Emotions From Inside Out, Pt. 2: The Fear Factor
Welcome to our next stop on our fitness feels trip through the emotions from Inside Out: Fear! This is a very common emotion that people experience when they’re beginning any new journey. Think of your first day of high school, college, a new job…your first, promising, date — there are so many unknowns, and things that could go wrong! The same is true when beginning on a fitness journey to a healthier, happier version of you. Let’s dig in and see what FEAR might look like!
Emotions From Inside Out: Fear
Is this what you expected fear to look like? A lanky, nervous-looking purple guy with a curly antenna? I guess it fits. As one of the emotions from Inside Out, Fear is ultimately responsible for making sure Riley stays safe and happy by avoiding potentially dangerous situations, or those where she might experience judgment (If you’re not sure who Riley is, check out the first post in this series for a re-cap ). Sound like anything you might experience along your fitness journey? I would imagine it does, because I’m sure this emotion is something we all feel, especially when we’re considering whether or not this is going to be “the time” that we finally make the changes necessary to get to the level of fitness we really want to achieve.
In life, fear serves as a function to help keep us from harm and exposing ourselves to too much risk. I can tell you right now, this can be extremely limiting when you’re trying to make progress in the realm of fitness. There are so many things to be afraid of. What if you set a goal, and fail? What if people talk about you, and actually hope you do fail? What if you don’t know how to lift weights? What if the gym buffs judge you for not being “one of them”? The potential fears are really endless, because there’s so much risk, and so much unknown involved in this journey.
Fear of failure is probably the most common concern when getting into fitness, and understandably so. A fitness lifestyle is not an easy one to maintain because it involves so much work, discipline, planning and constant effort. This can be very intimidating when you’re considering getting into this type of lifestyle, depending on what yours was like before. The great thing about fitness, is that it’s purely an individual experience that you can mold around your own preferences.
Because you can create your own definition of the fitness level you want to achieve, you also determine what your success, or failure, looks like. It’s when we worry about achieving others’ standards (their body weight, their physique, their bench max, etc.) that we set ourselves up for the feeling of failure based on somebody else’s definition of success. This is why it’s so important to set your own (SMART) goals based on where you are at, because it’s your journey, and nobody else’s. By focusing on progress, not perfection, and creating your own definition of success — failure is no longer an option to fear.
While failure is certainly one of the most feared results in fitness, fear can also come from a place of success. This seems like an odd concept, but allow me to explain. When my mom and I went to see Inside Out, and were discussing how all of the emotions relate to fitness, she brought up how much she identified with fear during a time she was heavily involved with Weight Watchers. She was having a tremendous amount of success with her weight loss, looking better than she had in years, and getting compliments right and left from people all over our little, teeny town. One would think she was strolling around on Cloud 9 all day, every day, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Once she was getting further along into her journey, the dreaded “weigh in” days began to dictate her mood – because, seriously, what would happen if she didn’t lose weight this week. She felt like she had so many people counting on her to continue being the picture of Weight Watchers success, that the night before weigh-ins were spent stressing about what number would show up on the scale. In this case, her fear actually came about as a result of the success she had already achieved.
When I examine the fears I have along my own fitness journey, and I have several, I try to sort them out between irrational and rational fears. The way I do this is by turning them into “what-if” statements. I simply ask myself – what if? What IF I set a goal, and fail to achieve it? Well, I’ll be 3lbs, 2 reps, 1% body fat — whatever — behind where I was hoping to be. So I’ll need to reset my goals, and assess what things I need to change. I won’t lose any friends, I’ll still have my supporters and the sun will continue to rise. I’ll be disappointed, and the haters might get a giggle out of it — but in the long run…it’s really not that big of a deal.
In most cases, I’ve found that my fears in relation to my fitness journey, are irrational. However, there are times when fear is certainly warranted. Exercise and nutrition can be used for so much good, but there are also a TON of stories out there about people getting hurt lifting weights and working out, or eating the wrong foods and actually gaining weight. These are completely warranted fears, especially if you have a particular medical history that impacts what you can and can’t eat, how mobile you are, etc. This is the time to conquer these fears by seeking out knowledge — be that from your own research, or speaking with a professional. Fear is all about the unknown, and is much more manageable when we take a deep breath, and face it head-on.
Here are a few tips for dealing with Fear:
1. Much like yesterday’s post about disgust, you need to process through exactly what it is you fear. Determine your questions and concerns — your “what-if’s”? THEN – finish your own scary story. What WILL happen if….? Scary movies are much less scary once you’ve already seen them and you know what’s going to happen, right? If you sit down and think realistically about what might happen “IF,” then you can determine if you’re experiencing a rational or irrational fear (based on the result of the “if” you’re predicting), and you’ll be better equipped to handle the situation when something does happen — or you may realize it’s not as earth shattering as you thought.
2. Use your support system (another strategy from 6 Ways to Achieve Any Goal)! You have people all around you, whether you think so or not, that are willing to help and support you in any way they can. Finding a gym buddy is a great way to make the gym a less intimidating, and even more enjoyable, place. Also, seek out positive people who are willing to support you in other ways. Maybe you have a friend who’s a great listener, who you trust to share your fears about starting or continuing on this journey — getting affirmation from a friend like this is a great motivator to keep going. Even if you slip up, they’ll still be there for you – and that’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with positive people.
What if you don’t have yourself completely surrounded by positive people? It’s easier said than done, but if you have people in your life who aren’t supporting your journey, you need to block them out of it. I’ve found it’s most difficult when you’re struggling to get buy-in and support from a family member, because you can’t just block them out of your life. When I’ve dealt with this situation, I simply don’t discuss my journey with them at all. I don’t want to listen to their negativity, and they definitely don’t want to listen to me spew all of my positive energy about how great my life is, and continues to become….while they remain the same 😉
3. If some of your fears related to fitness are due to your lack of overall knowledge about exercise, diet, mindset, etc., then it’s time to invest in yourself. There are several very reliable, even affordable, options out there to work with personal trainers, nutrition experts, life coaches, etc. etc. These options are available all over the internet, and more than likely, locally — heck, you can probably even find that gym buddy who would love to help you get started on the right track. If you’re worried about not doing something the right way, you can save yourself time, energy, and possible injury by seeking out help from a professional. I’ve taken advantage of both personal training and nutrition counseling, and they’ve been very positive investments I would do all over in a heartbeat.
What fears do you have about starting your fitness journey? Have you experienced this emotion throughout the journey you’re already on? Comment below and let us know what strategies you use to conquer the little purple man!
Until Next Time….
Founder: MCP Total Fitness
Emotions From Inside Out: Next Stop — Anger!