Listen to Justin read Through These Eyes – The Body Shop.
The girl on the elliptical next to you is impossibly thin. You roll your eyes and peek at the dashboard on her machine. Time Elapsed: 85 minutes. Resistance Level: 10. Cross Ramp Level: 10. Holy shit. Who is this girl? She’s even pedaling on her tiptoes.
You sneak admiring, jealous glances at her stats until she wraps up her work out (five minutes later, thankfully), and YOU become Master of the Elliptical.
Your reign lasts 15 minutes on Level 1, when you dismount the elliptical and make your way to the free weight section, which you let empty out before you walked over. It’s been several weeks—(cough) months—since you’ve been here. You decide to start easy, and you pick up a 10lb dumbbell. With one hand on your waist for balance, you curl the weight with your other.
You smile at yourself in the mirror. I AM HERE. This summer will be amazing. This is the beginning of many such work outs. Look at how easily I curl this weight, this insignificant piece of metal.
Your confidence is high. Your endorphins are pumping. And then–POP!–you feel a snap in your forearm. You drop the weight on the matted floor and stretch your arm to pop it.
“Dude, you aight?” says a new arrival to the free weights. He’s definitely not your junior. Well, maybe in age. But in gym experience, no. He’s like The David or something.
“Yeah,” you say and stretch your arms. “Just dusting off the cobwebs.”
He laughs, “Well lemme know if you want any help.” He walks to a bench press.
Why yes, you think to yourself, I would like your help. Just not with any of this. You smile and pick up your 10lb dumbbell. And you feel a kind of sadness fall over you. Something between embarrassment and want.
You’ve felt this way before. At pool parties. When your friends with the big muscles group together for a picture and you feel awkward because either they didn’t invite you to stand with them or because even if they did, you’d decline with a funny/defensive remark like, “I ain’t standing next to you muscle-heads.”
It’s you being self-conscious. It’s you being too busy to work out as much as they do, although you secretly wish you were more like them (which really translates into you lacking the motivation). It’s you being vain. It’s you wanting to feel attractive.
This is us being who we are–social creatures with sex drives and a natural desire to feel wanted. We want to feel as lusted after as we perceive our gorgeous friends to be. It’s a feeling that started at puberty and, though its importance to us may dull with time, it remains an indelible part of who we are. We want to be beautiful. When we look at our naked selves in the mirror, rarely do we find solace in “I look average.”
But then that word “confidence” rears its nasty little head. “Confidence is sexy,” you’ve heard. And you know it’s true. It’s why there are so many “how in the world did THEY end up together?” observations (barring money, of course, but that’s another column).
The bottom line is confidence IS sexy. You know it is. It charms people. It wins them over. So why is it so hard to pretend like we have it when it comes to our bodies?
It’s hard to pretend because you can’t fake it. False confidence is cockiness–and it reeks of insecurity.
I have a slender build–little muscle mass–and when I do work out, I enjoy long periods on the elliptical with the New Yorker, not weights. Meanwhile, I’m surrounded by friends who tend to their pecs, abs, and legs religiously. But I’m not ashamed of my paltry biceps in the summertime. Why? Because I stopped putting physical confidence on a pedestal above social know-how (you know, like how to carry on a conversation). What makes me confident with my clothes on is that same thing that gives me confidence when I take them off–a distinction, I think, worth considering the next time you feel a little uncomfortable.
At least until you have that ass made of steel.