Ego is defined as “the self, especially as contrasted with another self or the world.” Our ego is dictated by how we want to appear to the people around us. If you’ve ever walked into a room, hoping to be the fittest, most stylish, and well-groomed man in it, then you are no stranger to your own ego. And if you happen to not be all of those things, does it affect you? Do the self-critical thoughts creep in? Maybe you go harder in your workouts for a week or change up your diet.
Being hard on ourselves often comes after we’ve seen someone else do it better, faster, or stronger than we have. Self-criticism can be a vicious and relentless cycle, especially when we don’t have a strong sense of self to keep us grounded and happy with exactly who we are.
How much does your ego drive your pursuits? And, most importantly, does it affect how successful you are at reaching your goals?
We talked with retired U.S. Navy Commander and Le Mec co-founder Rudy Fernandez to hear how his approach to fitness has evolved over the years. Being solely motivated by looking physically fit used to be his greatest limiter. Now, he’s learned that a holistic approach to wellness is how you can become your fittest, happiest, and healthiest self. And he’s sharing how to do it.
LM: Rudy, you joined the U.S. Navy at 17 years old. What was your relationship to fitness like at that time?
RF: I was pretty fit from playing sports, but never trained at a gym. When I joined the Navy, I continued to work out, but my relationship with fitness was based on tests… we were tested in push-ups, sit-ups, running distances. I didn’t start working out with any real sense of purpose until I was in my mid-20s.
LM: Why did your approach to fitness change?
RF: My reasons for working out really changed when I went through a personal hardship in my life. I started working out because I knew it was good for my health, but as I lost weight, I became very motivated by the physical aspects: I just wanted to look good. What I quickly realized is that I’d plateau in my goals. I could only get so far–then I’d hit a wall in my progress and lose motivation to keep at it.
LM: What made you want to rethink your fitness goals?
RF: When I decided to recommit to my goals, I chose not to do it just to improve the way I looked. It’s hard to develop a healthy relationship with your body image, but I wanted to do it differently. The first time around, it was like a crash diet. You might get close to your goals, but it’s not sustainable. The next time, I decided this was going to be a lifelong journey.
LM: What changes did you see when you decided to work out for reasons that went beyond being physically fit?
RF: I learned how to control the part of me that just wanted to see physical progress: bigger muscles, leaner abs, etc. I learned that part of controlling your ego is about being present, through meditation and also being comfortable with yourself. Meditation is a way to balance my mental health and the attitude I have toward many things in my life. It’s literally a workout for your mind and over time it creates the space that allows you to make better decisions. You can’t get that from working out and dieting. It’s an important piece of calming that ego.”
Read on for Rudy’s five ways to build a healthier relationship with your workout routine:
Work Out for Your Mind
Waiting to see a transformation in your physical body can take months, even years. Setting such long-term (and egocentric) goals can lead to a loss in motivation and inability to stick with it. But, research has shown that setting immediate goals often works best. There are plenty of immediate benefits and according to one neuroscientist, most of them have to do with your mind: mental clarity, reducing anxiety, even the simple satisfaction of finishing something you set out to do.
Remove Unrealistic Standards from Your Life (or Feed)
Instagram and the rise of social media have an indisputable affect on how we perceive ourselves. One paper by EPJ Data Science found that “evidence has been accumulating that online social networking is associated with elevated levels of loneliness, anxiety, displeasure, and dissatisfaction.” In this study, they found that people tend to be less happy the more they compare themselves to others. If your social media feed is a daily reminder that someone else is fitter, happier, richer, etc. than you, consider cleaning up your feed and filling it with sources that improve your happiness, not chip away at it.
Journal and Meditate
A lot of men might be late to the journaling movement, but writing down your thoughts and feelings is proven to boost your overall happiness. Meditation might sound like a wellness buzzword these days, but there is absolutely substance behind the hype. Even taking five minutes to calm your nervous system can have a ripple effect on your overall mindset and your relationship with your body.
Have Some Fun
Working out gets a bad rap for being all about the grind. Along with your usual routine, look for ways you can have fun while still getting a great workout–without even realizing it. Like rock climbing, boxing classes that focus on skill (improve your punch outside the boutique boxing gyms), jiu jitsu training (a great way to work your mind and body), and hiking out in nature.
Take Recovery Time Seriously
Being dedicated to your goals can sometimes lead to bad habits, like not taking enough rest days or neglecting to let your body fully recover from your hard-hitting fitness routine. Making rest days just as important as your workouts can help you unwind, feel rested, and take time to focus on other things aside from your workouts.
You can follow Rudy here for more workout inspo.