By Gillian Mandich
Illustrations By Mark Collins
Have the jitters ever kept you away from the gym — or from trying a new exercise routine? Or perhaps you’ve felt gym-timidated staring at yourself in the wall of mirrors in a workout room? The reality is that at some point in their lives, everyone from the seasoned workout veteran to the new kid on the (gym) block has probably come up feeling a bit inadequate in the confidence department.
Sometimes, in the face of a new workout, challenge, gym, or fitness activity we experience feelings of self-doubt. It’s important to know that these feelings are totally natural; these feelings are our mind’s way of guarding against failure. (We tell ourselves if we don’t try, then we can’t fail, right?) However, as easily as our mind can trick us into feeling self-doubt, we can just as surely put on our sassy pants and crank up the confidence. In fact, cultivating confidence in the face of a challenge is actually one of the most important things we can do to achieve a fit mind and body. Having confidence is like having a silent superpower that plays a key role in success — both on and off the weight-room floor. In fact, science has shown that confidence is as important as competence when it comes to achieving goals. Legendary psychologist, Albert Bandura, found that a person’s view of their ability profoundly influenced their success, and that higher levels of self-confidence are associated with superior performance.
So, if confidence is critical to success, why don’t we all have it in spades? Enter pesky culprits like perfectionism, fear, self-doubt, guilt, shame, and limiting beliefs. These feelings are like kryptonite to confidence — they can hold you back and limit your thought patterns. And, while these emotions may be familiar and keep you in your comfort zone, they can also hinder your fitness and personal growth. Research on brain plasticity shows that our brain physically changes in response to new experiences, thought patterns, and behaviours. This means that we can actually re-wire our brains to think differently, and cultivate confidence.
Boost Your Belief
Just like taking the first step into the gym to begin your workout, you have to start with small steps to build confidence. In addition, just like fitness, confidence in the gym can translate to confidence in other parts of your life. Expert fitness writer and trainer, Jen Sinkler, describes her experience as such: “One of the perks of being a trainer is — far more than reshaping bodies — getting to help reshape the conversation. Once that sort of positivity is set in motion, it tends to bleed into all areas of life.”
Building confidence may sound easier said than done, and feeling confident might seem like a daunting task at times, but the good news is that just like you can hit the gym to build strength, confidence is like a muscle — you can use it over and over again, and it will grow stronger and stronger. And even when you aren’t feeling really confident, you can still take small steps to begin and it will build. It’s like smiling — science has shown that our bodies can’t tell the difference between a real or forced smile. So, if you are feeling unhappy you can move your mouth into the shape of a smile and your body will respond in the same way physiologically as if you were smiling because you are happy. The same principle can be applied to confidence — you can make headway and move in the right direction even if confidence isn’t coming naturally. If you begin with even facing one small task that usually gives you a tiny bit of self-doubt, the momentum will start to grow from there.