Your first time in a gym, even if you’re just picking someone up. you notice one thing. Everybody seems to know what they are doing. When I hit my first gym at age 19, I thought the same thing. Now all I see is all the goofy things people do.
There are two personalities in the gym, with many subcategories. There is the stone-faced gym rat who doesn’t talk to anyone or make eye contact. There is also the smiling exerciser, who acknowledges everyone. When you’re new, there are both intimidating.
The more-complete list of gym personalities: 5 People You Don’t Wanna Be At The Gym In 2017
I’m gonna let you in on a secret. They’re all full of insecurities, but they handle it differently. This won’t make your anxieties go away, but I find it helps me to remind myself of this fact all the time.
I try to have compassion for people in the gym. It puts me in the power seat. Rather than obsessing about myself so much, I think about someone else’s needs. That’s where you want to live.
It helps if you can accept some truth about human nature, especially your own, but ultimately you need to think about someone other than yourself. It will not only boost your confidence, it will make the gym a less intimidating place.
People Are Scared
Despite what you might perceive, every person at the gym suffers insecurity. For most of them, that’s why they started going to the gym in the first place.
Sound familiar? Once I can [fill in the blank with you gym aspirations] I’ll feel confident.
Guess what? Even people who accomplish their goals in the gym are still left with that goofball in the mirror. The man in the mirror can be unkind. I’m gonna ask you to ignore him (or her) for now. He wasn’t going you any favors anyway.
In fact, I’m gonna say something about your self-perception you don’t wanna hear…
Insecurity Scans As Arrogance
If you don’t believe me, think about those two gym personalities or draw from your experience with humans at large. You know someone who seemed a first like a self-important jerk when you met her. Then you figured out that beneath all that pomp, there was a scared kitty cat.
Most of us figure out that arrogance and insecurity are a matter of perspective. From inside the insecure person’s mind, it’s all about fear. From the outside, it’s about judgment. They are both accurate observations.
If we are so wrapped up in all of our own importance, we put ourselves above the needs of others.
As a personal example, I’m a guy who carries so much anxiety about meeting new people I fail to retain names. I’m so concerned with how I sound, that I have no brain power left to catch a person’s name. I can claim more failed attempts to learn someone’s name over my self-obsessed nature than I can count.
What’s even harder is admitting I’ve missed a name. In recent years, I’ve taken to clowning my own self-obsession: “I was so busy trying to look cool I failed to catch your name.”
It helps, but I think people still consider me arrogant. Nothing I can do about that but we keep trying.
You Think About Yourself Too Much
At the risk of sounding like I mean pity, try to think of others when you see them, not what they think of you, but try to imagine what they might be feeling.
You’ll never get your mind off yourself by trying not to think of you. That will just keep redirecting your mind to you.
Instead, replace your focus with empathy for someone else. If you have to, imagine that person as a lost child. It’s probably not far from the truth.
Start by attempting to make eye-contact, which is easy enough in tight spaces. There’s nothing wrong with a pursed-lip smile, progressing to a hey or good afternoon” in time. Beware the wink, though. It may scan as too friendly, which can be bad two different ways. Avoid.
If the other person does not make eye-contact, you can still throw a, “hey,” to see if he or she will accept a bid for attention, but if that doesn’t work, drop it. Some people will never break out of their shell. You can still imagine them like a lost child so it doesn’t bump you, but leave ‘em alone.
If you’ve had a few friendly exchanges with someone, eyeballs or “hey,” it’s okay to reach out a hand. I’m a fan of apologizing, something like, Sorry, I’m super insecure. I see you here all the time. My name is Damon… That usually breaks the ice.
Now that you have a gym friend, be cool. Nobody likes a Chatty Charlie. Let the other person be your lead as much as anything. Keep up the smiles and friendly heys, but add in their name if you can remember it.
If you see someone slinking around the gym floor for the first time, be the gym rat who smiles at them. It doesn’t matter what you do. They’ll think you know everything anyway, but at least they’ll know you’re friendly if you smile.