Sometimes I look in the mirror and I think to myself, “I wonder if anyone can even tell I work out.”
On a subconscious level, of course I know that this is ridiculous. I have noticeably large shoulders, arms, and even pretty apparent pecs. Of course they can tell I lift. But on some other, darker level, I really, truly, can’t see that when I look in the mirror.
This is the stuff people don’t talk about, but we should. Because so many bodybuilders deal with these feelings. To me it seems like a combination of your run-of-the-mill body dysmorphic disorder and a sentiment laughingly known as “bigorexia” – the feeling that you could never be muscular enough for your own liking.
In my experience, this goes hand in hand with imposter syndrome, which is for a high-achieving individual to be unable to accept that they earned their achievements through hard work, and chalking them up to luck instead. (Imposter syndrome was named in 1978 by two psychologists who published this study.)
However fleeting, I have feelings of imposter syndrome all the time. Sometimes while scrolling through Instagram, a wave of what I’d describe as panic washes over me. “I’m going to get up on that pro stage and look like an idiot next to all these seasoned athletes.” “Everyone is bigger than me.” “Maybe I only turned pro because the judges like me.”
Other times, I’ll finish a workout having enjoyed it and think, “I didn’t suffer enough,” “I didn’t work hard enough,” or “prep isn’t supposed to be fun”.
And when people come up to me at the gym to tell me I inspire them to push harder or ask me a question about how to train this or that body part, I wonder, “Why are they asking me? I’m just another gym-goer like them.”
These thoughts are defeatist, they are not useful, and they are not true. So I’m going to dispel my own negative thoughts right now so that I can let them go:
- First of all, I certainly do look like I lift. I mean, come on.
- I’m not going to look stupid next to the other pros because I AM A PRO TOO.
- I didn’t earn my pro card because of favoritism. I earned my pro card because I worked hard for it.
- There’s nothing wrong with enjoying my exercise* . Hell, no one should be competing if they don’t enjoy working out at least most of the time, right? *NSFW classic Schwarzenegger video, hehe
- People are asking me questions at the gym because what I’m doing is working.
Okay, great. Now I can get on with my life.
I encourage you to become aware of these kinds of thoughts when you have them. Maybe write them down like I’ve done here, and read through them one by one, explaining to yourself why they aren’t true. If that’s hard, have someone you love tell you why they’re not true instead! It’s very common to have negative feelings like these and with this post, I want to remind you that you’re not alone, and you’re not weird.
Here is the latest progress comparison. Since I skipped a week, I’m comparing this week with two weeks ago. Amazingly, according to the scale, there’s a difference of -7 lbs. from the left picture to the right picture. I have no idea how that could be true, but I guess the scale doesn’t lie.
If you’re an athlete, have you experienced “bigorexia”? Even if you aren’t an athlete, have you ever struggled with imposter syndrome?
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