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Jack's Journal: Societal Expectations

The fitness world revolves around the physical nature of how we move and how we look. Unfortunately, our society places a huge emphasis on what someone looks like. Before you know it, there is an unreal expectation to live up to; sculpted bodies with 6-pack abs, toned muscles, and four percent body fat is our current media’s expectation of "fit." Who decided that? More importantly, what happens to our mental state when we fail to meet those incredibly unreasonable expectations? Self-deprecation.

I know talking about feelings and emotions is...challenging for some people. My attitude around it is f#*k it, we’re human and we are capable of higher-level cognitive function than most other mammals. Why bury those emotions deep when that is what makes us who we are?

I know I am not a mental health professional, but I feel like I have some experience in the realm of self-deprecation as a person who struggles with anxiety and depression. Enough experience to help build a bridge of confidence from negative self-talk to fitness.

I CAN’T...

This is a predominant phrase in self talk around the fitness world. If you’ve said this and you believe it, then you have already lost. You know yourself better than anyone, you know what you are truly capable of. Instead of "I can’t...," make it "one day I will..." If you don’t believe you can do something, then you won’t be able to. That doesn’t mean I’m saying if you believe you can fly, then you will be able to. I am saying that your brain is the strongest muscle you have, use it!


We’ve all had this chat with ourselves before: "if only it weren’t raining," "if only I didn’t have to wear a mask on the treadmill," "if only there weren’t so many hills in my race." This is an admission that you are not in control of your own life. We are all in control of our own lives. So you’ll get a little wet; so you’ll have to work a little harder to breathe (or go outside); or so what there are hills for you to climb? You’re not weak for thinking this way, you just need to reframe your thoughts and put yourself in control of your life. "A little rain won’t stop me," "I’ll go outside for a jog instead," "these hills haven’t met me yet."


We ALL do this behavior. We choose to spend our time comparing ourselves with other people in a variety of ways. Doing that is comparing apples to oranges. No two people are identical in terms of genetic makeup, so why do we insist on comparing ourselves to others? It's human nature to group two things that seem similar together, based on similar characteristics. Why can't I run as fast as them? Why am I not as fit as them? Why do I weigh more than them? Those are questions with complicated answers, but the best answer is to compare yourself to your previous self. Ask yourself "am I improving each day?"; if the answer is yes than you are improving and give yourself credit for that. If the answer is no, give yourself a break and chalk it up to a bad day.

These are just a few examples of self-deprecation and how damaging it can be to someone’s ability be healthy, both mentally and physically. We all have these thoughts from time to time, some have them more often than others and therefore are hindered by them to a greater degree. Reframe your internal dialogue. Don’t let media beat you up and then beat yourself up on top of it. A lot of fitness revolves around the physical, yes, let's change that. Let's turn the fitness world on its head by focusing more on our mental well-being than ever before. We'll be stronger together because of it.

Again, I'm no mental health professional. So please, if you need to, reach out to a mental health professional to help you reframe your internal dialogue.

If you’d like help setting and achieving your health and wellness goals, please contact Jack Zahn at to set up an appointment.

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