.

Self-compassion also means that we reject the idea of ‘perfection’ as the danger is that the longer one fails to attain ‘perfection’ the more likely one is to decide that one has ‘failed’ altogether. And hey, if we’ve given up on one thing, what’s to stop us giving up on everything…?

To be clear, self-compassion never means that we stop trying or that we avoid taking responsibility. It actually makes it more likely that we shall continue trying / taking responsibility for our actions as we accept ourselves and our progress or ‘failures’ completely and then continue on our journey in whatever it is we are doing. Self- compassion actually allows us to build mental and physical resilience, whereas assuming that we will always fail and then hating ourselves for it actually erodes mental and physical resilience and makes ultimate failure more likely…

Why is all of this important? Well, basically because generally speaking, the fitness world would have us believe that somehow we are lacking or deficient – never good enough / beautiful enough / the wrong size, weight, shape etc and often people end up feeling appalling about themselves as a result. Here are several examples:

· The assumption that there is such things as a visually ‘perfect’ body (whatever that means) and that a ‘perfect’ body is a physically healthy body, (its frequently the opposite).

· The assumption that progress in any given fitness discipline is only legitimate when it has been physically measured, (it isn’t).

· The assumption that measuring someone’s physical weight in isolation (ie the amount of weight gained / lost) is a reliable indicator of current or future health outcomes (it isn’t, you’re often just measuring changes in hydration levels, bodily waste and muscle mass).

· The assumption that visual indicators such as visible abs or gnarly biceps mean that an individual is automatically ‘stronger’, (they aren’t).

All of these assumptions exist to make us feel negatively about ourselves. Not only are they wrong but they’re also self-defeating as by buying in to them and then feeling crap about ourselves, we make it less likely that we will sustain an exercise habit (or any other healthy habits). Good for short-term get-rich-quick business models, crap for us…

So give yourselves a break. Exercise / nutrition / health starts and ends with you. You are doing this for you, therefore you and only you can decide what you feel is progress and what you want to concentrate on. For some this means getting stronger, for some this means getting leaner, for some gaining or losing body mass is their goal. Some want visible abs. Some have no goals and enjoy the process… But the point is, your goals are your goals and so by setting your goals (or not) having accepted yourself completely, you are starting from a positive stance, ‘with a clean slate’ and you are already vastly increasing your chances of success (however you chose to define it).

At Turnup Training, you (not us) are the most important person in the room. Accept yourself, define your success, own it. We will help you. And you’re winning all day long.

Tom x

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