The other day my sister sent me a text asking how I got over being self-conscious in the gym. My immediate response was, “I don’t know. I just made myself do it…”
Fitness was not always a part of my life. Working out was a chore or a punishment depending on the day and my version of a work out was going for a run. I didn’t know anything about weights and even had escape plans up my sleeve to save myself from embarrassment of “figuring” out equipment. Now the gym is my first home and I wouldn’t know what I would do without it.
So how did I get this to this point?
I had a goal, a vision, and a purpose. The day I stepped in the gym (I mean really stepped in a gym) was the day I decided to compete in my first bikini competition. I had little knowledge in the gym, but I wanted to get into the best shape of my life and show it off in a competition wearing the smallest bikini known to man. Placing in the competition was always a bonus, but I was there to prove to myself that I could do this. I researched different “competition coaches” and hired someone online. Even though they gave me a plan they didn’t show me how to actually do anything in the gym. This plan was no better than googling a random workout. They did hold me accountable, but I was still on my own to figure it out. Despite how intimidating it was I determined enough to step in that gym and do the work even if I looked like a jackass. As motivated as I was, I was still afraid of using certain machines or doing certain exercises, because I knew I was “weak” and thought I would look stupid. I avoided these exercises for quite some time until I finally decided to make myself do it.
I came up with a plan. Every week I picked an exercise that I had been too intimidated to try and made a promise to myself that I would get it done by the end of the week/session. Sometimes I failed on that promise and sometimes I succeeded, but I never stopped trying. I was consistent in my efforts and building up the courage until I finally did it all.
I used visualization. Some days were harder than others and it required more mental strength to get through it. I’m inspired by the visuals I can create in my own my mind. There would be days I sat in the parking lot seeing myself lift or at my goal physique on stage with the lights on me. I could physically feel the emotions of accomplishing these goals and what my life will be like when I checked this goal off my list. It was a high that I used to help step through those doors and try something new. Visualization is still a strong tool for me, but I’ve been able to utilize self-talk to get me through hard workouts as well. Try both to figure out what works well for you.
I dressed like a bad ass…in my own head. I’m not a fashionista nor do I have any right telling anyone what looks good and what doesn’t. I started off trying to find things to hide my body or sweat stains because avoiding all forms of embarrassment was key and wardrobe played a role in fading into the background. But as I grew more confident in the gym I began to expand my outfits outside of black and baggy. It may sound silly, but when you feel like a bad ass in your gym gear then you will work out like a bad ass.
At the end of the day there is no magic trick to get over being self-conscious in the gym. At some point you need to stand up to your fears and make yourself do it. If you need to start off small then do that. If you can rip it off like a band-aid and go balls to the walls then more power to ya’ sista! Regardless of the size steps you take you have to be ready and willing to make the commitment to change and step outside your comfort zone.
The best piece of advice someone has ever given me was ‘do it scared.’ And no matter if you’re scared, just go ahead and do it anyway because you might as well do it scared, so it will get done and you will feel so much better if you step out of your comfort zone. – Sherri Shepard