Meryl Streep, the Academy Award winning actress once said, “Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.”

Do you think of yourself as an athlete?  If you are exercising and working on your fitness you are an athlete. The Urban Dictionary says an athlete is “an individual who participates in sports. Characterized by dedication, focus, intelligence and work ethic.” Working out regularly, learning to eat better and striving to become more fit makes you an athlete.

Your identity is a critical part of your fitness. Identity is more than just “who am I.” Identity is also your ideologies and biases. It’s your ideas and relationships. It’s the work you do and the families you belong to. It’s how the world sees you and how you see the world.

Your identity can include “athlete.” The question is “How much of an athlete do you want to be?”

There’s a little actor in all of us. We all pretend occasionally. What kid didn’t pretend to be sick to get out of going to school? Some people take up acting as a hobby. There are thousands and thousands of actors participating in local theater productions. Some people make some money doing commercials bit parts in local and regional television. A small percentage percent strive to be a professional actor and make a living. A minute percentage of people become a success in Hollywood.

Being an athlete follows a similar arc. There are millions of athletes in the gyms and fitness centers every day. Some athletes compete in Crossfit or Spartan events. A very small percentage of athletes make a living at sports or reach Major League Baseball.

Being an athlete at the gym level is a very different identity from “couch potato” or “sedentary individual.” Being an athlete creates priorities.  You focus on workouts, nutrition, health and well-being. You are concerned with recovery, hydration and caloric intake. You have goals, dreams and desires. You are never really satisfied with where you are and that’s ok. It’s good to be hungry and drive to achieve more.

Being an athlete is about your identity. It is about who you are and what you want to achieve. It is about how you think of yourself. Some people say you’re not an athlete unless you compete in sports. We all compete with ourselves. Some choose to continually improve and become a better athlete. They get stronger and leaner. They learn new skills and tactics to improve with age. They learn to recuperate and manage stress and injuries. Fitness is earned and every day is a competition.

Find your inner athlete. Put “athlete” in your list of identities along with “daughter” and “son” and “mother” and “father.” Give yourself permission to take care yourself. Put your needs at the top of the list and work on your athleticism. Think like an athlete. Dress like an athlete. Be an athlete.