Why women are self-conscious at the gym

by Mason Haselden / Garnet & Black

It’s a new year. You’ve finally decided to start going to the gym, and you promised yourself that you would stick with it. If working out has so many upsides, why doesn’t everyone do it? 

You walk into the gym and you suddenly start to feel uneasy; Am I doing this right? Are people staring at my sweat stains?

“I think my fear of the gym is more a fear of the unknown ... or even more, a fear of being judged by others as I explore something so unknown,” USC freshman, Sara Wilson, explained.

Wilson isn't alone. In a recent survey by Fitrated, 65 percent of women avoid the gym for the fear of being judged, more specifically, in the weight room. In comparison, only 36 percent of men reported being somewhat uncomfortable in the gym.

“If the gym was empty, I’d try just about anything," Wilson said. "But I’m terrified of making a fool of myself in front of people that truly know what they’re doing because deep down, I’m ashamed that I’m not as in tune with my own body.”

Mason Haselden / Garnet & Black

Almost half of women surveyed said they’re worried about not being “fit enough” and that they feel judged while trying a new exercise or doing an exercise with improper form. 

“I have no problem working out at our gym at home, but when I’m at the gym here, I feel like I’m being stared at by all the bulky men around me,”  said USC freshman Perry Harrington. 

Harrington added the perceptions of "Gym Rats" and weightlifters affect her workouts too.

“I feel like it almost has everything to do with the stereotypes put on the people at the gym at that moment," she explained. "Like when you see a big muscly dude at the gym, you assume he’s a frat douchebag and then feel like he’s judging you in the same way.”

It's hard not to feel self-conscious, especially when others make it known how they would like your appearance to be, which is an experience I've gone through personally.

While discussing whether or not I should take protein for muscle growth with one of my friends, his roommate interjected: “Why do you want to be strong? Girls aren’t supposed to be ripped, it's unattractive and gross. Good luck not hooking up with any boys anytime soon.” 

Sure enough, the next time I was at the gym, I was lifting and concerning myself with petty worries about being “too bulky.” It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, your goals are your own and it’s not anyone’s body but yours. 

One way I have overcome my personal gym anxiety is by laughing at myself. 

I have hit myself in the head with weights, tripped over equipment or spilled my water all over myself countless times. If you’re at a place consistently, you’re bound to embarrass yourself at some point. Once you embarrass yourself at the gym, the anxiety goes away and it becomes a joke.  

Mason Haselden / Garnet & Black

“I’ve always hated gyms and a lot of that had to do with being self-conscious. When I finally found something I liked, I asked myself why it was different this time," said USC speech professor Lynn Kramer. "The most important reason was because I realized that I just didn’t care what anyone thought about me anymore. I just didn’t care how I looked bouncing around because I realized I was having so much fun doing what I needed to do to become healthy.” 

Kramer said she felt good about her workouts, and that's all that mattered. 

"My advice is that you find something active that you love to do. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about you,” she added.

Life is too short to worry about other people’s opinions. Regular activity is one of the most important factors in regulating mental and physical health. When you exercise physically, your brain releases "happy" endorphins, meaning that exercise is good for you both physically and mentally. 

So, go after it! If anything or anyone stands in the way of your goals, just take Kramer's advice:

"Screw it and just go for it."