I follow a lot of professional bodybuilders, physique competitors, models and fitness experts on all manner of social media, and while I do love the updates on progress, tips for workouts and meals (taken with a grain of salt of course) and the pervasive can do attitude of the fairly successful people, there is something they almost universally do that drives me a little up the wall.
While I appreciate that they have overcome all manner of struggle to get where they are, and that none of them have chosen an easy path to recognition and success, the constant assertion that there can be “no excuses” that I find more than a little problematic.
“No excuses!” they cry with able bodies and sound minds. “Shut up and train!” comes the bellowed refrain of those with economic stability and a wholesome support network. It feels more like posturing for the sake of the masculine persona rather then a genuine source of encouragement from those that want to see you succeed.
The worst of these offenders are those that take examples of people with visible disabilities that have done very well for themselves in fitness and paste some meme-like words on the pictures that say “If he can do it, what’s your excuse?” or “NO EXCUSES” just like that, all caps, no punctuation. I find this sort of inspiration porn to be disingenuous at best and ableistly discriminatory at worst. It implies that there is only one form of physical disability and that all others are made up nonsense to give someone an excuse to not work or to absolved them from any “real responsibility”.
I have friends will all kinds of disabilities that make it hard for them to achieve the sort of physical fitness that many of these people demand to see before they can respect you. One friend wanted to be a personal trainer before fibromysalsia set in and made it impossible to regularly train at the gym. Another has cerebral palsy and does the best that he can while not being able to use his legs. Still another struggles with money and can’t afford a gym membership, but works hard at home to do what he can. These are not people making excuses, but rather people that have a lot more to get through than most.
Now, there are exceptions to this. I have seen a few of these bodybuilders I follow that, instead of implying “get your lazy ass to the gym and stop whining about everything little thing so you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, tend to encourage someone to move past their struggles if they can or work around them if they can’t. This is the sort of “If you’re going through Hell, keep going” attitude that I like to see from role models.
What I am trying to say is that It’s good encourage people to be the best that they can be, and that’s part of why I am making this blog at all (and I do hope that I am succeeding), but you can’t just go around saying that because you did it everyone can. Major success is a rare thing, that’s what makes it major success. We have to acknowledge that It’s ok to do your best on something just because you want to and not because you need to make money or a statement or even because you feel pressured to. Those of us that are lucky enough to find a passion that we are able to pursue are obligated to encourage others to be the best that they are comfortable being.