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Health & Wellness Articles

An Exercise in Self-Esteem

Exercise Your Way to Feeling Better About Yourself

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If you’re like most people who want to lose weight, you probably think that shedding a few pounds will help you feel better about yourself. And chances are, you see exercise simply as something you need to do to accomplish that goal. But here’s something you may not know: this "necessary evil" approach to exercise may actually be preventing you from feeling better about yourself right now—even before the number on the scale or reflection in the mirror matches up with your ideal.

A simple attitude adjustment may help you start feeling a lot more comfortable in your skin right now—and this, in turn, can make your weight loss journey a lot easier and more pleasant. Here’s what you need to know to decide if you need to adjust your exercise attitude, and if so, how to do exactly that.

Making Friends with Your Body: The Roots of High Self-Esteem
There’s no doubt that feeling comfortable in your own skin is an important part of that “feeling-good-about-yourself” goal (also known as high self-esteem) you're trying to achieve. But the more you learn about the roots of self-esteem, the clearer it becomes that what helps the most has very little to do with achieving some abstract ideal, like a certain weight or look. In fact, there are many, many cases where people work very hard on goals like this—and even achieve them—only to find that they're still unsatisfied and unhappy. What does seem to have major, positive effects on self-esteem is the process of moving yourself—the right way—from where you are towards where you would like to be.

The journey is more important than the destination.

To be a little more precise, the best way to increase your self-esteem is to actively and effectively engage in something that is both good for you and consistent with your expressed goals. Both of these are key elements. If your goal isn't good for you, because it's unrealistic or strongly based on what you think other people want or expect from you (like trying to look like a model when your body can’t naturally achieve or maintain that), then you are going to face problems feeling good about yourself. Nothing you do will ever be good enough.

You’ll have the same problem if your actions aren’t consistent with your goals, like going on an unhealthy crash diet to achieve a healthy weight. To feel good about yourself, you have to treat yourself as if you are already someone worthy of respect and good treatment. If that means “faking it until you make it,” then that is where you need to start.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • Great article. I do have more self esteem now that I have reached goal and have pretty much stayed there for a few years now. I feel better, am breathing better, and I feel good about myself. I know I have clothes that fit me now and that makes a difference the moment I get dressed and check myself out before I start my day. This includes make up and shoes. No I am not vain, I just want to look the best I can. - 10/11/2014 11:14:59 PM
  • Really good article except for the last part... we are not an animal with a body. No siree!!! But I am a human being that wants to enjoy life and for me that includes making choices for my best health. I do need fun and play and as we grow older I think we forget that.

    Animal? No way! - 10/11/2014 7:27:49 AM
  • It took me a couple of years to get with the program, but now I think it will work for me. I had two surgeries last year and a bit of weight gain and loss, so now that the worst is over (at least for now!) I can concentrate of following everything I'm learning on Spark People.

    How I wish I had found SP 10 years ago before I spent money on programs that didn't help! - 4/30/2014 11:33:44 AM
  • 2BNUMENOW
    WOW! I AM SO GLAD TO FIND THIS SITE. SPARKPEOPLE HAVE SO MUCH INFO AND BOY DO I NEED IT. I AM CARETAKER FOR MY 92 YR.OLD MOM, MY ADULT SON WHO IS PARTIALLY DISABLED, AND MY HUBBY WHO HAS CARDIAC ISSUES. I CANNOT GET OUT TO A GYM, OR OTHER PROGRAMS. I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO SIGN ON EVERYDAY, BUT I WILL DO MY BEST TO FOLLOW THE PROGRAM. A MILLION THANKS TO THIS GROUP. MY DR. WILL BE PLEASED , I AM SURE. - 10/9/2013 10:44:01 AM
  • Great article. - 7/12/2013 9:22:54 PM
  • My problem is different because in my eyes even though I'm 220lbs I think that I look good (for my size)! Lol! It wasn't until I started hanging with some friends who were wayyyyy smaller then me and my dr. started telling me about some concerns. I'm still happy w me inside and out but my reasoning for losing weight has changed. I need to take time out for me! I want to be healthy with whatever size I am! Great article! I needed that!
    - 5/18/2012 12:11:59 PM
  • I think that self esteem (Thinking well of yourself) begins in childhood. Parents can program a child into thinking that they are clumsy, stupid, ugly etc. Peer grouops can do the same. Therefore it's important to try and recall how you felt as a young child growing up into adulthood. The cliches about telling yourslef that certain physicial features should be loved usually doesn't work. Most of us want to fit in with other's. Your sense of self esteem depends largly on how much you are willing to adopt the physical characteristics of the people that you see every day.
    There is nothing wrong with changing the way yiour features look if that will make you happy. On the other hand you can accept your face and body and not buy into crowd concepts of beauty. The choice is yours and either one is okay; at least that is what I think.
    Hillary cCinton's new hair style has caused a media uprsing because she doesn't have the sophisticated look that she exhibited awhile ago. Hillary said that her long hair was easier to manage and that she didn't care what people thought. She had more important things to do than worry about her hair. Bravo to Hillary cCinton. However, not all of us are like Hillary. We care what people think about how we look and feel badly when rejected. Therefore thinking about how we got to be self critical is important. How can we change our thinking if we don't know what caused it?

    Elizabeth - 5/15/2012 10:28:00 AM
  • SINCE I BEGAN MY WEIGHT LOSS IN AUG 2011.....I LISTENED TO EVERYONE...ABOUT HOW I LOOK........THEN I SAID WAIT.....I WILL SHOW THEM AND I HAVE .......FROM A SIZE 16 TO A SIZE 14......THIS ARICLE JUST REINFORCED ALL THAT....... - 1/27/2012 10:18:57 PM
  • This article clarified a lot for me. In order to make a permanent changes, I need to lighten up! - 1/15/2012 11:33:47 AM
  • I really love this article!! It helps to understand what the proper motive for doing something positive should be. This was really very helpful for me. Thank you. - 8/25/2011 12:09:29 PM
  • This so resonates with me! Before I started losing the weight my husband asked why I couldn't bless my body for the strength and health it posesses. I didn't know but I started to think of all the ways I appreciated how my body gets me through a day. Like being able to carry and deliver my three amazing children... Being able to now bike and play and run with the kids and even just for myself. So I started to bless my body. Each part. Even the parts I was less than satisfied with how they looked. I'm not sure if that's just hokey but everything is responding and now the scale is too. I feel stronger & healthier. Like I can take on the world! - 8/24/2011 12:10:06 PM
  • I've been frustrated at how stubborn the number on the scale has been. This article showed up in my e-mail today, and I noticed that I first read it exactly one year ago. It helps to be reminded why I'm exercising and trying to eat better--to take good care of the only body I'm ever going to have NOT to hit some number on the scale. - 8/24/2011 11:30:29 AM
  • One of my boys was asking why I was exercising. I told him it was because I wanted to be healthier. He said, "Are you sure it's not to lose fat?" And I told him no, it was to be healthier. That just might result in losing fat. - 8/24/2011 9:54:11 AM
  • I really enjoy his articles-I find myself learning a lot. It just seems as though he can relate to my struggles, as if he is going through them himself! - 8/24/2011 4:42:12 AM
  • Great article!! - 5/6/2011 1:46:46 PM

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