What are some exercises to build mental resilience against self-consciousness and self-deprecating thoughts?

For instance: when doing a deadlift routine, I feel quite embarrassed doing my 110 kg max lift, knowing that literally everyone around me can easily repmax 2-3x more. This feeling generalizes to different instances in my life where the same kinds of thoughts distract me from progressing towards my goals.

What are some mindfulness exercises to help overcome such pervasive thoughts?

My go-to medicine is to do a pep-talk along the lines of: "Just do it right and do it quickly; you're going to be in the gym for only 10 more minutes". While it gets the job done, it makes the process a lot less fun and it dodges the crux of the issue entirely.

I'm not looking for one-off self-help talks like that; I'm looking for concrete exercises I can practice to build my mental resilience. Perhaps some form of meditation? Aerboics? I don't know. (Hence the question :))

Apologies in advance if this is off-topic. The question is in the same spirit as other mental fitness questions, but obviously in a different flavor.

  • @E.Aigle this is a bit more specific, I'm looking for concrete exercises, not just motivation. I'll edit it to make the distinction clearer
    – nz_21
    Apr 22 '21 at 15:38

"Comparison is the thief of joy."

Now, with that said, if we're going to compare, let's do it right at least. Why I say that is that comparisons are often good for tracking progress, goal setting, and motivation. However, you need to do it right.

when doing a deadlift routine, I feel quite embarrassed doing my 110 kg max lift, knowing that literally everyone around me can easily repmax 2-3x more.

Firstly, you should never feel bad if someone lifts more than you. You should be thinking "Good for them, they've probably worked hard for it" instead of "Wow, I must be super weak". The latter both puts yourself down and minimizes the work that others have done.

Now, let's say you setup for deadlifts. You're lifting your max for 110 kg. A guy sets up beside you and starts lifting 220 kg. Are you the same height? Weight? Same lifting experience? Same point in a macrocycle? Same strength goals? Was the lift the same RPE? Do you judge RPE the same way? Did you both get the same sleep last night? Are your diets the same? No? So how are you drawing out these comparisons?

"They're lifting 220kg and I'm lifting 110kg. 220 kg / 110 kg means he's 2x stronger." That's simply not true to begin with. If said lifter weighs 110 kg+ you can even check through WILKS or DOTS that they're closer to 40% stronger. You need to compare apples to apples. Also, if you're at a gym where people are routinely lifting 2-3 x 110kg (220-330 kg, 485-727 lb) for reps?? I mean, I want to be at that gym. That sounds like a whole lot of strong people to learn from. And I guarantee that, unless you're ego lifting or an ass-hat, anyone deadlifting 330 kg is just happy to see you there learning and giving it your best. I've personally enjoyed seeing some beginners at my gym start to bulk out and really gain confidence.

So here's my exercise: change the way you talk to yourself. Whenever you find yourself saying "I'm such a weakling" or "They're so strong, I'm so frail" you need to start thinking "I'm not as strong as them yet but I'll get there" or "Last year I could barely lift this, now it's easy. I'm making progress". When making comparisons, start making them properly. Finally, you need to accept that there are people stronger than you and, unless you hit world-class levels, there will always be someone stronger than you, regardless of your size. That's OK.

  • 3
    Great answer, I'd like to add that progress pictures or keeping track of your lifts helps you to remember where you actually started. I often forget how far I have actually come, and looking back helps to put my mind back in frame. Sure there is someone in your gym bigger/stronger than you now, and you can't help but to have a bit of envy for him, but the new guy in the gym is thinking the same thing of where you are now. Apr 22 '21 at 17:11
  • 3
    A "concrete exercise" that he's looking for could be getting in the habit of tracking progress. It creates a sort of positive feedback loop where you lift -> you track -> you see progress -> This motivates you -> You lift -> You track -> You see progress -> This motivates you -> You lift....
    – DeeV
    Apr 22 '21 at 17:29
  • @DeeV -- that is a good suggestion. Same with Eric. I agree that tracking is a habit that helps solidify your progress. Being able to look back is fantastic.
    – C. Lange
    Apr 22 '21 at 17:46
  • 1
    Totally agree, I'd add that the only person you can truly compare yourself to is yourself. No one has the same lifestyle, genetics etc that you do, and there's no way you could ever adjust for all those variables. Even comparing yourself to yourself 6 months ago is not really fair because you've experienced more etc so of course you'll be different (hopefully better). It is however helpful to see how changes you have made have impacted you (diet, rest or any other variable you chose to focus on) to see what works best to achieve your goals.
    – E.Aigle
    Apr 23 '21 at 7:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.