Go find a group picture that you’re in. It can be any type of group picture, like a class picture or a wedding party… high school reunion… anything like that, but it has to be one that you’re in with a number of other people. Seriously, find one on Facebook or something and come back when you’re done.
Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Now that your back, let me tell you a story. Once, as we were headed out the door to a wedding, my wife stopped and asked me ”Are you sure I look okay?” It was not an unusual question, as a matter fact, she’s probably asked me that 1000 times, on number of different occasions. Now I hate it when she asks me this. Mostly because I find her to be the most beautiful woman in the world and I can’t understand why she doesn’t see it, but also when I tell her she looks great, she doesn’t believe me. So why does she bother asking me to begin with? The world may never know. Anyhow, usually I’ll just reassure her how pretty she is and she’ll tell me I’m just saying that, and the game continues. But this particular time, being the loving husband I am, I reached into my bag of supportive comments and came out with:
“Don’t worry about it, no one‘s going to be looking at you anyway. They will all be too concerned about how they look to worry about your outfit. Besides, it’s a friggin wedding, so the only person who should really be concerned how they look is the bride.”
Okay, it was a crappy thing to say and it probably didn’t really help reassure her at all. I still can’t remember why I decided to drop that little piece of wisdom on her, but whatever the reason, somewhere during the long quiet drive and after I had apologized two dozen times it occurred to me: Nobody is ever really looking at you. People are way too self-absorbed to pay any attention- at least any real attention- to how you look or what your are doing.
I guess this concept might’ve entered my mind some time earlier during a graduation ceremony for a school I had completed with the Army Reserve. One of my classmates was concerned that she might trip as she went across the stage to receive her diploma. I laughed and said even if she were to trip on the corner of the podium, roll off the stage and land on the floor, no one would really remember for very long. Sure, everybody would laugh for a while, and at the very most it would make a good story over a beer that night, but after that no one would remember, and in time, the whole incident would eventually be forgotten. Honestly, If something like that happened to you, you’d be the only person that would remember it for any real length of time and even you’d tend to forget after a while. That is, of course, until you get together with friends from that group and they remind you what a dumbass you looked like. After all, that’s what friends are for.
But friends are different. We’re never worried about what our friends think of us, we’re more worried about the opinions of people we don’t know (how messed up is that?) You’d work out in whatever you pulled out of the hamper that morning if it was just your friends in the room, but if there are strangers around, good lord! We lose our minds worrying what their opinion of us is. Why? Who knows, that is a topic for another post. But whatever the reason, it’s a waste of time, because whatever the opinion is that they form of you, it’s fleeting and gone almost as soon as it came. Think about it: Try right now to think of something embarrassing you saw some total stranger do. I’m sure something will pop in your mind eventually, but it will take a while and you probably haven’t thought about it in a long time. The fact of the matter is nobody really cares what you do or how you look. We are all way too wrapped up in our own lives.
That doesn’t make us bad people. Let’s go back to that group picture you were supposed to look at. Without giving it any thought, who was the first person you checked out when you looked at it? You looked for yourself didn’t you? If you say you didn’t you’re either lying or weird. I do it, you do it, everybody does it. Before we start to look at anyone else we will search through the group of individuals in the picture until we find ourselves and begin to scrutinize our appearance (and, if you’re like most people, you judged yourself too harshly). Then we may notice if someone was making a goofy face, or if their shirt doesn’t match their outfit, but we will always gravitate to ourselves first. It’s the same thing with social media. If someone posts photos of an event you were at and tags you, you will look for yourself first before looking at everyone else. We are all mostly concerned about our own appearance, with little concern about how others look.
Now where am I going with all this and why would I bring this up in a blog that supposed to be about health, fitness and exercise and all that other good stuff?
Let me answer that with a few questions:
As the weather warms up, is the reason that you’re not running outside because you’re concerned you’re too fat or you’re going to look stupid running down the road?
Is the reason you haven’t joined a fitness class because you’re embarrassed that you don’t look good in yoga pants?
Is the reason you haven’t gone to the gym because you’re embarrassed that you can’t lift as much weight as the dude next to you?
Did you stop going to CrossFit because you can’t climb a rope or do a muscle up like all the elite CrossFitters do?
Does any of this sound familiar?
I got 100 examples of this and I can go on and on, but I’ll stop here. I think I made my point. The answer is simple:
Nobody cares what you look like.
Nobody cares how much you can lift.
Nobody cares how fast you can run.
They’re all too concerned with themselves.
Yeah, somebody may snicker because you’re not running very fast or can’t lift as much weight as they can, but those people are douche bags. You shouldn’t worry about what they think in the first place. People like that have their own hang ups and you can’t waste any of your time or energy worrying about them, and you sure as hell can’t let them stop you from reaching your full potential. Besides, as I’ve stated already, five minutes later they have forgot all about you and found a new target to throw their negativity at. I actually feel sorry for people like that, we have to deal with them only once in a while, but they have to live with themselves every day. Just imagine how depressing that must be.
A famous fitness company has made a fortune selling the concept of a “Judgment Free” gym. They target an individual’s insecurities by offering them a safe space to workout where no one will judge them for their appearance . This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it has motivated millions to start excercising, but they’ve made a ton of money playing on peoples fears that others are judging them. I believe no one can really judge you, not in a gym at least. It’s only a judgement if it has some sort of bearing on your life. Now if you go to court and the judge fines you for speeding, that is a judgement because it costs you about $200 dollars, depending on how fast you were going. However, If you go to a gym and someone thinks your too old to be lifting weights, well that’s just an opinion. That person is a dick and their opinion has no effect on your life. So when you look at it like that, the whole damn world is a judgment free zone.
In my experience, most people aren’t like that though. Most folks are going to cheer you on for doing your best and support you in your efforts. The people you work out with at a CrossFit gym, yoga studio or running club, will tell you what an Awesome job you did and congratulate you for pushing through the workout. Then they’ll go back to worrying about how they did (do them a favor by the way and let them know how Awesome they are. No matter how fit they are, they’re struggling with insecurities too). That’s how it works, in the end we are all too self-absorbed to concern ourselves too much about anybody else’s workouts. I know it might sound a little harsh, but believe me, it’s true. It’s not that we don’t care abut each other, it’s just that in life, we got our own issues to focus on and focusing on someone else is a wast of time and energy.
Think of it like this: when did you go to a wedding worrying about how your cousin was going to look? And when you saw how goofy he looked, how much did you really care? Admit it, you couldn’t have cared less.
So if you want to try Pilates, Bikram Yoga, CrossFit, Boot Camp, Goat Yoga or any other type of activity that involves a group or a class; or if you want to run, cycle, in-line skate (is that still a thing?), or anything outside where someone might see you; and you’re scared that someone will think you look funny, get that shit out of your head. You can’t allow that keep you from trying things you might just actually enjoy. Let’s face it, we’re all adults now and we should’ve left that mentality back in grade school. We’re way too old to worry about the other kids on the playground picking on us. Get your ass out of the house, go sign up for a class or go outside and do something! To hell with what anybody thinks!
And if you’re really that concerned you can always work out with me. I’ll always look dumber than you, I guarantee it. I struggle so much that I make anyone look good.