There is nothing more invigorating than working your butt off in the gym and seeing it pay off in competition. As a bodybuilder, you grind through several weeks of dieting to be shredded. And as a strength athlete, you drag yourself out of the gym after hellish workouts in an overreached state. As the competition approaches, you tend to feel like absolute crap (physique athletes probably more so), but then the big day comes and most of the time, it’s all worth it. You win trophies, get showered with endless praise, and hopefully make friends with your fellow competitors.

Although some people may endure the torture simply for the love of competition, many people who compete in fitness have a deeper reason. If you ask someone why they compete, they’ll say they just want to be healthy, lean, or as strong as possible (and that it’s fun), but these sports don’t necessarily make you healthier, and being leaner or stronger than average certainly doesn’t require the same dose response we get from bodybuilding or powerlifting. Often, some fundamental event or circumstance will mold a person to want to compete in sport where extremely low body fat or extraordinary strength is required. These deeper reasons are not talked about often but they certainly warrant discussion. In reality, it is best to be honest with these hidden motivations and recognize them for what they are. That way, we can find true fulfillment in our accomplishments in the gym.

 

Self-Esteem and Self-Identity

There is no doubt that your actions define who you are to some degree. You are most likely known as the “fit” person by your friends and family. They know you eat healthy and exercise regularly. Many fitness athletes tend to define themselves by their sport, but this can be a slippery slope. Rather than enjoy the sport for what it is, they use it to mask some feelings of insecurity or validate themselves.

This mask can be worn for a long time, especially when a person is successful in the sport, but what happens when one is no longer able to compete at a high level or he or she has to “retire” completely? The identity that they’ve used for so long is stripped away and the insecurities they hid away are exposed once again.

These hidden issues are often the initial motivation for people to start getting in shape for a competition. Sometimes, the issue is small and resolves itself naturally. But often, getting in shape will not resolve the insecurities. In fact, the issue may get even more deeply rooted depending on the sport in which the person competes. This then leads to the outcome I described above. So, instead of waiting until for the inevitable, it would be best for these athletes to recognize and resolve underlying issues before they become a problem. Let’s take a look at some of the common ways that these issues manifest in competitors.

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