Fear controlled my life.
The Police sang “Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you”. That’s the feeling that I used to get. Like there was this black shadow following me, watching me, judging every step I took. Every lift I tried to do, every client I coached, every forkful of food I ate. Like I had to fit a certain mold and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t. Like fitting a pentagon into a circle – no chance, no way, no how.
I wasn’t being stalked (that I know of..) so the watched feeling simply came from my own expectations and fears, and that impressed through social media and the industry of health and fitness. I understand it wasn’t always there and it probably had something to do with the self-judgement that came about from looking more into my body’s appearance than I needed to. That or the environmental pressures of work/life/training, which is probably more likely. Whatever. Where it came from doesn’t matter THAT much.
What I care most about, now, looking back, is how the self-help and fitness industry take advantage of people’s fear of fear. Fear is uncomfortable. Everything in our human nature steers us away from discomfort. You’re hungry, so your primal instinct is to eat. You sense danger, you run. You feel uncomfortable, you move away from it. It’s natural that we choose whatever option offers us ease, happiness, comfortableness, company. In my experiences, there are numerous examples of how advantageous the art of business is, especially when that business revolves around something as personal as body image and self esteem…
Personal trainers sell themselves off your low self esteem. Self development coaches sell themselves to us off your lack of belief in yourself to get the result on your own.
Most of them, anyway.
I worked in a gym for a while where my success as a trainer (+20 sessions a week) was incentivised with the possibility of training under a coach who would transform me into this ‘perfect specimen’ and then be a role model for young women and my clients. Keep in mind, I would still be paying for their services, it wasn’t a free offer… just the opportunity for them to ‘take me on’. I wanted to develop as a trainer and learn as much as I could, but this wasn’t a learning tactic, or a development thing. This had a specific physique/potentially competing goal. Yeah ok. Back then, it lit a fire in me to diet like no tomorrow and train ultra hard – twice a day, five times a week – but there was no talk of a healthy relationship with my body image or self esteem. Just that I should look ‘better than I do’, be more than I am.
*From here it was an ebb and flow between anxiety meltdowns in my car outside of work and counselling sessions to delve into why I felt so crap for at least 6 months (and believe it or not, we always talked about some age 5-7 birthday… #moderndaypsychology).
After combating some crap headspaces and removing myself from a facility that was not serving me in the slightest, I came about a self-development business that offered courses and promised… erm, I’m not sure. But whatever they said sold me. One stand out quote still rings in my ears on days when I feel a ‘day off’ or weekend away, or even spending time with my friends and family.
“If you want to be mediocre, this isn’t for you”
As if mediocrity is a bad thing. Or a forbidden thing. Or something to stay away from if you ever wanted to do well in life/business. This was always followed with “we have only ever had one person say this and that’s fine”, although the undertone of ‘they failed’ confessed otherwise.
My fear of failure kept me going back. It wasn’t overly informative for the price of the course, nor was it individualised. Just generic quotes from top-shelf speakers and very broad statements that came with the expectation they would resonate with everyone. I learnt a lot about myself through asking myself questions and picked up a business model or two, but while I was one of the last to be able to express my insights, I also always felt uncomfortable. And not in a ‘growth is uncomfortable‘ kind of way, but a ‘this is wrong, I don’t fit here‘ way. My face was pained – a few people commented on this regularly. I expected certain things of myself because of the standards this company kept – on the outside I met those, my business grew, income was higher, I listened to the podcasts, read the books; but on the inside I was really fucking unhappy. I was in such a state of overwhelm and discomfort that I couldn’t see clearly. My fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear of not doing the right thing (where the right thing was this course) kept me hanging in there.
Yes, I understand business. A business person must show the client how important their product is, and the easiest way to do so is generally to show them the Sliding Doors option.
Travel through door one, you’ve bought the product and get this awesome result, as promised and your life is changed forever. Door two, you don’t buy it and end up miserable and without *insert result*. In this case, sign on and be amazing and have a business and don’t be mediocre; or, be mediocre and see how far that gets you…
But that’s just not how I do things. Or what I allow of others.
I understand you must endure uncomfortable positions and situations to learn life lessons, but where is the line between manipulation of fear, and introduction to growth? Is there a line? Maybe these business propositions were made with the best intentions in mind and it was my own self consciousness that created the manipulation. I couldn’t tell you, although I’d like to assume this is true.
Without really knowing I was doing so, I chased a feeling of significance and validation from a whole bunch of things. I wasn’t happy with me because I was so fearful what I represented was ‘wrong’. I was afraid to say the wrong thing, wear the wrong thing for my body, not eat on a diet plan. I was afraid of being happy and comfortable, because everything says to get uncomfortable to succeed..
In the fitness industry, I had been trying to keep up with the expectations, fear-filled business transactions and crap propaganda for 3+ years.. and now it’s exhausting. I dislike it, greatly. I now refuse to listen to people complain about their personal training clients, which happens more often that you’d think (that’s someone who’s trusted you with their most precious possession and are the reason you have a roof over your head!). I won’t stand for fear-mongering or lying – if you want to play those games, please go back out the door you came in, client or business offer. I dislike the approach to marketing and networking of certain businesses because of the ’empty’ promises.
Based on my experiences, I set standards on my life that I intend to uphold, because mediocre or not, I will be content in myself. I don’t expect to be rid of fear-influenced decisions, but I do trust myself to make the right decisions from a peaceful place. Business, self, development, relationship, friendship.
I encourage everyone – male, female, teenager, adult, grandparent – to invest the time into your own life standards. I encourage everyone to look for your contrast – look for the things you want, the things you don’t want and construct you’re ideal world. Just as I’ve questioned the self-help and fitness industries, I encourage you to question my words and come up with your own opinion. I encourage you to be mediocre, or great, or ordinary, or extraordinary. Be whoever the hell makes you happy and proud to be, because despite what some people say, happy is a real emotion.
The world would be a very ordinary place if we all looked and thought the same way…