Why I Hate the Gym: Facing the Bully

facing the bully, ending the comparison game

This isn’t your typical bully story. If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said that I have never really been bullied.

Well, I guess there was that one time in 8th grade when a kid wrote in my year book, “Lose wait.” But he spelled weight wrong… so I didn’t feel too bad about myself. At least I can spell.

Other than that, I have been lucky to have good friends growing up who didn’t pick on me, despite my unruly curly hair, my glasses, and my chunkiness.

Then I started going to the gym.

Every time I stepped in those doors, my companion started the relentless provocations.

“Don’t you wish you had a waist that small?”
“You could have an ass like that if you ever stepped on the stair climber, but you’re too lazy.”
“Seriously? You can’t even get a sub 10 minute mile? You can’t call that running. You’re slow.”
“That girl is tiny, if she runs next to you, you’ll look like a cow.”

Punch after punch, my companion bruised my confidence until I walked out of those doors. It’s hard to go to the gym when you know you’re going to be poked and prodded by words you never thought anyone would have the audacity to speak to you.

I was being bullied.

What would you do if you were me? Would you ever let someone talk to you that way? Yeah, I know. Most people wouldn’t. I know what you’re thinking, “Why don’t you ditch the gym buddy?”

Easier said than done. That bully isn’t some jerk “friend” that comes with me to the gym. I can’t just leave her at home while I go about my business. Why? Because the bully is me.

From the second I walk into the gym to the second I leave, the narrative to my workout is one of constant comparison. I degrade myself so much that by the time I leave, I never want to go back. I am the reason I hate the gym.

This nasty habit became evident the other night. It had been a while since I had gone to the gym. I felt kind of discouraged at how quickly my results had deteriorated during my little hiatus. That discouragement opened the door to comparison. Once the comparison game started, there was no stopping it. The self-judgements were flowing and they weren’t holding anything back.

“That girl is gorgeous. She’s perfectly proportioned. You’ll never get there.”

That was it. A tipping point of sorts. I’ll never get there? Shut up and watch me prove you me wrong. If anyone said that to me I would punch them in the jaw and then laugh in their swollen face as I proved them wrong. So why I do it to myself?

body image: shut up and watch me prove you wrong

There’s no good reason. It’s silly to think that mentally there is any difference between saying those things to myself and someone saying those things to me. It hurts the same.

I decided to take a stand to the bully at the gym. No more negative self-talk. No more comparison game. If I go to the gym it’s because I want to do something healthy for my body. It’s not because I want to look like someone else, it’s not because I want to punish myself. If I go to the gym, I go to feel happy and relaxed. There’s no room for comparison in that plan.

With this in mind, I set a challenge for myself. Any time I start thinking something negative about my body, I say one thing I am thankful for in regards my efforts. Any time I give a girl the up down and start comparing, I think, “She works hard for her results, and I am glad I have the opportunity to work hard for mine.” That’s it. The analysis stops there.

It seems so easy as I type it out, but when I actually did it, it was exhausting. Bullying myself had become so second-nature, that it took active, conscious effort to reverse that pattern of behavior. By the time I finished my workout I realized that my goal to stay body positive was more difficult than the actual physical exercise I did. But for the first time in a very long time, leaving the gym I felt excited to go back.

Working out can be a positive or a negative experience. That experience is solely determined by your mindset. Next time you go to work out, take a step back and ask why you are going. If the reason is for anything other than to be healthier and happier, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals. If you step into the gym, only to serve as your own punching bag I encourage you to make an effort to stay body positive. Don’t compare yourself to others. Talk to yourself the way you’d expect your best friend to talk to you, and don’t settle for anything less.

My body is strong. My body is a work in progress. I won’t give up on myself. I know I can do it.

Have something to say? Sound off, Darling.