Mike Lahrman has made a living as an Air Force veteran, podcast host, public relations manager, and multimedia journalist. His writing reflects the wide range of thoughts he finds worthy of sharing.

In Defense of [some] Self-Love

Somebody recently told me that it seems as if I only love myself when I’m at the gym. Read that again here in their voice: “You only love yourself when you’re at the gym.” I don’t know if that is something that you can connect with. I’m not sure how you would process that either. It may seem like a dig or an attack on one’s character. To me, it was an indicator that I needed to assess that angle. Do I only love myself when I’m at the gym? If so, why is that? Is it healthy?

The concept of self-love is tricky. Of course we should be happy with who we are. We should love who we are more than we love anyone else -- right? After all, we spend more time with ourselves than we do literally any other person. It’s a ridiculous thought but it’s true. Furthermore, most of us spend much of our lives struggling to identify who we really are. 

I am all for being content with yourself and not bending to impress other people. If you’ve known me for more than a couple Instagram posts, you should understand that I couldn’t care less about what other people think of me. If you like me, that’s a bonus because we’ll get along and life is easy. If you don’t like me for whatever reason, then you can get on with your life and try to understand what your problem is -- not my problem. 

With that said, I also strongly believe in working hard to be the best version of yourself and live the best life you can. Just be sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. I don’t feel that you need to stress yourself to an uncomfortable level as that can hurt most people in the long run. That’s not living the best life. Keep in mind that you have one life. Put everything you’ve got into it, and appreciate everything you get out of it.

What you don’t want to do is get so caught up in being your best that you allow your ego to take full control. That is the problem many of us run into when we see ourselves achieving physiques we previously thought were out of reach. The same thing can happen when we accomplish anything, really. How many graduation photos did you scroll through on Instagram in May/June? Are those people not at the peak of self-love? There’s a lot of excitement when you walk into a new job on day one because you’re going to crush it everyday and be the top employee by the end of your first quarter. They might as well make you an executive the moment you accept their job offer, right? You know that’s not true, but your ego is all about that life.

I thought about how this all plays into my time at the gym. I do love myself when I’m in fitness mode. I have to. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had over the past six and a half months. Why would you continue to do something if you aren’t seeing progress and results? And if you’re hitting your targets, are you really going to suppress that pride in your accomplishments?

When I’m in the gym, I’m in control and I know what I want to do. The goal is to push more weight than the previous week -- to get stronger, to burn fat and gain muscle. I’ll tell you right here that I’ve got Captain America goals -- the v-shaped torso, boulder shoulders, and massive arm and chest muscles. It seems silly to aspire toward silver screen physiques. This is like if you walked into a hair salon or barbershop with a photo and told the person with the scissors that you wanted “The Rachel” or “The Uncle Jesse” -- okay, I salute you if you’re looking to rock these hairstyles today and I hope you go all in. People do that all the time!

It’s a safe bet to say that most people have seen a movie or opened a magazine and said to themselves, “I wish I could look like that.” We have our egos to blame for those aspirations. It’s dangerous to compare. But we need the self-awareness to pair with our egos, and I understand that achieving my personal superhero physique is completely realistic. It’s not going to hurt me or get in the way of my other goals. This accusation that I only love myself when I’m in the gym reminds me to check my ego. It tells me that maybe I am losing control.

Instagram, which I’ve mentioned once already, is an obvious medium through which egos can thrive. I acknowledge that. Now let me defend it -- or let my ego defend it (at this point, I’m not sure which one of us is typing). Posting progress photos to Instagram has two objectives for me. The primary objective is to show other users that the programs I use work and that if I can achieve these results, so can anybody. I love to use the platform as a tool for inspiration. It allows any of us to motivate hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of people. It also inspires me at the same time. Do you think that those captions I write aren’t serving as a kick in the ass to myself? 

Of course, some people post with full-throttle ego and no self-awareness. Have a look for yourself. You’ll be able to tell who on Instagram is just flexing for vanity’s sake and who is trying to better the community.

The second objective is to show that, yeah, I’m putting in a lot of work because I’m trying to live at the top of my game. Think back to that One-Life philosophy. In the gym, I’m focused and strong. I’m learning things about myself in an almost meditative state. I’m recharging my energy while taking a break from the rest of the world. In that 45 minutes, three times a week, I’m able to be present unlike any other part of my day. I’m able to love who I am in the gym because that is where I see myself at my best.

That’s how I dissected the accusation that I only love myself when I’m at the gym. The problem I still have with the statement is the word “only.” Why can I not feel this way outside of the gym? Can all those positive attributes that I notice during a workout be applied to other parts of my day? I believe they can. I’ve actually seen it -- not all that long ago, in fact. 

The closest I’ve been to living around the clock with that workout-high feeling, was when I was consistently practicing meditation. It’s the obvious next step. I currently practice a variety of meditation techniques, but I’m not consistent like I used to be. It’s critical that we care of our bodies and that we work hard to live our best lives. But we can’t live our best lives if we don’t love who we are and what we do. 

So yes, love yourself in the gym. Love who you are and who you are becoming. But it’s important to find a way to focus that positive energy in all areas of life. Love yourself when you’re not at your best, too. The method is more than likely personal and different for everyone. For me, I believe it’s consistent meditation (Transcendental Meditation has been the most effective in my experience). I would start there.

To follow my fitness journey, click the Instagram icon at the top/right corner of the page, or find me on your own @mikelahrman. If you have any comments or thoughts on keeping your ego balanced in and/or out of the gym, leave a comment! Thank you for reading.

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