On a recent visit to the gym, I noticed a new gym member. She was noticeable because she was almost inside the locker while changing into her gym wear, and she walked around the gym with her head down and her hair covering her face. I instantly recognized myself in her.
Like her, I used to walk around the gym looking at the floor. I avoided eye contact with others, I refused to look at the ceiling-to-floor mirrors, and when I stepped on the scale, I made sure there was no one close by. I used to change into my gym clothes while still wearing my office shirt. I was carrying extra weight (a lot of it), I was embarrassed and worried that the fit and slim gym goers would think I did not deserve to be in the same room as them, and I did not want anyone to notice me until I reached my ideal weight. I don’t know if this woman’s reasons are the same as mine but I’m willing to bet that they’re not that different.
It took more than a few trips to the gym before I peeled my eyes off the carpet. It could have been the constant cheerful greetings from the gym staff, or the small helpful gestures and encouraging words from fellow gym patrons, or the sense of pride that slowly swelled in me every time I stepped inside the gym, but one day, I looked up. Then I looked around me. Then I smiled at the lady struggling with the leg curl and later asked a beefed up stranger to teach me how to use the rowing machine. Then, I looked at a mirror and noticed the promising outlines of my biceps. I remember thinking, “Why didn’t I look up much earlier?”
I wasted a lot of time worrying about what others thought of me, when in fact my fellow gym users were too focused on themselves and their workouts to even notice me, much less judge me. Contrary to my fears, those who noticed were supportive and helpful to insecure beginners like me who had no clue how to use exercise machines or do squats properly and safely. Many of them were once overweight and beginners themselves. Not once did I encounter anyone who laughed at me, at least not openly. And, forget about being invisible – if you are the only one who goes around the gym obsessed with the parquet flooring or who changes into your sports wear while fully clothed in your business outfit, you will be noticed.
Maple leaves by the roadside
I’m not saying you shouldn’t look down once in a while. You don’t want to trip while walking, do you? And sometimes you’d find art on your pavement.
But most of the time, all you see is asphalt, a gray brownish sidewalk, or just plain old dirt.
Now, when I run I’d rather see this:
Wouldn’t you? So, the next time you are feeling insecure and feel your head bowing down, look up. The view is usually so much better. And, more importantly, you (yes, you) deserve to be seen, to walk around with your head high, to be confident, because regardless of how you look, or how imperfect you feel, or how small you think you may be, you are not; you are awesome.