Me, a middle-aged working professional, being bullied. At the gym, no less. I was riding the stationary bike when it started. At first I didn’t recognize it for what it was. I just thought it was meant as a motivator.
“Come on, man; you can do better than that.”
Seemed reasonable, so I tried to put in more effort. But I was worn out from being on the grind at work and at home. When time was up on the bike, I marched over to the treadmill to continue my cardio work. About halfway through it happened again.
“Geez… that the best you can do?”
It was embarrassing. Here I was, running at the normal speed I do on the machine and yet it wasn’t enough. Other folks go slower or even walk, yet I was the one targeted.
The harassment continued when I started my strength training routine. I was doing a higher number of repetitions than usual on an exercise but still got bullied for my trouble.
“Yeah, you’re doing more reps but that’s not much weight you’re slinging. What a slacker.”
It got worse on the next machine.
“You’re not even doing the exercise the way you’re supposed to. Look at your form. Why do you even bother? Loser.”
At that point I was defeated. Self-defeated. I hit the water fountain and looked out across the gym.
Just then Dan, one of my gym buddies, noticed me uncharacteristically holding up the wall.
“How’s it going?” he asked.
“Terrible,” I replied, sharing with him my lackluster workout performance.
He smiled and followed up a few simple words of encouragement mixed with a bit of levity – something about my standing on the sideline in a self-imposed timeout. It was designed to get me back into my workout routine but on my own terms. It worked.
I got more water from the fountain but it was Dan’s very short pep talk that was the real thirst quencher. I looked around the gym. The bully had disappeared. Instead what I saw were folks of all shapes, sizes and varying levels of physical conditioning. They all were there for the same reason I was: to get a workout in. And it felt great to be among them.
As I continued my workout, I thought about the bully. It was me. I had been mentally and emotionally pummeling myself and doing a darn good job of it. I’m no psychologist but certain such negative self-talk had been taking a toll on my perspective.
Some people, I’ll wager, never have to deal with this kind of self-imposed abuse. Just how many of them exist in the world, I don’t know. I envy them though. What must it be like to move through the world with no internal bully to beat you up? Surely it’s a lot easier than living with the one I work so hard to keep hidden and suppressed.
Then again, maybe it’s okay if that bullying voice comes out sometimes. In this case, maybe my mind was trying to tell my body something. I wasn’t 100 percent that day at the gym and might have injured myself had I tried to work out full tilt.
That ‘loyal soldier’ inside me can be helpful, as long as I understand the positive underlying intent and not let it bully me. In this case, it was reminding me of my potential but also my current state of being. The old adage, no pain no gain is true; just not all the time.