Why Most People Won’t Ever Get in the Shape They Want

How to avoid limiting beliefs that prevent you from even starting

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Photo by John Fornander on Unsplash

Judging from his Instagram profile, he has a perfect life.

A big house overlooking the ocean, a fast sports car, a beautiful girlfriend, a chiseled jawline, and a six-pack.

After scrolling through countless photos, I ask myself…

“Why don’t I have a six-pack too?”

Photo after photo, it feels like he’s rubbing it in my face. I start comparing my physique to his, asking myself what I can do better.

What changes I can make to get a six-pack like his? How did he get the life he has?

I go on like this for a few more minutes until I realize I have to stopIquickly exit Instagram, attempting to salvage some semblance of my self-confidence.

Sound familiar?

Comparison is hard-wired into our DNA.

According to the social comparison theory, it’s one of the main ways we make sense of the world around us. 50+ years of psychological research shows that social comparisons form one of the cornerstones of social cognition.

What this means is that it’s normal to compare ourselves to others. We do it on a daily basis to better understand how we fit into the rest of the world.

However, with the addition of Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and countless other social media platforms, it’s become nearly impossible to getaway. To not compare ourselves to others.

There’s seemingly no escape. We’re constantly bombarded with pictures of fit couples, rock-hard abs, and millionaires living the good life.

Don’t get me wrong, these posts can give us the information, motivation, and kick in the butt we need to get started.

However, seeing someone that’s ultra-successful can also have the opposite effect, only pushing us deeper into the path of least resistance and farther from our goal.

To get in better shape, we need to redesign our built-in comparison habit. Instead of looking towards others, we should compare ourselves to who we once were.

Using other peoples’ fitness as a benchmark is an ineffective method to get in better shape. Everyone is unique and has a different story. Everyone is starting from a different point in life. From a different perspective.

In the midst of his completing 50 IRONMAN triathlons, in 50 consecutive days, through all 50 U.S. States, James Lawrence proclaimed:

Everyone’s hard is different and unique to you, depending on where you are on your journey. Your hard could be a 1:59 marathon, or it could be getting up off the couch and going for a walk.”  
- James "The Iron Cowboy" Lawrence

Because everyone is at a completely different point in life, comparing yourself to others is not a good place to start. According to a recent study at Dartmouth University,

“frequent social comparisons were associated with a range of destructive emotions and behaviors, including those directed at the self.”

What this means is that comparing yourself to others could potentially prevent you from taking the action required to get in better shape.

With a huge gap between where you are and where you want to be, this destructive emotion could take the form of self-pity, overwhelm, or even self-sabotage — ultimately resulting in you doing nothing.

Don’t let someone else’s success discourage you from getting started in the first place. It takes time, persistence, and consistency to build anything of value, whether it be a six-pack or the ability to run a 6-minute mile.

As Mark Twain once said,

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Oftentimes, comparing ourselves to others stops us from doing the very thing that will help us achieve what we want in life.

It can be overwhelming to see how much farther we have to go to actually reach our goal. However, comparing ourselves to others will only intensify the problem, and paralyze us into doing nothing.

To create anything of value, to make any progress in life, we have to take the first step. We have to get started. And by not comparing ourselves to people who are farther along, we can make the process that much easier.

The best benchmark for progress is how you stack up to who you were yesterday. Focus on you and avoid looking to others for a measure of your progress.

No matter where you’re starting from, you have to be willing to take that first step. It could be running a mile, packing a healthy lunch, or just taking an evening stroll with your spouse after dinner.

No matter what your first step looks like, it’s never going to be easy. Starting something new is never not going to be uncomfortable.

Don’t make it even harder by comparing yourself to others who have been hammering away at it for a lot longer than you.

I can’t promise you that the road to a six-pack or incredible fitness is going to be easy. The truth is, it’s not. However, I can promise that doing nothing is a sure-fire way to not get there.

If you don’t take the first step, you’ll never get anywhere in life. Don’t make it even harder by comparing yourself to others. Stay focused on you and measure your success based on how you stack up to who you were yesterday.


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