The vital muscle you didn’t know you had

I’ve been regularly working out and eating better for about five weeks now, and I’m not gonna sugarcoat the truth—waiting for visible progress sucks. The good news is there’s one muscle that I have made significant invisible progress on: my confidence.

I know it sounds a little silly to refer to confidence as a muscle, but let me put it in perspective for you. For starters, think about some of the major muscles we have: quads, abs, biceps, etc. We all have these, but some are more visible than others, depending on how much time we’ve spent working on them. So the more you work on a muscle, the stronger it becomes, right? Well when it comes to confidence, some of us aren’t exactly The Hulk.

I’ll be the first to admit that this invisible muscle has been (and still is) one of the weakest ones in my body. In college, I avoided the first floor weight room at the gym like the plague. I applauded the brave women in there who pumped iron alongside the herd of swole frat boys in cutoff tanks. However, I couldn’t bring myself to do the same. In my entire four years, there was only one day I went in there with two friends to work out. I couldn’t shake the feeling of dozens of eyes on me—red-faced, sweaty and struggling hard with the lowest weight setting on the shoulder press. I laughed at myself as a defense mechanism, repeating out loud over and over that I was too weak to be in there. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t go in there ever again. Now I regret that my fear had stolen from me countless opportunities to build strength.

Thanks to my amazing sister/partial personal trainer, I feel more comfortable in the (usually) male-dominated area of the gym. About a week ago, she took me through a leg day circuit right in front of the mirrors and right in the middle of the buff dudes. After several sets of different lower body moves (Bulgarian split squats, sumo squats, and curtsy lunges to name a few), I felt physically weak. Mentally though, I felt strong. Not only did I notice that my confidence was building, but I also noticed that the males around us weren’t staring, snickering or anything like that—it was all in my head! They seemed to be in their own zone, just like Hannah and I were.

Today I biked to the gym and walked up (a little nervous, of course) to that same area by myself. And after five minutes, I was too in tune with my own music (pun slightly intended) and my own workout to give a damn about what the guys there were thinking or doing. Heck, except for the one woman on the other side of the room doing her barbell thing, I was the only female around! I was so proud of myself!

Training muscles—you guessed it, confidence included— requires a ton of discipline, time and patience; if you’re too comfortable in the process, you’ll never see progress. As one of my favorite fitness quotes goes, “Suck it up so one day you won’t have to suck it in.”

Now get out there and flex your confidence in the gym (or anywhere else) for the world to see!

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