As a trainer I have heard every reason possible for people to avoid the gym. Being self-conscious is one of the most common. “It feels like everyone is looking at me,” has been said to me more times than I can remember.
The thing that I find fascinating with this argument is that people fail to translate their feelings to others. The gym is a place for people to improve themselves, and so it follows that people who are in the gym are those who by definition do not see themselves as perfect. We gym rats are for the most part neurotic, self conscious, perfectionists. Certainly we have all seen the woman with the perfect body that is there to be seen, rather than sweat. However, I truly do believe this is the minority. In the main, people in the gym are not looking at you and judging you, any more than you are judging them. I have found that they are JUST as self conscious as you are.
When I go to the gym, I do not judge people by their fitness level, the clothes they are wearing, or what type of workout they are doing. This is what I notice…
Politeness. I will always notice when people are following general gym etiquette. Your body-fat or the weights you are lifting will not draw my attention; but you best believe that if you drop weights, fail to wipe sweat off your equipment, or leave your weights un racked you will receive some very unpleasant looks from me.
Modesty. I notice when people are arrogant, making loud noises, and staring at themselves. I don’t have any negative feelings towards these people, but I do find them amusing. The fittest person in the gym is probably not looking diminutively at you, they are probably laughing at the guy flexing and smiling at himself in the mirror.
Form. Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. While I have no bad feelings or judgement towards people who lift poorly, I am a trainer by trade. I notice poor form (and good form) and often wish that I could help…unfortunately the self conscious gym goers (those who’s concerns I am discussing.) prevent this. A person who radiates the “leave me alone vibe” can’t benefit from the experience of others.
In the end, being self conscious is an inhibitor. Focusing on the negative, “who is looking at me?” “I feel fat.” “what is her deal?” does nothing except distract you. Everyone is self-conscious and has their moments of doubt…accepting that everyone around you is just as awkward and worried makes all of the difference in the world. Fight through it, understand that you aren’t alone, and for your own sake don’t leave the gym. Trust me when I say that the people you see around you went through the same process.