Confidence and why men don’t find it at the gym

A close up image of some weights on a barbell. A foot in a black trainer and a left are also visible

So you want to feel more confident by heading to the gym? Does this sound familiar though; by the time you get home from work after a busy day, the last thing you want to do is get shorts, t-shirt and trainers together and head out of the house again! And the worst thing you can do is sit down and think “I’ll just have a rest for 5 minutes, then I’ll go” because once you sit down, your body really does not want to stand up again! After all, you’ve had a hard day, the gym will be really busy, you can never get on the equipment you want to get on, you can go tomorrow night etc etc etc.

a black and white image of a strong man taken from behind

“Imagine your life is perfect in every respect; what would it look like?” – Brian Tracy

These are all the reasons that run through our heads for us to not go. And most of the time, we go with one of these reasons. Instead, we sit down in front of the tv, play some computer games, help the kids with their home work, cook some dinner, go for a pint or two etc etc. But we really meant to go to the gym, didn’t we? Or did we? It can be really tough trying to add something new into our already busy lives. Making time for something new often means sacrificing the time we spend on something else and for the most part, that thing will be something that we have to do like going to work or cooking and eating an evening meal. Which is often where the problem lies; Do we want to go to the gym bad enough we’ll make time for it in our otherwise already busy schedule? We probably enjoy the idea of getting “buff” and looking good but how much do we enjoy getting there? Do we ever get there? In most cases the answer to both is “we don’t”. So what makes us want to go to the gym then?

Here are a few reasons why guys want to go to the gym:

• To get fitter.
• To be better at sports.
• The social side/meeting people.
• Look more attractive to possible partners.
• To feel healthier.
• To relieve stress.
• Build confidence.

And these are all good reasons for going to the gym. A client of mine, who is about an average size but physically fit, recently told me that after splitting up with his girlfriend, he started “going back to the gym” and was working out several times per week.

He found that he had a good appetite and was taking whey protein to bulk himself up and was genuinely enjoying his workouts.A beared man lifting weights with his shoulders, wearing a black vest and a smile on his face He told me that he could see that his body was growing and he felt more confident about himself and felt that by having more confidence and looking better, it would improve his chances of getting a new girlfriend. Well, after a few more sessions, my client told me about a girl he had met and how he really liked her. He felt they “clicked” and he really liked spending time with her. While this client was still going to the gym, he wasn’t going to the gym quite as often as he had been before because as you would expect, he had to make time to see her.

As the weeks wore on, he wasn’t going to the gym anymore but “didn’t miss it”. Sadly after a few months, the relationship came to an end. Without going into too much detail, they weren’t getting along and decided to go their separate ways. While the client was happy the relationship had finished, his confidence had fallen and he had noticed that he was eating very little. He didn’t want to go to work and had phoned in sick a few times because he wanted some time to grieve for the end of the relationship.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

So, a few weeks after they split up, the client has started going back to the gym again and feeling better about himself too. You might say, “he was enjoying the gym before and it built his confidence which led to him getting a girlfriend, so surely it’s a good thing he’s working out again”? And that would be a fair question. The gym does boost his confidence, which then would possibly lead to him getting another girlfriend. Great! Problem solved! Well, sort of.

The client does now have a new girlfriend but the cycle has started again, where he no longer has time for the gym because of the girlfriend, so he has stopped going again. The confidence boost from the workouts is gone. The motivation to go to the gym, is gone. The client started to notice his muscles aren’t getting any bigger and wonders if the new girlfriend still finds him attractive, now he isn’t so muscular. He even started to wonder whether she would still find him attractive if he starts to put on weight because he isn’t exercising anymore.

An image of a man lifting his t-shirt with his left hand while another person measures his stomach. The stomach is larger than average and has some stretch marks. The man has a half eaten haamburger in his right hand This made him worry even more and his confidence dipped further. Does any of this sound familiar? It has done to me in the past.

So, back to the original question; why doesn’t the gym work for me? If like in my client’s case you’re going to the gym to make yourself look more attractive, its probably never going to work. We need to start with the REAL reason for going to the gym. Rather than trying to make yourself more appealing to a prospective partner, you need to think about why YOU don’t think you’re appealing already. So for example, if you are overweight and you think no woman (or man) is going to be attracted to you because you’re “too fat”, you need to think about why that is. Why you feel that way. When we say that out loud “nobody will find me attractive”, do we really agree with that statement? Is all I have to offer are my looks? Does my personality count for nothing? And to take that on a step, if you began dating a woman and she said she was only interested in you because you had muscles, how would that make you feel? It might be a nice thought for a moment as you might never have had anyone attracted to you because of your body before but how comfortable do you think you would be with that person, long term? Would you begin to worry that if you didn’t keep going to the gym, she would leave you? Quite possibly. Which wouldn’t be a good start to the relationship. It would just be giving you a new set of worries. I’m not going to deny that your appearance is a factor when it comes to relationships but it is just that; one factor and it isn’t the single reason you are not in a relationship or feel as though you aren’t “attractive”.

you need to think about why YOU don’t think you’re appealing already

Being concerned with how you look is probably something that has bothered you for quite a long time and there has probably been one or two or maybe several situations in your past which have made you think “I’m not attractive”. Whatever those situations were, they were probably quite painful and unpleasant and that feeling has stayed with you and has become part of what we call your introjected self concept. A collection of stimulus taken from friends, family, peers, environment, media etc and we take this information and it becomes part of us. But underneath all that is the real you; your authentic self concept.

“You learn more from failure than from success. Don’t let it stop you. Failure builds character.” – Unknown

The you that hasn’t heard anyone suggest you aren’t good enough or called you ugly. We take on the opinions, thoughts and even prejudices of others and it becomes part of us. We still have our own unique thoughts and ideas too but there is often tension between how we think we feel about something and how we really, deep down feel about something. An image of a wooden dressing table with a rectangular mirrorFor example, could one of the reasons you don’t go to the gym be that you think “people are looking at you”? If people are looking at you, they must be thinking how ridiculous you look, right? But how do we KNOW that? We don’t! Could it be possible that even those who you consider to be physically fit and athletic have their own insecurities too and worry what everybody else is thinking? Could it be that they are there in the first place because they are insecure about their own physical appearance? Going to the gym is a good thing for many more reasons than I’ve listed in this article and it might help you feel better about yourself too. But if you really feel as though you have to improve yourself physically for no other reason than to change your physical appearance, it could be time to talk to some who can help you. I can help you. In the meantime, here’s a really useful exercise (no pun intended) you can try:

1) Write down something about how you’re feeling. For example; “I don’t like the way I look in the mirror”.
2) Write down your actions. Which would be something “I’ve joined the gym”.
3) Write down what made you feel the way you feel. For example; “I heard someone say I was fat.
4) Write down what it was that went through your mind when you heard what was said. For example “I’m not fat”. “That’s horrible, I feel terrible”. “Is that what all the girls think about me”?
5) And finally, this is where we challenge those thoughts: How do I know what ALL girls think?! Even if some did think that I was fat, there’s probably plenty that don’t. If I looked at my diet and the exercise I’m getting and came up with a plan to look after myself better, would that help me feel better about that comment?
6) The idea is that you examine what it is that has made you think/feel negatively about yourself and challenge it. When you break the negative thought down and examine it, it’ll help you see where the thought came from and give you a way to combat it.

“We generate fears while we sit. We overcome them by action.” – Dr. Henry Link

If you feel like you’re not good enough, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like and I know what it takes to accept yourself. I can help. If you’re looking for a counsellor who understands and can put themselves in your shoes and feel how you feel, get in touch.

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