Bright lights, loud noises, lots of people and foreign looking equipment.
If I can recall one of my first entrances into a gym, this is what I remember experiencing.
I have been in many gyms since then and can say this is often what you will see when you first walk pass the front desk. If you’re generally more introverted (like myself), are a bit anxious and hesitant to start working out, these factors are not in your favor. But you already knew this.
It’s necessary in noting that the fear of being judged is complicated and highly individual as it ties in with each person’s own experience and past traumas. This article is really just scratching the surface about the feeling of being judged and how to start the process to move away from these feelings.
I know personally it can also affect members of the LGBTQ+ Community and also other marginalized communities for their race and gender, differently.
If you feel you’re being judged based on your sexual orientation, gender or race, my opinion is bringing this to management and then maybe look at finding another, more suitable gym.
I would also recommend asking the gym before signing up, what their policies are in regards to patron’s being discriminated against or if it is a safe space.
I remember feeling the vibration of what I assumed were weights dropping to the floor, a blend of voices on the TV, people I didn’t know laughing/talking to one another, unfamiliar equipment beeping and booping and grunting coming from the ground level below me. Some occasions random eye contact was made, “Damn it—I’ve been spotted.”
Had it not have been for my friend, Kaylene accompanying me (also her first time), I probably would have left or at least quietly suffered through the next 30 minutes on a treadmill.
Early into my career, I learned that many or most people feel intimidated when they first step into a new gym.
After talking with many clients, other trainers, dissecting my own feelings and having the conversations with others I have not professionally worked with, there was a common experience of being judged.
Whenever I entered the gym I could almost hear the words and judgments from those around me—“He clearly doesn’t know what he is doing—what is he doing here?”
At least, I thought I could.
I was always told (and told clients), people are there to workout, not judge others at the gym. It is true, but this isn’t exactly helpful right?
Yes, no one pays to go to the gym in hopes of judging others. We go to the gym to improve our own health. But truth is, while we’re doing that, we may momentarily pass judgment upon another person.
In December 2017 The Daily Mail, states a poll where FitRated asked 1000 people about whether they worry about being judged at the gym — and also, whether they've ever judged anyone in the gym.
Half of the respondents said they've actually skipped the gym because of fear of judgement. That number jumps to 65% among women. Both men and women reported their biggest concern is their weight.
Almost 60% per cent of women and 44% per cent of men said they feared they'd get judged for improperly using workout equipment.
But are people really judging other while getting their own workouts in? Well, yes.
About 34% of all people surveyed admitted to judging others at the gym — and those people reported spanning the range of physical attractiveness to fitness levels.
Then 40% reported they were assessing someone else's weight. In fact, the most common thing they reported judging others for was their clothing.
Majority of us have done this—you look at someone’s clothes, the loud noises they’re creating or you’re confused of the movements they’re doing. Maybe you’re fascinated by how strong someone is. Maybe there is a couple publically displaying their affection for one another. It may be fleeting, but judgments occur.
So, people may be judging you and you also may be judging them. What we need to do is acknowledge our preconceived notions of people judging us, and put that energy back onto us and then learn how to handle the judgment we may face.
For the majority of the time, if you feel you’re being judged at the gym there are two things we need to keep in mind:
1. Am I actually being judged or am I just assuming I am—what am I basing this of off—what proof do I have?
2. If I am being judged it sucks, but it has more to do with that person than me.
For the first point, yeah you can get a 'vibe' from people, but are we assuming that we know what other people are thinking? Are we jumping to conclusions, thinking that other people are judging us? In reality we have no way of knowing that unless some one literally walks up to us and says, “You—I’m judging you.”
We also need to note that most people at a gym are strangers. Maybe you recognize someone from social media, but you don’t knowthem. If I have never met someone before, the chances of me talking to someone at the gym is unlikely – it’s nothing personal. But this can be associated with the feeling of being unwelcomed.
As for the second point, typically people judge or receive push back from others because you have pushed an internal button for them. Same goes for you—have you ever looked at someone’s outfit and thought it was inappropriate? Or maybe you had a fleeting acknowledgment to yourself of another's fitness level (impressed or not). Maybe you associated someone dropping their weights with arrogance, when the person dropping their weights is now embarrassed because they were trying to remain hidden and blew their cover.
What I am getting at here is, we all have had these momentary acknowledgments of who is around us —negative or positive. Maybe they were judgmental, and yes, we probably know very little about the person who just took up some mental space for us. But this had very little to do with them, and mostly to do with us.
So let's keep the focus on ourselves, I guess my point of all of this is, yeah, people might judge you. You might catch yourself in the act. Please, do not let this stop you. Find ulterior methods of fitness or spaces if you must. Because at the end of it all, we are all there with the same purpose—self-improvement.