Focus. Determination. Drive. These are just some of the characteristics associated with athletes who spend endless hours training, pushing, sweating and toiling over their sport all hours of the day. Their peers and fans elevate them to a pedestal of admiration with the motivation and inspirational achievements exuded through titles, trophies and magazine covers. There is also another trait that is ubiquitous and flows thoroughly in the veins of fitness/bodybuilding industry: Ego.
I will touch upon this subject with two different moods: formal analytical and idiomatic with a slight comedic twist.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying everyone in the fitness realm is a self absorbed, arrogant dumbbell-wielding narcissist. But coincidentally, bodybuilding has been regarded as a “selfish sport” and funny enough if you look up the definition of ego, its Latin word meaning “I” and is used in the English language relating to “self”. The vast majority of us human beings possess ego, which is completely normal. The perfect ego in my opinion is a healthy ego, which falls between the blocks of high self-importance and low self-regard. Possessing humility, respect and integrity are just some of the traits of a healthy ego.
For those of you who have never competed or have had someone close to you compete, let me fill you in on a few things. Why bodybuilding is deemed a “selfish” sport is that the competitor’s life is consumed training and diet. When they train, sleep, rise, what they eat, what they cannot eat, when they eat, why they won’t too often engage in social events because of training or a restricted diet. It all revolves around them. There is no compromise. There is no room for error. This is part of the price they pay to win.
Let me begin with an example of a subject with a healthy ego who decides to compete in a physique competition. They win their show, people congratulate them, start to get attention from strangers and gets publicity through social media or magazines. These consecutive rewards are all great for their self-esteem, albeit based on superficial achievements. When the recognition and admiration starts to overflow, and one loses awareness and stability of the healthy ego it starts to slowly manifest itself. The attachment to the praise of others leads to belief and growing idealism that one is above their prior self and others and is ignorant to what is real and factual. This for example, is very common in the fitness scene. I’ve seen, heard and experienced it first hand.
I’ve met numerous people in the fitness industry. Some I loosely use the term ”friends” and very few that I have close in my life. There have been people whom I’ve gotten to know and was so tired of one-sided conversations that I had distanced myself from them. From what I’ve gathered and taken inventory of, here are some telltale signs of an overactive ego. They:
- Refer to themselves in third person
- Introduce themselves with their first AND last name
- Give themselves nicknames
- Complain about people wanting to date/get to know them for who they are or how connected they are in the industry
- Are offended if you or anyone doesn’t know who they are
- Are extremely nice to high profile industry people and could care less about others without titles
This goes with anyone, egomaniac or not that if anyone ever begins a sentence with “I am smart/humble/rich”, it usually means they’re not because if you’re actually smart you would have a more subtle and intelligent way to say it. If you’re humble, you wouldn’t even say that in the first place and if you’re rich and you say it…well, that means you’re not smart so expect to get robbed.
Personally, even I have experienced a growing ego at one point. Everything was going right for me in the fitness scene, I was at my physical best, people were giving me compliments on how good I was looking so I was going into Nationals with confidence. Well, I got my butt handed to me on a silver platter. I was competing in figure at the time and was TINY compared to those other girls. A year later, I reverted to the category in which proved to be the most successful for me: Bikini. I thought it would be a piece of cake to win my IFBB Pro Card, but in my first year competing in the Canadian circuit I never claimed first place. I fell victim to other people’s words: “You ARE bikini Karen”, “You ARE a pro”, “It’s YOUR time”. After seven Pro Qualifiers and three 1st place finishes, I gave up. I was over the mental anguish of not turning Pro, pushing my body and mind to exhaustion and truthfully, my ego had been bruised too many times. On a whim, I entered my last Nationals a week before the show and kept it low key. I didn’t want to hear any well wishes, I just wanted to compete because I wanted to experience the original reason why I started: for the fun & love of competition and especially not for a Pro Card.
I haven’t a romantic or philosophical way to bring anyone to the realization of the ego. All I request is that you experiment with yourself every once in a while beginning today, to treat a stranger as if they were you. Whether that person is a gas station attendant, waiter or someone asking for directions. Sometimes we’re not very warm or welcoming because we judge people based on their appearance or status. But what makes us better than these people? Really? Do you do charitable work just for your ego or are you genuinely interested in making a difference in someone’s life?
This topic has so many aspects that I can talk all day about, and the most difficult thing for me in this chapter in Miriam’s book was to downsize and keep it concise. I really thank you for taking the time to read my chapter and I hope you enjoy the rest of this fabulous book!