Seeing Your “Conditioned” Reflection
Hello, my friends! I hope you are treating life well, and I hope that it is reciprocating! Last week I spoke about the dangers of using the scale as your “Holy Grail” of weight loss. I spoke of the physiological flaws and the psychological damage of using these seemingly innocuous measurement tools. Today, I want to show you how this negative practice forms negative beliefs about yourself, and how it can hamper your health and fitness goals if left unchecked.
To set the stage for what I am about to propose, I want you to think of the term conditioning. Used in a physical training context, we think of conditioning our muscles, our heart, and our cardiovascular system to perform at their peak. We attend school to “condition” our minds, and strive to make them amenable to learning. We memorize, apply, problem solve, and strategize with the hope that our conditioning will pay off in the real world.
These forms of conditioning are what I call INTENTIONAL forms of conditioning. For example, if you want a college degree, you intentionally condition yourself to get up early in the morning, pay a butt-load of money for tuition, stay up late to study, and refrain from some of life’s more pleasurable activities in hopes to gain them in the future with increased financial freedom. We use intentional conditioning to achieve the goals that are desirable to us by getting ourselves to do the things that will get us there! Make sense?
In contrast, we also experience what I call UNINTENTIONAL conditioning. This form of conditioning happens to us each and every day. We see a TV commercial suggesting that on-line dating is now the way to go and that love is just around the corner. Upon first pass, the commercial may have a small effect on our overall conditioning, but after time, we begin to consider the possibilities of the service and may actually give it a try. In this type of scenario, you did not proactively say to yourself, “go the nearest online dating sight and sign up immediately!” No, you did not say this because you were not intentional about it. Alternatively, you were unintentionally conditioned to first consider the proposal, and then accept the offer.
So what is the difference between these two forms of conditioning? The answer is shockingly simple yet profoundly misunderstood. Intentional conditioning is a conscious mental process, and unintentional conditioning is a subconscious mental process–or at least it starts that way. For example, if you intentionally (or consciously) convince yourself that a college degree is important, and you say it over and over, whether audibly or internally, it will begin to contribute to your subconscious or unintentional conditioning. This form of conditioning would be considered a good or positive form of conditioning because it is driving you towards your goal.
Unfortunately, the inverse is also true. Let us use our scale and mirror example from last week’s post. If you are overweight or obese, then chances are good that you have had years of unintentional training. This form of passive training stems from what you see on the covers of magazines, on the screen of movies, and from pop-culture that suggests unintentionally that the only way to be happy is to have bulging pecs and a six pack if you are a guy and have a 10” waist and twigs for arms and legs if you are a girl. When you are subjected to this form of unintentional conditioning year after year, you begin to form what you think is reality in your conscious and subconscious mind. In essence, a picture of health and happiness has been drawn FOR YOU, and your subconscious mind begins to believe it. Worse yet, your conscious mind follows suit.
So, there you are with years of subconscious programming swirling around in your mind. What the human body should look like. A perfect picture of what is “right and beautiful.” And then, there you are, stepping onto the scale and looking in the mirror. In an instant you create a war in your head between what “should be” based on your unintentional conditioning and what IS! This is when the thoughts of “you pig,” or “you loser,” or “you fat, unattractive slob” come into your head. BTW, these are not just examples that I am pulling from thin air. These are statements from actual clients of mine. I have seen this cycle occur again and again, and, yes, it is viscous and destructive in nature.
In next week’s installment, I will share with you a simple solution that you can use to break this cycle and take control of your limiting beliefs and perceptions. As a hint, it is NOT as hard as you may think. In the mean time, my friends, stay true to yourself and pay attention to the negative forms of conditioning and beliefs in your life. Write down the biggest barriers to your success, and next week we will begin the process of obliterating your negative image that the mirror has so boldly declared as “fact.” I can assure you, my friends, that the negative conditioned response that you may see in the mirror is NOT a fact. Be good to yourself and remember: Life is good!