The moment you start your new diet or fitness routine, are you scared of getting smart-ass comments and brickbats from your friends and family?
You are not alone. Pulling someone down, someone who is trying to become successful is not just limited to our Indian DNA. It is a part of human psychology and experienced by people around the world. The ‘crab mentality’, as it is popularly referred to, is when people pull down others who are trying to escape the misery of being unhealthy (or moving towards self-improvement or just simply success). You will see it in your kid’s playground where instead of encouraging the new kids, the older and stronger kids will resort to bullying, showing the new one his ‘place’. It continues in colleges and then at workplaces. And even in our personal relationships. If the husband plans to get fit and healthy, sometimes the wife feels threatened of being left behind and vice versa.
The general thinking is that if someone else gets better, it is at the cost of one’s own success. We compare our success to other people’s achievements or the lack of it. As long as you remain unfit, I will not feel guilty about my own unhealthy ways. This kind of thinking is based on the idea of limited resources and limited potential. We are not programmed to think of limitless potential, where someone’s success is seen as a growth path for others. Think of groups and organisations where the success of one person is celebrated by everyone. Where the success of one person does not threaten others but instead, inspires them. The positivity and energy of such a group is rare and precious!
Let’s take the example of four obese friends. One of them starts a diet and he braces himself for the ridicule and discouragement he is sure to receive from his buddies. What he doesn’t realise is that he is forcing them to subconsciously reevaluate their own behaviour and how they feel about themselves. He is making them ‘look bad’. If he gets healthy and loses the excess weight, then they would feel unfit hanging out with him. They would feel bad about having fries for lunch and beer in the evening. Who does this guy think he is, upsetting the group’s traditions! Two things might happen in this case – the ‘trying to be healthy’ guy would either give up his weight loss efforts and resent his friends for not supporting him or he will move on and find new friends.
This is the sad truth of our subconscious thinking. The group has missed out on collectively becoming healthier and now have one resentful and unhappy friend. The truth is that as we make changes in our lifestyle, some of our friends and family will feel they are being left behind. They may come round to evolving their thinking to catch up with us or we will end up separating ourselves enough from them to successfully pursue our goals.
Come to think of it, we have all gone through similar experiences of discouragement and disconnection from our social groups. When we were students and wanted to focus on our studies, we lost touch with our hangout groups. When we wanted to focus on our career, we had to cut out the time spent on coffee breaks with our work buddies. Change is not easy. Not easy on you or those around you. Be empathetic to them and allow them time to adjust.
Stay connected to a positive community that supports and celebrates your success. Make new friends. Explain to your family why it is important for you to do this. If all else fails, tell them to keep their comments to themselves! :/
Remember that by doing this, you are not being selfish but self-respecting. You are doing it because you deserve to look good and feel good. You are doing this for the person you see in the mirror. Because in the end, you alone decide how you feel about how you lead your life. Make choices that make you proud of who you are becoming. Don’t let anyone hold you back from transforming into a fitter, stronger and healthier you!
Article Credits – Jyoti Dabas (Director, INFS)