Change is scary for everyone. Your decision to be more fit and healthy might leave you feeling unsure, overwhelmed, and anxious. I know from personal experience that switching to a healthy lifestyle can be so intimidating that it's almost crippling. If you're brand-spanking new to the fitness world, the first thing you need to recognize is that it is you who are your biggest obstacle.
When I first began walking down the fitness path in 2007, I felt alone, insecure, and frustrated. I probably tried every weight-loss plan on the planet. To make things worse, I felt defeated when I put all my hopes into a dream physique and it didn't pan out the way I expected it to. I had to start over, which was emotionally disorienting.
The problems that occur at the outset of fitness expeditions are usually caused by a gnarly storm borne from two problems: a fear of failure and a deficient sense of self-worth. This combination leads to a frustrating feeling of isolation. You make the commitment to change and then suddenly feel like you've been thrust back into a crowded junior high school cafeteria and have no friends to sit with. To the new gym member, it can feel like everyone else at the club is staring in silent judgment. This anxiety makes achieving goals feel impossible from the get-go.
So how do you avoid self-destructing before you even start? By applying these four tips:
1 / Remember Your "Why"
Whether you have a wedding or vacation coming up, or you just want to feel comfortable shopping for clothes, you need to constantly remind yourself of why you started. You set out with a goal. When those "I can'ts" start kicking in, it's time for a gut check. If that goal is lost in all your self-doubt and worry, find it, polish it off, and put it back where it should be!
Your desire to conquer your goal must outweigh the psychological negativity. You're in a war against yourself! Until your inner resolve to succeed overpowers your anxieties, you'll remain at a standstill. Although your doubt and your will might feel equal in power, remember that 54 percent desire outweighs 46 percent fear. Technically, that's a win in the books for you. Every little bit of confidence helps and it snowballs with time.
2 / You Are Worthy of Your Goals!
You, Bodybuilding.com reader, are a wonderful, beautiful, hard-working, remarkable, resilient person and you deserve to reach your goals. You are so much tougher than you give yourself credit for! I can't tell you how many times I catch people I know, or even myself saying, "Gosh, I just don't know if I can/should do that—I'm not sure I'm cut out for it." Or, "I want to try that but I'm afraid I'll look stupid or be bad at it." When you say things like this, you tell yourself you're not worthy of the effort because you think you'll probably fail.
Listen up: All people have the right to try to better themselves. I don't care if you're morbidly obese. I don't care if you only have 10 pounds to drop. Whether you're making huge diet adjustments, switching your training styles, changing gyms, or you're starting out with a new coach or trainer, shake off that anxiety. Don't let it win.
You must believe in your heart that you are worth the dreams you chase. Stop caring what others will think, do, or say because it doesn't matter. Surrender to and acknowledge your fears for a moment, embrace them, and let them go. It's much more emotionally freeing to know that you have fears than to pretend they're not there. Believe in yourself and your ability to make progress. Know that it won't be instantaneous.
Next time you're training or struggling with your lifestyle change and find yourself saying, "I don't know if I can do this. I can't do this. I can't ..." Hit the stop button. Get your mind right. You'll be surprised at the difference in power, strength, and desire positive self-talk will make. Telling yourself, "I can" will help you feel empowered and mentally tough.
3 / Give Yourself an Honest Chance
Recently, a friend said to me: "Abby, I've been really good for a month. But watch me fall off the wagon and lose all my progress. Oh, well."
Hey! Don't talk about yourself like that. Don't start out with the expectation that you won't succeed because you're trying to protect yourself from disappointment. When you do that, you put yourself in a hole. You're going to have to climb out of it at some point, so don't let insecurity do the talking. Learn to recognize it, and shake it off. Trust yourself. Trust your program. Celebrate the little victories you see in the mirror and on the scale.
On that same token, I promise you're going to screw up. You're going to make mistakes, miss workouts, and succumb to late-night treats. Mentally and emotionally plan for it now. Self-forgiveness and resilience are key elements to being successful. It doesn't matter how long you've been chasing your goals—I've been training and doing shows for 4.5 years and I still screw up on a regular basis! Just because you cave to a craving or skip the gym for a night does not mean you've just destroyed any chance at success. You're no more or less flawed than anyone else. Expect curveballs, because they're going to happen; but don't use them as evidence against yourself to prove that you're incapable of doing what you want.
4 / Network with Positive People
How many Negative Neds or Debbie Downers influence your life? If you can think of even one, it might be time to change your community.
Rather than surrounding yourself with negativity, find people who are going through the same changes that you are. I've managed to network with some outstanding people who always have good, positive things to say. Their support has made a world of difference to my success. Talk with people who seem happy and are able to find the sunshine in the hurricane. Discover people with drive and ambition who are willing to share it with you. With people like this in your corner, your stock in yourself will grow tremendously.
People who rise to the occasion in life will often take you with them. Conversely, people who complain and give up will stop you in your tracks. Weed out the angry, negative people and invest time getting to know positive people who believe in you. You'll never look back!
Now you're ready. You're ready to take that step, take that chance, and become who you want to be. There's nothing standing in your way except your own anxieties, fears, and doubts. Once you learn how to stop fighting yourself, you'll have a much happier, healthier outlook on your journey. Good luck to you all!