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Do you ever feel like you don’t belong in the gym? When you’re surrounded by a lot of exercise people, do you feel like you aren’t as good as they are?
This phenomenon of feeling inadequate or feeling like a phony for being in the gym is called imposter syndrome. Experiencing imposter syndrome can make it difficult to enjoy working out, limit you from progressing, or stop you from starting your fitness journey altogether.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where an individual doubts their accomplishments despite evidence of competence or achievement. People who experience imposter syndrome often feel like a fraud and like they are not good enough, not competent, or unqualified — even when they are.
They incorrectly attribute their accomplishments to luck and deceit. A lot of times, they worry that they will be exposed as a fraud and that everyone will find out they are not as competent as they seem.
It can damage your self-esteem and confidence, and may even lead to anxiety or depression. Imposter syndrome can spring up anywhere: at your job when you’re with friends and family, or around strangers, and it can creep up on you at the gym, too.
Why Do You Experience Imposter Syndrome at the Gym?
While anyone can experience imposter syndrome anytime, anywhere, dealing with it when stepping foot inside a gym is a little different. You don’t feel shameful or embarrassed when walking into a new pub, restaurant, or shop, but you may experience it when you arrive at the gym and see all the other gymgoers exercising.
Sports and exercise psychologist Dr. Jill Owen explained the phenomenon of imposter syndrome at the gym.
“The gym is a space where there can be perceived levels of competition and training usually occurs in the company of other gymgoers so is visible to those present. If a lack of fitness has occurred as a result of a lifestyle that may not have been the healthiest or a general tough time when health may have been rather neglected, confidence may be particularly low and negative thoughts and comparison may prevail.”
Imposter syndrome isn’t just limited to exercise beginners, experienced gymgoers feel it too. “Seasoned gymgoers may place more expectations on themselves as a result of their greater experience and in a new environment may concentrate on whether they still measure up in the scenario,” Dr. Owen added.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome at the Gym
Fitness spaces can be daunting, nerve-wracking, intimidating, and confusing. It is not uncommon to experience imposter syndrome in the gym. In fact, according to research, it’s been estimated that 70% of the general population has felt the effects of imposter syndrome at some point.
The good thing is that there are steps that you can take to ditch this feeling and let yourself feel confident when you enter the gym. Here are some strategies that you can do to overcome imposter syndrome and instead enjoy a successful workout.
Have a Plan
One of the ways that imposter syndrome creeps up on you when you enter the gym is to go there without any workout plan at all. Stepping inside the gym and having no workout in mind can be equivalent to turning up to an exam without studying or doing any preparation beforehand.
If you want to avoid feeling like a fraud, one of the most important things you have to do is to plan your workout before you get there. Ensure that you know what you are going to do, which muscle group you’re going to work with, and what set and rep range you’re going to train.
Additionally, you should also have a backup workout or two just in case. There can be a lot of people in the gym with you and sometimes, the equipment you want to use may not be available. Having a backup ensures that you have another exercise to do and that your plans aren’t completely thrown off.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Being surrounded by multiple people exercising can make you feel intimidated. It’s easy to take a look at them and assume that they know what they’re doing or that they are better than you. Comparing yourself to other gymgoers doesn’t help at all; it makes you feel bad about yourself and makes you feel like a fraud.
It’s important to remind yourself that every person in the gym has their own goals and reasons to be there, just like you have your own goals and reasons for working out. You can also remind yourself that you aren’t alone in experiencing imposter syndrome; everyone feels the same way at some point. Knowing this can help you feel less alone and more capable.
Re-Evaluate Your Expectations
Having fitness goals is important when exercising as your workouts are centered on the goals that you want to achieve. However, a lot of individuals often feel like frauds when they don’t achieve those goals in a perfect manner or fall a bit short of them.
It is more than okay to make mistakes and to change your expectations around fitness. No one is expecting perfection from you in the gym. Instead, focus on the positives and on your progress. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fittest when you step inside the gym. Every rep, every set, and every workout counts towards your goals, no workout is ever wasted.
Reach Out for Help
It’s great to want to be self-sufficient in the gym but it may cause you unnecessary stress as well. It is never shameful or embarrassing to ask for help. Reaching out to someone and being proactive is one of the best things that you can do when you are struggling in the gym.
The best time to ask for help is before you even run into trouble. For example, you want to use a piece of equipment but you aren’t sure how to use it. Instead of trying to figure it out for yourself and increasing your risk of injury, you can ask someone to show you how to use it properly. Reaching out to someone can create a positive environment; you may gain a new friend in the gym too.
Get a Training Buddy
Exercising together with someone may help you tackle imposter syndrome. Having someone with you usually doesn’t give you the time to think that you shouldn’t be in the gym or feel fraudulent for being there. When you have a training partner, you can encourage one another and entertain each other, allowing you to enjoy the environment more.
Do What You Enjoy
Doing a fitness program or routine that you enjoy is one of the best ways to shoot down imposter syndrome. Forcing yourself to do a workout that you aren’t interested in or you are unsure of not only bogs you down but may also bring down your commitment and motivation.
Allow yourself to do workouts that are both enjoyable to you and aligned with your fitness goals. Whether it’s taking fitness classes, lifting weights, doing cardio, doing pilates, and the like, doing what you like best will help you re-route that imposter energy to motivation and enjoyment.
You aren’t alone in experiencing imposter syndrome in the gym. Numerous individuals, even exercise experts, also feel this phenomenon. Imposter syndrome can be debilitating, but there are ways to overcome it. Try any of the strategies above and kick imposter syndrome to the curb to achieve a successful workout.