She was about 100 pounds overweight. Unhappy with herself, but willing to give exercise a try. Again.
I’ll never forget as she was leaving her first workout, exhausted and face flush she said: "I just want to by the type of person who gets up and works out five days a week."
It was in that moment that I understood why she had never been successful.
So I asked her a question: “At what point do you think you’ll have reached that goal? Of becoming that person?”
“I don’t know…I just want to be one of those people.”
She kept that identity reserved as a reward for looking a certain way, which is of course backwards. It was as though she had to be qualified to feel something. It was keeping her at a distance. As long as she saw herself as "not one of those people," she would never engage in the one behavior that characterizes those people: coming to the gym every day.
I told her she didn’t need to look a certain way or to have completed a certain number of workouts to be the person she wanted, she just needed to make the decision to be one. She could achieve that, right in this moment if she only gave herself permission.
What I suggested was simple, but not easy.
I think wrestling with our identity is one of the most difficult struggles we can take on. We’re afraid of looking bad, screwing up, being wrong, failing, or worst of all discovering that we are a complete and total fraud.
She trained a few more times but eventually stopped coming. Occasionally she comes to the gym to drop her son off, but she stays in the car. I can only guess what she’s feeling. I feel bad that I couldn’t help her, but I hope one day she has the courage to let go and be her ideal self. I hope we all do.