Your Ego is Holding You Back

If you let your feelings of self-importance or fear dictate how you train, you will fail to reach your potential.

This should come as no surprise when I say that gyms are bursting at the seams with ego. That sense of self-importance and the behavior that comes with it is everywhere. I find it shocking how many people are blinded by egotism when they train, to the point where they are negatively affecting their progress. 

A few characters probably come to mind when I mention ego in a gym setting. However, ego behaves differently for each person. For some, ego wants attention. For others, ego wants safety. Regardless of how it presents itself, allowing ego to dictate your training is detrimental. I believe it’s important to know how to recognize and overcome your ego when training.

How Ego Affects Your Training

Ego Wants to Look Good

Ego wants to be fed. It craves attention and admiration. No surprise that the gym is like a safari for egos running wild. You’ve seen it in action. Ego grunts, and yells, and drops weights solely for the purpose of turning heads. It loads up every plate it can find for the sake of saying “I lifted this, be impressed.” Meanwhile your form is shit and your spine will hate you because you threw mechanics out the window for the ‘gram #thegrindneverstops. 

Is it worth it? Probably not. Unfortunately, this behavior has become increasingly common. The desire to impress has never been stronger and the feedback we receive is addicting. Share a post-workout photo, receive likes. Sure, that response can be motivating; but if you’re going to the gym just for attention, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. 

You need to ask yourself, “What really motivates you to train?” If your answer involves other people’s approval, you should take a hard look at your priorities.

Ego Wants to Feel Safe

Egos are fragile. They’re carefully formed and delicate to adversity. The ego wants to protect itself, it wants to feel confident and secure. Ego doesn’t try new things, it doesn’t ask for help, it doesn’t seek challenges at risk of failing. Ego wants to stay with what it knows because it’s comfortable. Good for the ego, not so good for your training. 

Ego wants to do the same routine every time because that’s what it feels comfortable with. I’ve seen so many people do the same workouts for months and months. They stay on this treadmill (sometimes literally) for longer than necessary without progression and wonder why they aren’t seeing any improvements. 

I understand that the gym is an intimidating place for many people and most just want to get in and get out without being noticed. I feel like this is a missed opportunity. There’s so much potential for community in a gym environment. I encourage you to be curious and to engage with your fellow gym-goers. Get to know people and make friends. This can go a long way in helping the ego feel safe when training.

How to Overcome Ego

Stop Caring What Other People Think

Honestly, no one at the gym cares about what you’re doing. Everyone is just trying to do their own thing, get a bit stronger, a little healthier, and get on with their day. Besides, anyone who might be judging what you do isn’t worth your attention anyway. 

I’m not saying you shouldn’t give a damn about other people. Be courteous and kind to those around you. But don’t be concerned with trying to impress strangers for their sake. Do what’s best for you, train hard, and be consistent.

Try New Things

Ditching your ego frees you up to explore new avenues for training. There’s so much variety out there, you can take your pick at whatever peaks your interest. Group classes for everything from rock climbing to salsa dance. If you’re not into the group thing, even introducing new exercises involving kettlebells, gymnastics, animal movement and more can break up your usual routine and get you out of your comfort zone.

Again, don’t be concerned with what other people might think. Explore what interests you. Accept that it’s going to be tough at the start but know that you can improve with practice. You don’t get better at anything by quitting.

Ask for Help

Asking for help is as vulnerable as it gets, and the ego hates it. You’re basically saying, “I’m trying something, I might fail, and I need your help.” Exposing yourself to these situations is humbling and is a great way to put ego in its place. It needs to be reminded that you don’t have all the answers, that you aren’t perfect, that you need help. You’d be surprised to find how people will rally around you if you’re struggling. Know that you don’t have to go it alone and people would much rather see you succeed than fail. 

Final Thoughts

That ‘Leave your ego at the door!’ line is a nice thought but it’s not possible. Ego is always there. When you’re at the gym, keep your ego close and become aware of what triggers it. Notice when it starts to feel challenged or when it wants to be fed. This is an opportunity to grow. A time to humble or challenge yourself. Remember what you’re trying to accomplish. Do it for you, not your ego.

-Liam

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(If you didn’t, you can share it with your enemies too)

Liam Armstrong