Is Your Self-Image Hurting Your Results?

Losing fat, getting fit, building muscle and improving performance should all be rewarding, empowering and even enjoyable pursuits. Okay, for some people the hard work associated with doing great things to your body and health isn’t so enjoyable but the rewards should make all the effort more than worthwhile.

However, some people sabotage not only the process but their potential results by getting way too hung up on their self-image and worrying more about how they look to other people than the progress they themselves are making.

Let me give you an example; I know a guy who turns up to the gym week in and week out, he watches what he eats, trains hard, follows a smart program and exercises with great intensity and technique. It’s clear to look at him he’s in way above average shape and he is, quite frankly, a dedicated and enthusiastic exerciser. He’s fit and healthy and looks better than so many people who go to the gym.

But, rather than enjoy these facts, all he ever does is dwell on how he isn’t a champion bodybuilder, how he doesn’t look like the guys in the magazines and can’t lift the same weights as the superstars he wants to emulate. All his self-image doubts are making him miserable when, in reality, he should be really happy with what he has achieved.

Another example; I know a girl who has lost nearly 20 kg, gone from not being able to run at all to being able to beat many guys in local fun runs, who can now do pull-ups and pushups like a pro and who has gone from being a very overweight smoker to a healthy eating, fit non-smoker in 18 months. She has literally turned her life around.

Now; there is nothing wrong with having goals and aspirations and wanting to emulate stars of stage, screen and sport but it’s important to realize that, ultimately, your results are limited by your genetics, your body type, the amount of time and resources you can dedicate to training and nutrition and balancing exercise with home and family life and work commitments.

Almost all of the astounding figures physiques you see in magazines are the result of virtually full-time dedication, very strict diet and exercise programs, long lists of expensive supplements, clever lighting and even air-brushing and, in the case of many bodybuilding and figure/physique competitors, illicit steroids and drug use too. They present an unrealistic and unattainable goal that is, simply, out of reach of the average gym goer. Most elite athletes – whatever their sport – also have been blessed with great genetics and genetics make a big difference to your ultimate results and how you will eventually look.

For most average Joes and Joannas, trying to achieve the level of development as these admittedly hard working but genetically blessed super-people is like thinking you can win the Australian Grand Prix in a BMW M3. Now there is nothing wrong with a BMW M3 – it’s a great car – but it ain’t no formula one car! Champions are great for inspiration but you can’t be them or have their exact same dimensions or body parts.

So, instead of comparing yourself to other people, you’d probably be much happier comparing yourself to you. You should be your own main source of motivation and competition. You should be your own role model. Focus on trying to be the best version of yourself that you can be rather than worrying about how you stack up against other people who often, because they lucked out in the genetic pool, will always experience better results than you do.

Too many people, especially guys, make the mistake of following a workout that was used by a champion bodybuilder and this is another cock-up that will severely limit your progress. Champion bodybuilders are often on so many steroids they virtually rattle when they walk and are so genetically blessed that just looking at a barbell makes them grow. Of course, they also work hard but they also have the luxury of being able to dedicate almost all of their time to training and recovery.

Another thing to consider is training age; you might be just starting out and your bodybuilding role model may well have been training for ten or twenty years. It’s totally unrealistic to expect to look like your role model when they have literally thousands of hours of training and eating right under their belts and you are only just starting out.

Social media has a lot to answer for too. A study found that seeing other people’s images on FaceBook and Instagram can leave you feeling even worse about your own body and not better. It looks like it’s not actually motivating or healthy to constantly compare yourself against other people. A lot of the people who post these images, memes and so on only do it to get “likes” and boost their own feelings of self-worth whereas the people viewing them don’t get the same thing out of the deal and may even end up disillusioned because they don’t look like the pictures they are seeing. And as for the images themselves, remember, they do not necessarily represent the “real world”.

I’m not trying to bag any of these people; many are genuinely trying to make a positive impact on other people’s lives. But, it can be frustrating when you see someone who is giving out advice, when they themselves have never transformed someone physically and helped changed another person’s life or have never been over 12% body fat. Losing fat weight, or putting on lean muscle mass is all so individualized it’s not funny and everyone is unique and different we have different views on exercise, or diet, and different genetics one size really really doesn’t fit all.

What can comparing yourself to someone else do to you?

You set yourself up for failure before you have even started
You may ruin your motivation
Could cause depression or low self esteem
It could lead to decreased motivation
Might cause you to drop out of exercise because you fail to emulate your realistic role model

For an average Joe, following a champion bodybuilder’s routine is training suicide! Not only is the program going to be too hard and too long for the average exerciser, it won’t allow for our guy’s non-enhanced recovery ability and the fact that he simply does not have the genetics to support such an enormous effort for long. Undoubtedly, within a few weeks of starting such an advanced workout, our boy is going to be sore, tired, probably injured and may well give up exercise altogether.

I don’t know why but the gym is really the only place I ever see people trying to emulate unrealistic role models. A natural trainee following a champion bodybuilder’s workout is like a novice runner following a champion marathon runner’s workout; it just doesn’t happen.

It can take months sometimes to even get a person squatting properly, a bad one I see is people on the leg press, a great machine for building up leg mass fast, for those that can functionally use this, what I do see is people using this piece of equipment and their knees caving inwards because they can’t perform the foundational exercises firstly, unlike a champion bodybuilder who has taken the correct steps in order to get to using these type of equipment.

Another common mistake is comparing your weight to someone else and thinking if you weigh the same as them you should look the same. Needless to say this never really happens. Some bodybuilders weight 120kg but while they look impressive at that weight, other people just look fat and will be very unhealthy. However, some guys will cram their faces with junk food in an attempt to get up to 120kgs and end up unhealthy and bloated.

In contrast, a model might only weigh 50kgs but if you are taller than them or simply a different body type, you might look very skinny and even become unwell if you weighed the same.

So, I implore you, stop judging your progress, achievements, performance and appearance against other people and, instead, focus on the journey you are on. Genetics are what they are – unmodifiable. And whatever genetic hand you have been dealt, you can still make tremendous progress and achieve an amazing transformation if you train hard and eat smart. Put your energy into changing yourself – energy spent worrying or comparing yourself to other people really is a waste of effort.

That’s why, when I set goals with clients, they are always challenging but realistic, lofty but grounded in reality. There is no point setting goals that will never be achieved – that’s almost guaranteed to result in frustration and unhappiness.

Weight loss, transformation, diet and fitness are all meant to be both physically and mentally healthy so don’t ruin it all by trying to emulate others. Instead, focus on your own personal journey. Many people make the mistake of doing unhealthy things in an effort to emulate their heroes such as plastic surgery, taking steroids or following unhealthy diets or becoming obsessed with exercise. This sort of thing inevitably leads to failure rather than a better, happier, healthier life.

Avoid these obstacles before you start down a dangerous path of destruction by making sure your goals are realistic. By all means have role models but use them for inspiration rather than trying to look exactly like them.
Remember too that the process is just as important as the end goal and it’s the process of exercising and eating well that will win back your health, give you energy and vitality and extend your lifespan.

Share this:
Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)


Hi, my name is Dinny Morris. I’m a personal trainer and in sunny Sydney, Australia.

I work with men and women at all levels of their physical development, from overweight couch potatoes who want to get in shape, to professional athletes and natural bodybuilders who want to beef up strength and body mass.

Hi, my name is Dinny Morris. I’m a personal trainer and in sunny Sydney, Australia.

I work with men and women at all levels of their physical development, from overweight couch potatoes who want to get in shape, to professional athletes and natural bodybuilders who want to beef up strength and body mass.