How To Handle Feeling Scared Of Being Judged At The Gym

I can remember the feeling of pure terror when I stepped into a gym for the first time. The first several times in fact. It wasn’t just the standard worries about not knowing what I’m doing or being the least fit person there. But I felt scared of being judged at the gym, and that was the worst part.

Why Do We Feel Scared Of Being Judged At The Gym?

It is something a lot of us go through.

I’m a seasoned gym-goer now, and I have also worked in gyms. So I am used to the gym environment.

But still, even after being in gyms for years, if I set foot in a new gym I am somewhere between, nervous, anxious, and scared.

Completely honestly, I think it is down to how gyms are often portrayed in the media.

We see them as these magical places. Everyone is thin, chiselled, and generally superhuman. And also for some reason, we believe that everyone is watching everyone else.

2 muscular men doing a crossfit workout. One man is lifting a heavily loaded barbell - gym intimidation perceived

Let’s be honest.

There are super fit people, extremely muscular people, and also incredibly thin people.

And of course, there are people that watch and judge other people. It’s not something that you can get away from.


Those same people watching or judging others exist anywhere and everywhere. It isn’t something that is exclusive to the gym.

You can’t prevent it and you can’t control other people’s actions.

Your gym should have some kind of policy in place for this kind of behaviour. If they don’t, or worse – if they do and don’t enforce it – then they’re not worth your time or money anyway.

The thing is that the fear you’re feeling will still be real for you. Other people’s actions or reassurances on their own won’t do anything to change that.

Overcoming that worry of being judged at the gym has to come from within you.

Here Are Some Things You Can Try To Overcome Feeling Scared Of being Judged At The Gym

Go With A Buddy

When we’re stepping out of our comfort zone, sometimes it is helpful to know that someone is there who has our backs.

The same applies to going to the gym.

It might be someone working out with you.

Or it might be someone going to the gym with you and you do separate workouts.

It might even be someone just there to get you through the door – and there is nothing wrong with that.

As you start to feel more settled, your fear of going will drop. You won’t feel like you need anyone else with you to get yourself there.

Hire A Trainer

One part of being scared of being judged at the gym comes from not knowing what you’re doing or how to use the equipment.

Hiring a trainer who can help you lay a solid foundation. They can get you comfortable with the gym, and set you up for success.

Plus a good trainer isn’t exactly a cheap option. If you treat it as an investment, you’re much less likely to let any other internal fears stop you.

It may still be scary but you’re much less likely to allow that fear to stop you when you’ve made that investment.

And who better to help you than someone who is a specialist in the exact thing you’re trying to do.

Change Your Self-Talk In The Moment

Something which I have been trying to do in my head a lot more is having a sort of mini talk with my future self.

Yes, I know how that sounds so you don’t need to remind me.

But this is an example of what I mean.

I am in the middle of a tough workout and I start to feel like easing up on myself.

Before, I listened to what my mind was saying at that moment. It would say “you’re tired, you’re lungs are burning, your muscles are sore,” and so on.

These days, I imagine myself getting ready for bed at the end of the day (yes, this is where my brain goes during my workout).

I am looking back on my day and my workout and asking myself if I was genuinely happy with how my workout went.

And if I give up at that time, the answer is almost always a resounding NO.

So when you are getting yourself ready for the gym and your brain or your gut is starting to talk you out of it, imagine the version of you that is getting ready for bed at the end of the day.

Imagine how they will feel with each of the choices you make.

Change Your Self-Talk Outside Of The Moment

This is something I needed to do to get my head straight when I wasn’t happy with my fitness before.

It is like the above, but with a couple of key differences.

It’s pretty likely that after a few gym visits, you won’t feel scared of being judged at the gym anymore.

That might take a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. It’s down to you.

With the example above, we fast-forwarded to the end of the day.

This time I want you to fast forward a few weeks. Imagine yourself feeling comfortable with the gym and settled into a routine. Maybe even actually enjoying it!

And here’s the kicker.

That version of you will be looking back on the version of you that is currently held back by fear.

They will be thinking:

You’re holding yourself back from doing something to level-up yourself and something you want to do for fear of being judged by random other people who have no bearing whatsoever on your life (which may or may not ever even happen in the first place).

When I started giving myself that kind of self-talk, it lit a fire. It got me ready to do the exact thing I was holding back from doing.

Especially if you’re worried about other people, that is the kind of conversation you will want your future self to have with you.

Scared Of Being Judged At The Gym intimdation pin

One Last Thing On Being Judged At The Gym

All the above is about dealing with the internal emotion of feeling scared of being judged at the gym.

I touched on this above, but let me make this clear.

It is no one else’s place and no one else’s right to judge you or harass you or intimidate you for any reason.

If you’re worried you might experience that kind of behaviour, that is one thing. We can work on that internally.

But if that is the behaviour you are actually experiencing that is a whole separate ball game. Like I already said, your gym should have policies in place with respect to that kind of behaviour.

If they don’t or if they’re not enforcing it, that’s a whole separate topic.

I can’t provide any specific advice on how to deal with that because it will vary a lot based on your situation.

For example, a big box gym chain will have different levels you can escalate this to at their head office. A small independent gym might not.

They wouldn’t be worth your time or money but they should also be held accountable.