Jul 3, 2014

Ego Therapy: What Gyms Sell

Why gyms do more to remedy our fragile egos than work out our muscles

Why do some people become obsessed with going to gyms and working out? To be fit. Why? To be healthy. Why? So they can live an active and happy life. Does it really require lifting heavy weights in a room full of sweaty people making groaning noises to stay healthy? How about going hiking or a long walk outside or doing simple exercises at home? And what is this perfect model of health and fitness anyways? Is it mass body index? Winning CrossFit competitions? Finishing marathons? And which latest “cool” fitness craze/cult has the most believable founding story, pseudo-organic philosophy and covert corporate sponsorship to convince me to join its fitness religion and remedy my fragile ego?

Does being fit require religiously spending many hours every week in gyms; sweating, lifting, groaning and tracking every set, rep, mile, pound, minute and countless other metrics on the way to becoming our best and fittest self? Do we stop working out when we reach our fitness goals? Is there even such thing as a fitness goal or is “fitness” rather a vague idea rebranded and packaged as a “lifestyle” by marketing gurus to create and hype up the next big exercise craze and associated consumption? Is there a fitness craze out there that was not hijacked, hyped up and heavily marketed by big corporations once it started growing, often undermining its original, grassroots and organic founding? Aren't all these fitness memes and cults (CrossFit, Yoga, Kickboxing, Zumba, etc.) just different marketing schemes of the Fitness Industrial Complex to profit from the insecurities of an individualistic and over-competitive culture? Are we compensating for our lack of confidence and status by tailoring our external and physical features to match that of society’s “perfect” model so others respect and like us through our “society approved” physical identifiers/features? Of course, the sad irony here is that even in the absence of insecurities that motivate some to obsess over their self image, our modern superficial society judges everyone by their looks and external image. So we are in a way forced to participate in this game, even if we don’t believe in it.

Gyms obviously play a huge role in providing therapeutic help to prop up and maintain our fragile egos. Most of us are by default, insecure about our insignificance in an over-competitively alienating and individualistically shallow and judgmental society, where people are judged by their careers, titles, degrees, wealth and looks. Some are fat but have fancy titles and jobs. Others have fancy degrees and are fit and some are just extremely fit. But the sad and ironic through behind these ego remedies, is that they never actually remedy the deep insecurity within, just mask them temporarily. That’s why the chase to keep our ego remedy glasses full is an infinite struggle for the self, and a consumption gold mine for corporations once rebranded as a “cool lifestyle”.

If we accept the argument above, then shouldn't we also conclude that, a fat, unemployed and uneducated person who is in peace with him or herself (feeling no envy or jealousy of others’ lives) is a more genuine person? Would we rather not spend more time with this person than an extremely fit, Ivy League graduate lawyer, who will not stop talking about his or her accomplishments, wealth, cars and travels?

The therapeutic feeling that comforts my ego when I work out in the gym while checking myself out in the mirror, is what gyms sell. Being healthy, physically fit and looking “in shape” are just positive side-effects of the ego remedy we are sold by corporations when we buy into the next fitness craze.

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