Fear is the one human motion that can hold us back from more than anything else in our lives. Fear paralyzes us, and prevents us from taking meaningful action. It shatters our self-confidence and spirit of adventure. It can prevent us from doing the things we really want to do, trying everything we want to try, and from becoming who we really want to become.
Most of us don’t pursue our dreams and aspirations in life because we are afraid of failing. “Well what if this or that happens? What then?” We may have a life we envision for ourselves in the back of our heads, but we’d rather play it safe, not take chances, and take the easy path to mediocrity. We bury our dreams and passions and settle for the grind of every day life.
So you want to get in shape, huh? You want to lose some weight, reduce disease risk factors, dazzle in a dress, turn some heads at the beach, look good naked, etc. So why haven’t you? Why are you still just dreaming and thinking about it and not actually doing it?
Well, it is that ol’ fear factor creeping up on us and controlling our actions. Fear can be a major roadblock that prevents us from working towards our health and fitness goals. Often times, fear is the underlying cause that prevents us from doing the things we know we need to do to reach our goals — things like exercising more, eating less junk, and controlling our portions.
For many of us, this fear is subconscious. We don’t understand that it is fear that is holding us back. We think its because of a multitude of other reasons: we don’t have enough time, work is too busy, there is too many other responsibilities at home, we don’t have any support, we’re too stressed, we haven’t found the right diet or supplement, our genetics suck and we’re just born to be fat, we’re best friends with the Keebler Elves, etc. But in the end, it all boils down to the fact that we’re just scared to make some tough changes and get started on our health and fitness journey.
FACE YOUR FEARS
Nothing in life worth having comes without some risk. If something doesn’t scare you a little bit, it’s probably not worth pursuing. All heroes, all legends, have taken risk along the way to get to where they’re at. But that’s why there are so few heroes; most of us mortals hate taking risks. We’d rather watch other people do it, and read about their success stories, than do it or experience it for ourselves. For most of us, the fear of failing is far more powerful than the chance at succeeding.
But what if you decided to make a change, instantly. What if you decided you were going to stop being afraid, or at least face and overcome your fears? What if you decided you were going to take a chance, chase your dreams, find your passions, find some happiness, and live the life you’ve always imagined? Doesn’t that sound like a much more exciting way to live. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather fail at what I really want to do than succeed at something I hate. At least I know I’ll enjoy the journey.
THE FIVE FITNESS FEARS
If fear is holding you back from achieving your goals, and most fitness fears are subconscious, then we need to identify what those fears are and give you some psychological tools and new ways of thinking to get past those fears. This is the only way you are going to finally be successful with your long-desired, but long-ignored health and fitness goals. Until you admit your fears and face them head on, you are destined to repeat your ill-fated fitness attempts.
1. Fear of Failure
This is the most obvious one. We are afraid of failing. We are afraid of setting goals, committing to an exercise and nutrition plan, working hard, and still not getting results. We are afraid that even if we make sacrifices and put in our best efforts, we might not reach the goals we have set for ourselves. We have doubt. We have reservations. We don’t believe in ourselves 100% or have the self-confidence to trust that we can achieve what others have achieved. Because we feel we are so far away from where we want to be, we fear that we will be unable to complete the long journey ahead of us.
To me, this fear is also the easiest to overcome. Whenever the fear of failure is preventing you from taking action, just ask yourself two simple questions.
The first question is what’s the worst that could possibly happen if I fail? In most cases, the absolute worst possible outcome is not so bad: I’ll look a little stupid, I’ll embarrass myself, I’ll take a shot to the ego, I’ll lose some money, I’ll lose a little time and effort, I’ll have to put up with some comments or criticisms from my family and friends, I’ll just have to go back to what I was doing before. None of that is really that bad is it?
The fear of failing is usually way worse than what happens when you actually fail. Trust me, I’ve failed at a lot of things in this life. I’ve failed way more than I’ve succeeded, but my life never ended. I’ve always managed to pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again.
The second question is what’s the best that could possibly happen if I succeed? Yeah, that’s what kickstarts my heart and motivates me to get moving. Man, it could change my life forever. I could do something great for myself, I could help and/or motivate a ton of people just like myself along the way, I could gain respect and admiration, and I could move one step closer to becoming the person I truly want to be.
The worst that could happen is not really that bad, but the best that could happen could be life-altering. You know how they tell you to balance risk and reward when making life’s decisions. Well in most cases, especially with health and fitness, the reward far outweighs the risk.
2. Fear of Fate
What happens if you implement the best training and nutrition programs, give them your best effort, consistently adhere to them, but don’t succeed? If you had the best plans, gave it your best effort, and still failed, does that mean you are destined and doomed to be overweight and out of shape the rest of your life? Those questions are what ultimately lead to the fear of fate.
Many people put off pursuing their fitness goals because of this fear of fate. At least if they don’t try now, there is still the hope that one day in the future their situation will be better and they will be able to get into great shape. If they try today and don’t succeed, then it feels like it’s game over. All hope is lost. It is the hope that in the future things will be different that helps us get through the day, and keeps us moving forward. People don’t want to give that up. They live by the “sometime down the road” mentality instead of taking a shots at what they want today.
The problem with this, of course, is that most just end up waiting forever. “Sometime down the road” becomes “in the next life”. There is always a reason to keep putting their goals off. But in reality, it is just the fact that they never get to the point where they truly believe in themselves.
Have faith. You must have faith in your plan and your abilities. You must believe that if you put forth a reasonable amount of effort, good things will come. You must have faith that you are not doomed to any fate, you just have work smart and hard enough to change. If you let doubt or fear control your spirit, you ARE doomed to fail before you even start.
You know the things you want for yourself today? Don’t put them off for tomorrow, because you never know what tomorrow may bring. Your life can change in an instant. If you want something for yourself today, you have to take it today, because you never know if it is going to be available tomorrow.
3. Fear of the Process
There is the fear about how hard the process is going to be. “Oh man, exercising is going to be so painful. Waking up in the morning is going to suck. Giving up Pop-tarts, or Twinkies, or cookies (my personal favorite) will be way too hard and the cravings will be too much.”
Most people have several bad habits, and they fear how difficult it is going to be to break those bad habits and start new, more positive ones. They fear the pain, the sacrifice, the discipline necessary to make real changes in their health and physical appearance.
Let me ease that fear right now. In the beginning, it IS going to be rough. So you shouldn’t make it even more difficult by adding worry on top of it. Any time you make changes, big or small, there is some type of transition phase that is difficult. It is not easy to break bad habits. If it were, everyone would be walking around in phenomenal shape. The reality is you are going to have to work a little bit to achieve your goals.
But once you power through that transition phase, work hard to break bad habits, form good ones, and get things rolling, it DOES get easier. What you have to do is harness the power of momentum, instead of allowing it to control you. Right now your momentum is heading in the wrong direction. The most difficult phase is putting on the breaks and making a U-turn. Once you get it going in the right direction, its smooth sailing.
In other words, toughen up you wimp.
4. Fear of the Peer
There are many fears associated with how you think your friends and family will react to your newfound health and fitness goals.
Will they support you? Sometimes we are scared that we will have no help through this tough journey. We fear our friends and family won’t give us the support we need to succeed. They may not understand when we are tired or moody. They may not get the difficulties of going through a transition phase into a radically different lifestyle. They may make fun of us or ridicule us for trying to make a change of if we struggle initially. They may even unknowingly be working against us with their actions or words.
Will they be resentful? If you have to get up early for a workout or are trying to clean up your act and remove yourself from counterproductive situations, it may mean less time hanging out and socializing. It may mean less time at the usual restaurants, coffee shops, or bars where you can’t overcome the temptations to cheat.
Will they be jealous? If you do start to succeed and make positive changes in your life, will they be jealous that they are not doing the same thing for themselves? Will your ambitious goals put a strain on your relationships?
I think a lot of times we underestimate the care and love that our peer group has for us. A lot of times we just communicate with our peers on a surface level. “Hey what’s up, how are things going, how are the kids, etc.” A lot of life is just the little things, so it’s easy to forget that there are people around us who will do anything for us if we just ask.
But if you truly open up, tell them how you feel, and tell them how important this whole getting healthier and in shape really is to you, I believe they will be supportive. Sometimes you have to ask for what you want/need. I believe if you express how you feel, there are people in your circle who will go out of their way to be supportive, and will be truly happy when you succeed.
If not, then maybe you need to think about making some new friends.
5. Fear of Success
As funny as it sounds, there is also the fear of succeeding. What happens if you do toughen up, make it through this fitness journey, and achieve outstanding results? What then? Most of us fear the new and unfamiliar, even if it is for the better.
Many of us have been overweight for so long that it is just part of who we are. We cling to our identity, and fear having to reinvent ourselves. What happens when you are not the fat girl anymore? Are you then all of a sudden one of those annoying fitness chicks? We are scared of exploring new aspects of who we are or who we can become. It’s easier to keep things the way they are, even if it’s not what we really want for ourselves. Change is always intimidating, even if its what we want.
You have to learn to embrace change, not just in fitness but in life. Why? Life is constantly changing. You have to learn to flow with it. You have to learn to be flexible like water, and just roll with the punches.
Deep down you know you want to make some changes, and you know those changes are going to have a positive impact on your life. So don’t fear the new and unexplored aspects of yourself, in the end it will all work out for the best.
Anyone who tells you they don’t have fear is lying to you, putting up a front, or trying to act tougher than they really are. I’m a fitness professional and I have a ton of fitness fears. All great athletes get the butterflies. Even lions, Queens and Kings of the Jungle, have fear.
But it is not whether you experience fear. It is what you do with that fear that matters. Successful people in all aspects of life use fear to their advantage. They use it to motivate them. They use the excitement and nervous energy to perform. They actually welcome a little bit of fear because they know that’s when they are at their best.
I know you’re scared about making some tough changes and improving your physique. Up until this point, your fear has been holding you back from achieving your goals. But now, you have the tools necessary to take that fear and use it to your advantage.