Pressure to Perform … Stop Being so Hard on Yourself!

by Marianne  - December 7, 2011

Clearly I am not going to be talking about THAT pressure to perform, but I have been thinking about things that affect training performance, or perception of our performance.

For those of you who are new to my blog, you will see that I have a “warts and all” approach to my choice of topic and I often write about things I feel are worth airing.

Naturally I am a VERY competitive person. My goal is always to be THE best. It may not be possible, or ever actually happened, but it has never stopped me seeking it. Β It may not seem like it, but I hate being bad at things and I am not too thrilled about being out-done either. Β The latter is something I am working on because it is happening more and more given that I am exposed to more people who are better at things than me. Β Given where I am from, I have had the luxury of being considered very good at things. Β Reality has hit somewhat since travelling πŸ˜‰

I mentioned in my “Condition Your Body, Focus Your Mind” post about how I have a lot of goals because I am inspired by other women to constantly improve and how I now feel I will never be “the best” at anything because I seem to be a Jack of All Trades. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be frustrating to never be the best … Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. Β Why I even need to to the best at absolutely everything is something perhaps that needs a deeper look at … :-/

There in lies the problem that some of us face, and possibly a negative side to seeing what others can do via Youtube, Facebook and blogs etc. While their purpose is to motivate and inspire, there can sometimes be a perceived “bet you can’t do this!” about it. For some people this can be intimidating and they may feel they will never measure up and, as a result, put way to much pressure on themselves to reach that standard or be that strong. Β Maybe on some level it seems that you can only be considered strong when, for example, you reach a 300lb deadlift; forgetting all the other factors that come into play.

This is not the fault of those posting these examples but more often it is a personality trait of the person watching/reading. Hands up,Β I am guilty of have those insecure thoughts and feelings about my ability that I will never amount to anything because I am not as strong as “her”. And do you know what? This actually has a hugely negative effect on my training as I feel that pressure to perform! For one thing, you end up so fixated on what you can’t do, that you fail to see all the small increments being reached on your own scale of progression. Not only that, but if you reach too far too soon, then you are only setting yourself up to fail as you won’t progress properly. Β This whole thing struck me in the gym as I am ignoring all the small victories I have had.

I am writing about this because I am guilty as charged, and this is something I will always battle with. Because I post videos of myself “being strong” or performing well, does not mean that I don’t suffer from self-doubt and sometimes a little envy of what other people can do. Β There’s no point in me brushing over this “darker side” of my personality because it’s there and I do kind of hate it, but, in a way, I guess this has provided some of my drive to do better; the problem is that it came from the wrong place. You see, I really don’t need to be better than anyone else, I just need to be a better version of me, in all walks of my life. Unless I am a competitive athlete of course πŸ˜‰ Having an awareness of your flaws is the only way to begin changing them.

Instead, I need to think of my strength in relative terms, considering all the factors in my journey to date. Like, look how far I have come since last year or last month etc! Or, because of seeing someone else perform better than me I should really focus on how I can use that competitive energy to make my lift better than I did it yesterday, or appreciate that I have now reached a goal I never thought possible. What was negative, becomes positive!

What I never want is for the Strength Training “movement” to become like the “you are only fit if you have a six pack” pressure that I have ranted about in the past. Β It struck me that, just as it’s easy to focus on how someone looks, it’s also easy to focus on what someone else is doing, especially with Social Media constantly having us see exactly what others can do!! Β If it starts to get you down, then step back and focus on yourself for a while. Β I know there are many people who are not affected in this way, but I can empathise with those who constantly feel that what they can do, is not good enough. Β We should never have to feel this way and, it is within our power to stop it!

In your eyes, never let someone else’s ability eclipse your own – because no one has walked in your shoes or overcome the hurdles you have and you should wear your achievements like medals of honour. Try to see value in what you have to offer and celebrate it when ever you can!



PS – If it turns out that I am the ONLY one who has ever felt this way, then I will gladly check myself in to a Psychiatric facility πŸ˜› But I have a feeling I am not the only one!

PPS – Update on the 8th Dec 2011 – I got a cool surprise on Facebook to see that Shape Magazine has listed MyoMyTV on their “The 10 Best Workout Videos on YouTube” πŸ™‚ I may not be number 1, but, with my new-found wisdom, I am pretty damn proud to be on the list at all!! Thank you everyone for doing my workouts and proving that they work!


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  1. If you can stay competitive, but not cocky, then you will always have a fan base. And if you put one’s true self out there, instead of a manufactured plastic person, that will outshine anything else.

  2. I have to comment that you are indeed a real inspiration. I have been using kettle bells for a couple of months but I don’t appear to be your typical follower. I am a very overweight woman struggling to find her “inner power.” I am down about 100 pounds but still have about the same amount to go. I have to modify your workout moves but I am inspired to continue to work toward being more healthy. Don’t under estimate your impact on others. Thank you.

    1. Terri, firstly thank you for your lovely words! It’s nice to feel like I am making a difference, so I appreciate your comment very much.

      Next, I don’t think I have a typical follower, because I know there are hundreds of readers who never comment. The ones who do are in a minority – so I actually don’t know what my typical follower is. I know that one thing everyone who comments share is a drive and passion for progression and strength (inner and outer) – so you are already showing that you have the strength and power to make these changes to your life for the better. Even if you forget about the physical benefits, the empowerment alone is enough to make it worth while!

      You should be so proud of yourself! πŸ˜€

  3. Thank you for this. This is exactly what I struggle with frequently. Usually I feel it most when people share their athletic accomplishments. I should just feel pleased for them, but instead my competitive instincts tend to kick in and I feel like I have to do what they are doing or do something to prove I can do ‘better’ than that. I recognized this competitive streak in me a long time ago, and I am working towards progress in this area. Excellent post, thank you!

  4. Hey Marianne, I’ve recently discovered your site and you (not through shape, but girls gone strong) and I love this article. I’m hyper competative to the point where I will even compare myself against what the guys can do – it comes from a martial arts background where I had this necessity to always prove my worth as a female. In short, I related to every word you just wrote.

    I think one thing that we, as women who are getting stronger, need to do is to learn to celebrate achievements, no matter how small because a PR is a PR. There is a fine line between never been satisfied and always wanting to push a little harder and drive yourself into the ground while you look at the distance you’ve yet to travel.

    And for what its worth you inspire me.

    1. It sure is a fine line, good point! Although it’s not because of any history in MA, I too have a sense of competition (or proving myself as a women) to men! Maybe it’s because I was always exposed to men thinking they were superior (in my up-bringing), but I totally understand that drive!

      Thanks Lani πŸ™‚

  5. Thanks so much for this blog Marianne. I am SO guilty of this and it gets especially harder as I get older. Having always been the “strongest girl in the gym”, it was kinda of my “thing” and now that I am in my 40’s and having had 2 knee surgeries I am probably not *that* girl anymore, still strong but instead of the strength of 2 men, probably 1 and a 1/2 on a good day ;)I can only be the best I am NOW, not what I was 15-20 years ago. Staying strong and just the simple act of kneeling down to zip up my son’s jacket are my goals. Now, I remember fondly the days of 350lb squats, 425 lb dead lifts. I pass the torch on to you younger beautiful “Girls Gone Strong”

    1. Wow! 350lb squat and 425 deadlift!! Did you ever compete?? It clearly hasn’t stopped you trying to be the best you πŸ™‚ Laughing at you saying “the strength of 1 and a 1/2” πŸ˜‰ Love it!

      1. I did! Only a couple powerlifting comps but I competed in bodybuilding and fitness. Far enough back that I used to be the only girl in the gym.

  6. Dear Marianne, firstly congratulations on being voted in the 10 best Youtube exercise sites, you really deserve being there.
    Secondly, congratulations on opening up to how you really feel. Why shouldn’t you want to be the best at what you do, I think we are suffer from this to some extent. It’s only negative when you let it affect you negatively – please don’t let that happen, you are too lovely. Just keep being you, and doing what you do BEST.
    Lots of love,

  7. The “you dont have to deadlift 300lbs to be considered strong” comment was something that i can really identify with. I was seeing people at the gym doing things that i envied and was frustrated that i wasn’t there yet, but something struck me funny about a month and a half ago. I was pulling out my “heavy as f%#k” window air conditioner to take to my basement for the season and realized that it was no longer a struggle for me like it was when i brought it upstairs, in the summer. I thought to myself, wow…i’m getting stronger! Functionally strong enough to accomplish the things i have to get done. Maybe not the things i want to get done but i’m getting there. Glad you put that statement there…but now i’ll say to myself, “you don’t have to deadlift 300lbs to be considered strong, you just have to be able to lift the heavy as f%#k air conditioner”.

    1. Well, i did it…300lbs fact new p.r. of 325 lbs!!!! I accredit it to kettlebells and my new regimine using stronglifts 5×5. Hope to hit 350 by the end of january

  8. Love this post!

    It really motivates me, inside and out.
    I do agree with u with your statement “What I never want is for the Strength Training β€œmovement” to become like the β€œyou are only fit if you have a six pack” pressure. I also like the old article of yours about your interview with Steve Cotter.I can relate those article with what you are saying here.I am now focus on my strength and performance.Not the aesthetic part πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for your words and those free workout πŸ™‚
    May God bless you!

    1. It’s hard to do Nenie, since we are always being pressured to feel aethetics are the most important thing about fitness and even life, but we have to take a step back and realise it’s more than that!


  9. you know the funny thing is that we all feel like that from time to time. I know for me I could have a six pack, arms really cut, etc. but if I’m not happy from the inside-out…it’ll never work. That’s why as hard as I train physically, I’ve learned that I also have to train spiritually…..even more. I hate to admit it but just like theirs good energy in the world…theirs bad energy coming @ us too. I strongly feel that the way to fight that bad energy is to compliment, and incourage one another when ever possible! And that’s why I love your blog marianne….it’s more than just exercices & tips I get out of it! I’ve never even met you…but you come across as a geniune spirit. Sorry if I got a little deep…but hey…you started lol

    PS I recently added another goal to my list, to take a walk for an hr once week (your article really inspired me to do this) So I went to the lake on saturday & it was best thing I could’ve done for myself…I got away from all the noise & my crazy schedule! That following monday morning @ the gym, I had the best workout..thnx 4 the tip:)

    1. The walks really help, don’t they πŸ™‚ What a way to clear the mind and reset the spirit. You are so right in what you are saying, thank you for responding πŸ™‚

  10. Dear Marianne, my name is Magda and i live in Dublin. What can I say in reply to your honest (highly appreciated) post.. First of all, I am a big fan of your website and of your workouts. Without a shadow of a doubt you set a fantastic example to many women and I am positive: men too. The gym I go to has well over 10,000 members and among them there are maybe two girls whose physique body sculpture) would resemble yours. i might have also met two female instructors who would be as strong and as versatile as you, but that’s it. I know a good few sportsmen/women who would be extremely fit, but their routine and goals would differ from yours so they are hard to compare with you and your type of fitness. Still, I think you stand out among them… No one has ever offered me a workout plan as effective, simple and cheap to follow as you have. The fact that you are competitive and self-motivated is very good. However, for example me being 5’2 and 10 stone will never be a skinny petite type of a girl no matter how hard I try… We can only work within the limits of our body and every-body is different, has different traits and different background. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve already broken a good few boundries with the type of exercises that you have on offer and are capable of doing. What I am trying to say, is that you are fantastic at what you’re doing and you still improving. There are things that we might not be able to overcome, but we should keep trying. Measure your effort and hard work rather than your final results. You will never know other person’s circumstances and sacrifices they make in order to achieve what they have achieved… besides, everybody has good days and bad days and that is why their performance might be better than yours. Once you’ve done all your best, you can be happy and satisfied with yourself. Trust me, you are great at what you’re doing. Keep up the good work! Thanx for motivation and inspiration! Magda πŸ™‚

    1. Magda, all I can say is thank you for your comment. I am really pleased that you are breaking through your own barriers and reaching new goals! You deserve it! πŸ™‚ Your support is well received !

  11. Very moving! I feel the same but I couldn’t have said it better! I am in the process of training with a friend two days a week who has a low self esteem when it comes to her fitness (being she is a fitness instructor and cannot do pushups or pullups). I try my hardest to encourage her and help her see her progress instead of what she feels she cannot do(this is hard since she is stubborn that way). I will forward this article to her and hope it hits home so she can focus on her progression and achievements rather than her failures (as she puts it). I love the last paragraph! (I shared it on my FB acct.) For it goes way beyond physical strength… words of wisdom! Thank you!

    1. Penny, I hope your friend will start to see the value in what she is doing. I know sometimes the shear frustration at yourself can actually take your focus away and you actually cause your “failure” this way.

      Thank you for sharing this πŸ™‚

  12. Hi Marianne,

    This is a great piece. The problem I have is trying to concentrate on one program at a time. Over the last 12 months, I’ve bought at least 2 programs I’ve never done! My focus just seems to be constantly changing.

    I’ve finally decided that the best thing for me is to just get stronger. So now, I’m just concentrating on building up strength. I’ve bought Nia Shanks “Beautiful Badass” ebook and I’m doing the Simply Strength program at the moment. It’s a 12 week program and I’m on week 4 now.

    As you know, Nia is really big on keeping things simple. This is really challenging for me since I like to try and cram as much into my training sessions. However, it’s good not to train to failure each session and I think my body will appreciate it in the long run!

    Anyway, I see a lot of stuff posted on Facebook and YouTube (even the GGS girls) and I compare myself to others. I’ve decided to stop doing this and just build myself up.

    So, you’re not the only one! You are great at what you do. You are inspirational to a lot of people and I think you are one of the best at this. Actually, I think your’s is one of the only blogs that I feel the need to comment on.

    Keep up the good work!


    1. Thanks Frances, I am so glad you do comment πŸ™‚ I would hate to log on to my blog and not read everyone’s stories and how you progress, you struggles, triumphs. It’s not just one of my daily highlights, but I am quite sure the comment sections is a huge resource to everyone else. There will be someone reading your comment, who will relate to you and your approach will help them focus their training more.

      I think what you are doing is great and I hope you will keep us all updated πŸ™‚

      Thank you!

  13. As I was reading your post it kind of felt like you were talking about some of my habits. I always compare myself to others and am interested in many things but not the best at anything. It really is so hard to focus on what we do well and have some confidence when there is such great pressure to have quite ‘unrealistic’ standards in fitness and health.

    I keep focusing on my not so perfect tummy and keep forgetting that I did carry a baby in there for nine months and that I am in the best shape of my life and am wearing sizes not worn since middle school. Sometimes we just need that splash of cold water in our faces to remind ourselves not to take ourselves so seriously and enjoy our lives.

    1. I love this Andrea! It’s so easy to focus on things that aren’t that important – when the bigger picture shows you are a success! You did the hard graft and here is your reward; a beautiful baby and you are in great shape.

      Here’s to enjoying all those imperfections that help tell OUR story!

  14. Hi Marianne, I’m glad I’m not the only one! It makes me feel so much better when the best Kettlebell instructor on the internet and trust me I’ve seen them all has the same insecurities and self doubt that I’m sure we all have from time to time. I think it comes with age a realisation that there will always be someone better but as long as I give a 110% and push my limits I’m good. Having said that the competitive streak NEVER leaves you and when I see other people in the gym lifting heavier training hard I now use it to motivate myself and I’m happy for them and it makes me feel part of a larger world while club of like minded gym junkies and I’m not alone or crazy πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Lynda. You’re right! My mother used to say to me (usually before an exam I felt unprepared for); “all you can do, is YOUR best” – so simple and so true. I can imagine her mother telling her the same thing.

      Perhaps sometimes it is also about being able to recognise when you are just as good.

      Good to hear from you πŸ™‚

  15. All things are relevant Marianne! Your contribution to making the world a better place through your website and fitness activities is appreciated.

    If these little insecurities push you to become better, then I have to admit that I am selfishly cheering them on!

    I already enjoy your posts and look forward to your “best”!

  16. I totally agree with Gryer! You are an amazing KB-blogger and your workouts, tutorials and articles are really useful and motivating. I’ve even got my over weight mother to start with KB and you last beginners workout. It is perfect for her! Thanks a lot for all the energy you put in to this site. It is really appreciated!

  17. Hi Marianne,

    You are not alone… you have at least me too. This blog post sums me up exactly. I absolutely hate not being as strong as someone else and even worse is being outdone. It’s the reason I don’t do Crossfit anymore, and I really liked Crossfit. Even though I got the “green box” often, I was always pushing myself too hard in order to beat everyone else and in the meanwhile wracking up the injuries.

    So now I train on my own and just try to push myself to go harder and better… which can also be frustrating when my progress seems slow or non-existent. Or, as you noted, you see how everyone else out there in Cyberspace is so much “better”… *sigh*

    Thank you for this post… it hits a major problem right on the head for me!

    Best always,


    1. I was in two minds whether to even post this or not, but I now see that it will help a lot of people, including me.

      I’m so glad that you will gain something from this, even if it’s just the permission to let go of some pressure πŸ™‚

  18. Marianne, you are definitely not the only one! Thank you for writing this. I have been feeling this way recently – I find myself getting down on myself because I don’t have a 300lb deadlift like some of the Girls Gone Strong. I do have to remind myself that I am doing great in my own way, and I really needed your post to drive that home.

    Great blog. Merry Christmas to you, and thanks so much.

    -Rachel in Texas

    1. Thanks for commenting Rachel! I remember saying to myself once “you don’t have to lift 300lb to be considered strong. The point is that you continue to get stronger; whether that be physically, mentally or spiritually”. There is no magic number that qualifies you as strong – this is what I have been drilling into myself this past while and I realised that while we can feel inspired etc, we can also feel a little defeated – this tests a different kind of strength πŸ™‚

      Merry Christmas to you too! eek, it’s nearly Christmas πŸ˜€

    2. Marianne, very right in your thoughts. I lived with a self hatred since birth. I never knew I had this self hatred. 2000, I was informed by an old and dear friend. I always felt never good enough to like and be liked. So why try. My healing started immediately. 2008 I came across EFT or Meridian Tapping and used to great success. One piece of wisdom learned during journey I have only me to compete against me.

      The real wisdom is I have to Love, Like and Accept myself.

  19. 1000% agree. I started competing in the deadlift and felt fantastic then started feeling small because other women (twenty years younger) were lifting more. I started forgetting everything I’ve overcome and all the hurdles I face as a working, middle-aged mom with a chronic disease and no athletic background.

    Good and timely article for me, thanks.

    1. Nancy, thanks for sharing. Once we put things in perspective, it all doesn’t seem so bad. The thing is that those younger girls and your children will see you as a massive source of inspiration as you are such a positive female role-model πŸ™‚ Keep it up!

  20. Same, same… Though with a little different perspective. I am not eager to be THE best, but I always fear the possibility to fail or do something wrong. Always bothering with what other people might think of me…

    1. Guilty of that too! Why are we so tough on ourselves, yet we let others away with so much. It is so interesting how the mind works. People fail all the time in front of me, yet I never think worse of them – so why do we worry what other’s will think of us when we fail. Is it a control thing, a perfectionist thing, an issue with letting go?? Who knows.

      Good to hear from you btw, I will email you very soon to catch up πŸ™‚

      1. REALLY looking forward to catch up πŸ™‚ time runs so fast. Going back to Istanbul for business stuff next week (some tipps, anyone? Unfortunately I have only one evening off) – and then the working year is going to be done for me πŸ™‚

  21. When I read the title of this piece I feared the worse…phew. And a very good life-coach you make for yourself too, may I say M? The thing is, we tend to come to such rational thoughts after a good session of self deprecation, well, I do anyway.

    The aim of the game is to be the best version of yourself you can be on any given day, sometimes that’s not much if you happen to be me. Comparing ourselves with others? Well, we only tend to do that with the prettier, fitter, wealthier, stronger people don’t we? I can’t recall the last time I saw a street-drunk and felt smug for being sober!

    There’s also a lot to be said for being a jack-of-all-trades. Try thinking of yourself as a Jessica Ennis, or Daley Thompson – neither of them are individually the best, recognised instead for being strong across a variety of events.

    I also agree that your competitive nature is the reason why you are such a high achiever in the first place. It motivates you and drives you forward. Most people aren’t in to fitness, period. It’s a lot of hard work and you always have more to achieve. Personally, that’s what I like about it.

    I take my hat off to you. Knowing a bit about your medical history and past insecurities, you have made a fine job of being Marianne Kane. I could compare myself to you, but that would just make me feel worse, so I will abstain.

    A hearty Christmas-cheer to you!


    1. Thank you Adam! If my ramblings can get people thinking – it’s worth showing my true colours. What do you mean ” sometimes that’s not much if you happen to be me.” ? πŸ™

      It’s true that I would never be smug about the things I am better at – that’s just cruel. I am glad that you have seen the positives from competitiveness too, in your own life!

      I always remember a something Monica from friends said; that a competition with herself was the best kind πŸ˜€

    1. You know what’s funny – is that I have NEVER been the best at ANYTHING, so I don’t know why it can still get to me when I’m not LOL!! Maybe I am insane πŸ˜›

      1. Whoa! You not the best at anything? How about– the best kettlebell blogger? I’d say we would all vote for that! There are a bunch of them out there, but you have longevity and consistency and you create workouts that anyone in reasonably good shape can do. You constantly suggest variations for different levels of experience and conditioning, so this blog is way more useful than those hard core he-man blogs.

        In fact I would go one further — this is the best metcon blog too! Again, b/c of consistency and longevity and versatility for all levels. There is no question that multiple work sets with limited rest periods, helps create a lean strong body in the shortest possible time. Very few other people are doing this with regularity, especially with combos of KBs and bodyweight. Missy is great, but she doesn’t post very much. She who will not be named, seems to revel in doing exercises that are too hard for many of her followers (like pistols, ninja jump ticks and lots of knee pummeling jumps with hyper flexion.)

        I am sure you have turned around lots of lives, and for every poster here, there are probably ten lurkers. You’ve helped make a positive change in the lives of others, and that is a huge accomplishment that few people can claim!

        ~ Gillian

        1. Well, when you put it like that … πŸ˜‰

          Thank you Gillian, I never looked at it like that. I’m mean I know this community has so much value, but I never appreciate my own value here – I just think the site would not be what it is without my readers, commenters and “lurkers” (lol).

          Thank you for the HUGE boost πŸ˜€

    2. I think those of us who are passionate about training will have these feelings at some time or another. The goal of training should always be working on a better YOU, not a better that someone else. I admire each and every one you ( girls gone strong group) because you are passionate about training and making women feel good about themselves. The women who train with me know my capabilities and are proud of themselves and what they have learned about their bodies. We encourage each other. They all just want to get stronger, feel better and move better. I have had to find a balance between my training and my dancing. While my goal is to continue to get stronger, I have to program carefully so that I am at my true potential for class and rehearsal. Last night I deadlifted 185 x3x2. It has been a full month since I deadlifted that much weight as my body really needed a break from heavy lifting. And you know? It felt great. More importantly, I feel great today. Yes, I was lifting more a month ago, but I am not worried about at. Whether I lift 185 or 300 pounds, I am strong and getting stronger. The only person I need to worry about is me. And for just having started lifting heavy about a year and a half ago, I think I have made great strides.

      Be proud of all of your accomplishments Marianne. And know that you are not alone in how you feel. πŸ˜‰

      1. Thanks Emily πŸ™‚ I am glad that you are finding that balance between your two loves! Sometimes a step back does do wonders – that’s what I did last week and I felt great too.

        Cheers πŸ™‚

  22. I totally agree with what you are saying. Just on another note, when I see someone that can do more than me, it pushes me to go harder, and it motivates me. I never feel defeated if I can’t keep up with them, only if I can’t compete with myself. I always tell people, look at it as competing with yourself. Always push yourself just a little harder. If you can’t do it, at least you tried, and you feel good that you even tried. If you can do it, you will still feel good, and strive to push a little harder next time. πŸ™‚

    1. Heather great comment. that one really hits home.
      and Marianne quit beating yourself up. Striving to be great or good at something is the sign of a strong spirit.
      I think a lot of the people who visit this site relate to that.
      it really is about not giving up. it keeps us alive and aware.
      complacency is scary.

      1. Thanks Mickela, I’ll try to stop beating on myself – I don’t mean to. I need to realise the good things this trait has brought.

        “complacency is scary” – great!

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