I stepped into the gym that morning after months of ignoring that the gym even existed. I hadn't touched a piece of equipment yet and my heart was already pounding.
I felt so stupid for spending oodles of money on a gym membership I never used. I had gotten used to the weird guilt that would show up every time I picked up a burger from the place next door. Plus, I kept telling myself I would cancel my membership soon, because "I'm not a gym-person anyway."
Yet, there I was at 7am, scared as fuck and ready to remind myself what cardio was.
I felt insanely self-conscious in my workout clothes. I was actively avoiding eye contact with others. I felt clumsy and intimidated and painfully, PAINFULLY outside my comfort zone.
But I went into the belly of the beast and I cardio'd like a damn champ. And those 35 minutes on the elliptical were a big win.
Not because I need to lose weight. Not because I actually used the membership I've been paying for. But because I overcame my fear and awkwardness, if only for one day. It was a baby step, but it was still a step that made a difference.
It's been about a month since that day and no, I'm not magically 30 pounds lighter. No, I don't have arms like Michelle Obama. No, I can't bench press your mastiff. But I can look people in the eye and smile. I can stand up straighter. I can feel proud of myself and navigate my worst days with just a little more grace.
Is it just because of the exercise? Maybe partially, but I don't think that's the whole story.
I turned "I can't" and "I don't" into "I think I can" and "I'll try."
I was painting myself into a corner before by telling myself that "I'm not a gym-person." Now that I have been going to the gym regularly, I still don't think of myself as a "gym-person," but I'm not not that either.
I'm just a person.
I'm a person who wants to be healthy and strong, and whether I achieve that at a gym or somewhere else does not define my identity. It took a real shift in mindset to get me into that gym the first day, and it happened because I realized how much I was holding myself back.
"I don't go to the gym." "I'm not very strong." "I can't work out in the morning."
Well, why the fuck not? I didn't have a good answer, and all those definitive statements were just keeping me in a box of sadness. Was I really going to go through life looking through the lens of what I can't or don't do? Please, NO.
So I flipped it and looked at it based on what I could TRY. What might happen if I just tried?
I can learn. I can build strength. I can wake up whenever I choose to. I'm in charge here.
I faced my demons and now I'm not as scared.
Part of my gym-fright was that I would get judged and be found wanting. I was going to fall off the elliptical. I would trip over the weights. I'd split my pants doing squats.
I'd be the lumpy girl who got laughed at, embarrassed and humiliated. I'd fail at being a functional human adult. And I knew I would judge myself harder than any of the six-pack-having, beautifully fit people that would inevitably laugh-escort me off the premises.
Was any of this fear rational? NO. None of it. It was made-up bullshit nonsense. But did I still feel scared and insecure? You betcha, babe.
But here's the thing about fear. I don't like making decisions based on it. So I decided that I had to walk straight into this wall of terror. I had to walk in and through it.
I might actually trip. My pants might actually split. I might be the most uncoordinated ho to ever set foot in that building.
But thing one: am I going to let fear of failure and embarrassment rule me? Fuck no. And, more importantly, thing two: who am I that the whole gym is going to be watching me to see if I screw up?? Time to get over myself and lose the ego along with a few pounds.
Every day is a new opportunity to succeed, and brings a new sense of achievement.
Every morning, there's fresh potential to take another step forward. Every completed workout is a micro-goal I've reached. And every workout I miss is a reminder that there's still hope to reach tomorrow's micro-goal.
These workouts have helped me re-frame my sense of achievement. That sense of achievement has helped me re-frame my pride in myself. That pride carries over into other parts of my day.
I feel a lot more capable, which makes me feel like I can find solutions to the problems that are just a part of life. The more solutions I feel I can find, the happier and more hopeful I become.
I feel different after just four weeks of taking baby steps. It just happened to be in the form of working out at the gym, but I don't think it had to be.
We're all trying to overcome our demons. We've all got dreams that we're trying to make real. But I believe what's going to get us there is facing stuff head-on, forgetting our egos and just TRYING to take one step at a time.
What are some of the demons you're battling? What can you do to take just one step toward defeating them?