EARLIER THIS WEEK, Jameela Jamil came face to face with the gym boogeyman – the monster we’re assured doesn’t exist but one which many of us – to a greater or lesser extent – still fear.
This creature feeds off your insecurities, delights in your self-doubt and positively revels in your uncertainty.
It tells you that yes, in fact, you are doing it all wrong, you are wasting your time and you’ll never truly succeed in your mission, irrespective of what it might be.
I had long since told myself that this monster lived in my head and I’ve written countless articles assuring people of just that, but live long enough and you’ll learn that the boogeyman we were told was nothing but a figment of our imagination actually walks amongst us.
And on Monday, Jameela met him.
In a video posted to Twitter – a message which has amassed more than 27,000 likes – the 32-year-old actress and broadcaster outlined a situation which played out in the aftermath of a gym session.
So this was fun, I was just leaving the gym and a man I did not know approached me and asked what workout I’d just been doing, so I told him that I’d been cycling, because I have anxiety and that’s why I come to the gym.
So far, so harmless. There are myriad reasons a stranger may strike up a conversation with you in a gym, and this person’s was about as standard as they come.
And then came the kicker.
And he decided to tell me – without prompt – that he’s seen me around, and he always thinks, “Ah, what a shame, she could look so amazing” and “There’s so many different things I could do to improve my body.”
“So he essentially walked up to me and body-shamed me in the middle of the gym,” Jameela continued.
Understandably enraged by this unsolicited assessment at the hands of a perfect stranger, Jameela directed the rest of her video to him.
Don’t do that. Don’t walk up to someone and impose your belief of what you think they should look like onto them. Don’t do that to women, don’t do that to men, don’t do that to anyone, ever.
When I told him I was happy with my body, he looked both surprised and slightly sorry for me. Never walk up to someone and tell them how much better they could look. You’re not being nice, you’re shaming them for the way they currently look. You’re also being extremely weird. pic.twitter.com/FeYBluU0vw— Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamil) September 12, 2018
No one needs this. I don’t need this man. To that man, don’t walk up to anyone, don’t walk up to a woman ever again and say anything like that. I don’t need your advice, I don’t want your advice, I didn’t ask you for your advice as to whether or not I’m good-looking enough. Just f*ck off.
Gyms can be a hugely intimidating space to inhabit, but the one thing we’re assured again and again is that – in the best possible way – no one could care less about you, your regimen or your goals.
The confident internalise this and the less confident seek solace in it, but for many, the fear remains.
Yesterday, I moved a piece of gym equipment around the corner so I wouldn’t have to work out beside a girl with a visible six-pack.
On Monday I spent longer awkwardly arranging and rearranging my gym top so it met the waist of my leggings than I did resting and gathering my breath between burpees.
Last week, I sacrificed an aspect of my training programme, justifying the decision by joking that my ineptitude would draw a crowd.
All of this was done in response to my own monster; something that tells me those around me will be judging, unfavourably comparing or, in the worst case scenario, openly mocking.
In a space where I have never been given anything but encouragement, guidance and advice, this creature still looms large.
If you’re incredibly fortunate, it has never reared its ugly head.
If you’re lucky, you overcome it, other times you learn to control it, but more often than not you simply power through because you know the benefit outweighs the fear.
And if you’re unlucky, you meet it in the flesh.
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