Rethinking Motivation: The Unsustainable Practice of Using Shame and Anxiety in Fitness and Lifestyle Goals

     In life, but more specifically in the realm of fitness and lifestyle goals, it is super common for individuals to turn to shame and anxiety as motivators for change. Think about it, maybe someone is on a diet but binges and then chastises themselves to get back on track. Or an individual makes a New Year resolution to go to the gym every day because they’re worried if they don’t go every day they won’t be able to reach their goals. From my own experience and perspective as a coach and athlete, I believe these negative emotions not only lead to unsustainable outcomes but can also have detrimental effects on mental health. In this article, we will explore why shame and anxiety are unreliable and counterproductive motivators when it comes to achieving lasting success.

The Downward Spiral of Shame:

Shame, often rooted in societal expectations and comparisons, is a powerful yet corrosive motivator. When individuals feel shame about their current fitness or lifestyle choices, it can lead to a cycle of negativity that undermines their ability to make positive changes. Rather than fostering a healthy and sustainable motivation for improvement, shame tends to erode self-esteem and can even contribute to a sense of hopelessness.

Shame generally operates on the assumption that the individual is solely responsible for their circumstances, neglecting the broader societal and environmental factors that may influence one’s choices. This narrow perspective often fails to consider the systemic barriers that individuals may face, making shame an inherently flawed and unsustainable motivator. Leading individuals to starve themselves of grace and flexibility. Leaving them paralyzed with anxiety.

The Paralysis of Anxiety:

Anxiety, another commonly used motivator, often stems from the fear of falling short of societal or personal expectations. While a certain level of stress can be a natural healthy driver for change, excessive anxiety can lead to a paralyzing fear of failure. This fear can hinder individuals from taking meaningful steps towards their fitness and lifestyle goals, creating a counterproductive cycle of avoidance.

Moreover, anxiety-driven motivation tends to focus on external validation, perpetuating a mindset where worth is determined by meeting external standards rather than achieving personal growth and well-being. This external focus not only exacerbates feelings of inadequacy but also overlooks the importance of intrinsic motivation for sustainable change.

The Importance of Intrinsic Motivation:

In contrast to shame and anxiety, intrinsic motivation, rooted in personal values and enjoyment, has been shown to be more sustainable and effective in achieving long-term fitness and lifestyle goals. When individuals find joy in the process of change and align their goals with their values, they are more likely to stay committed over time.

Intrinsic motivation encourages a positive mindset, fostering a sense of autonomy and empowerment. By focusing on personal growth rather than external validation, individuals can build a foundation for long-lasting habits that contribute to their overall well-being.

Building a Supportive Environment:

To break away from the unsustainable nature of shame and anxiety, it’s essential to create a supportive environment and community that encourages positive change. This includes acknowledging and addressing systemic barriers, promoting self-compassion, and fostering a sense of community where individuals feel accepted and understood.

Acknowledging barriers isn’t just “finding excuses”!

In Conclusion:

Keep this in mind while you begin your new years eve resolutions! Shame and anxiety may provide a temporary boost in motivation, but they ultimately prove to be unsustainable and detrimental to mental well-being. By shifting the focus towards intrinsic motivation and creating supportive environments, individuals can embark on a journey towards fitness and lifestyle goals that are not only achievable but also contribute to long-term happiness and fulfillment.