Have you ever thought that going to the gym is too embarrassing? I definitely had that same thought hundreds of times. Recently, I have been talking to friends and family. The common theme in almost every conversation is that the gym is an embarrassing place to be. I understand the phrase fully and am at a loss as to how to convince those people I care about that the gym is not a place to fear or feel self conscious. What words could I possibly say to convince you to throw out self doubt?
We use the word “embarrassing” in casual conversation almost daily. What is the real meaning of this casual term and how can we remove it from our vocabulary? Embarrassing in an adjective used to describe something that makes us feel self-conscious. From an athletic conversation “performance anxiety” is a better description of the phenomenon. Performance anxiety is a consequence of fear and cognitive interference which results in withdrawal (Smith, Smoll & Schultz, 1990). We punish ourselves because we are afraid of a self-perceived expectation of our abilities.
Since this is all internal we can make a decision to change it. Let’s work backwards, step by step to see how we can accomplish this intellectual challenge. Once we can understand something from an intellectual perspective we can move on to changing the emotion and the resulting behavior. I found this great article concerning strategies for overcoming embarrassment. https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-overcome-embarrassment/
Let’s begin with the self-perceived expectation of our own abilities. I challenge you to write down what you think you should be able to do. PAUSE Was what you wrote down based on what you see others doing? Was it based on what you could do when you were 20 years old? Now write down your current activity level. Somewhere in between these 2 items is a realistic expectation. When I was morbidly obese and stepped into the gym for the first time in years. I looked around and saw people running, jumping lifting heavy weights and my first instinct was to do what they were doing. Because the expectation I had of myself was not realistic I was embarrassed. The first thing I did wrong was to compare myself with others. We ALL MUST STOP this practice. Many say it is human nature I say it is a learned behavior. If I am correct, and it is a learned behavior, then we can can teach ourselves to stop the unhealthy comparison.
Now that your self-perceived expectation has been adjusted then the rest of embarrassment falls apart at the seams. If we shut down the unrealistic expectation then we cannot be afraid anymore of not being able to perform. Hence the cognitive interference that we build for ourselves dissolves and failure is not possible. Every time you catch yourself saying that something is embarrassing investigate the reason you believe this to be true. I bet it is because you are afraid to fail. The only way to fail in life is to not try because all progress is a success even if that progress is simply learning what not to do.