I’m currently studying to get my certification to teach high school. In educational psychology, there’s this thing called the “deficit perspective”:

deficit perspective (noun): a view that individuals from some cultural groups lack the ability to achieve just because of their cultural background.

Basically, the idea is that many students in this country—especially students who immigrated into the US and/or are of minority descent—are seen as being “empty vessels” in the classroom. Teachers and other educators assume that the student comes to school lacking something (or with no knowledge at all) instead of seeing that the student actually has more to offer the classroom than other students because of their unique background.

Blah blah, education equity, blah blah. But bear with me. This relates to fitness, I swear.

The other day I was in class listening to all this theoretical stuff, and I realized something. We are all guilty of the deficit perspective every day.

Not in the way you’re thinking. I’m not trying to preach to you about racism in schools, or even talk about the education system at all. Rather, I think we’re all guilty of having the deficit perspective towards ourselves.

Think about it. How many times have you underestimated yourself, or thought there was no possible way you could accomplish something that someone else did, just because you didn’t think you had the skills?

I’m definitely guilty of this, especially in regards to fitness. I look at some girl in the gym who’s kicking butt and taking names and I’m like, damn I will never be like her. I mean, I just don’t have the skills. I don’t know anything about weight training. I don’t have the time, etc., etc., etc., and the excuses bounce around in my head like ping-pong balls on the loose in a hamster cage of gross self-deprecation.

But here’s the thing. That girl (or whoever your equivalent is) was not always the ripped, weight-tossing, serious-faced boss she is now. She didn’t always know how to make progress at the gym, and she was once not as in great shape as she is. She worked hard to get there. She learned along the way. She once thought she could never do it. And maybe, she once held herself at a deficit.

The difference is, she overcame it.

If I had to take a bet, I’d say at least one out of every five failed goals fails because of this reason. Because we look at ourselves in the mirror, we compare ourselves to those who we think are just at a natural-born advantage over us, and we adopt a deficit perspective. I can’t do that, we say. She can, but I can’t.

I don’t have to tell you the statistics—I’m sure you know. Kids who are subject to this “deficit perspective” in school? Lots of them don’t make it to college. Not to say that they don’t want to, but facts are facts. Too many of them just don’t make it. And the deficit perspective is, in large part, to blame.

My favorite motto (especially at the gym) is simple: you either do it or you don’t. You have the tools, the skills, the access to resources. You have some knowledge, you have the ability to learn, and you do have the time. Here’s the cold, hard truth about pity parties: they’re just not productive.

So throw away your deficit perspective. You—strong, successful, perpetually-growing you—are not an empty vessel. You’ve got lots of knowledge, and you have the brain and body capacity to get where you want to go, no matter where your goals dictate that to be.