The first thing to know is that there are two sides to this coin – one is the experience you are having relative to you: what you see, what you feel, and how you think others are perceiving you. The other side is how everyone else is actually perceiving you – a shared reality which might not be what you think.
So let’s start with yourself – you may feel like a fish out of water. You know this is the right place to be, certainly you have made the decision to see if it’s right for you. When you first get out to the fitness floor you may think that people are watching you, particularly noticing your inexperience. You may feel right away like what you are wearing or how you are going about your workout is a dead giveaway that you are new.
Now let’s talk about the other side of that same experience – the shared reality of everyone else. First off, yes a few people may notice that you are new, but know that they don’t care because they see new people come into the gym all the time. Second, and most important, everyone is really focused on themselves. Other than noticing that other people are working out around them, they truly don’t notice anything about you. Try this out: when you are running on the treadmill you see some people are going faster or slower, or may be a male or a female, but you won’t be judging them. You will be too worried about yourself just as they are about themselves.
When you think about what you are wearing and what workout you are doing, the key is to just be yourself. This is not middle school or high school, everyone values individuality, so just do your thing. In terms of your workout, do what you can, not what others are doing; this experience is about you and no one else. No one is at the same level, there is always someone stronger or more experienced, and also someone less experienced; everyone is in the same boat.
Once you focus on you and start to build a routine, your stress will go down, your confidence will go up, and you will notice that the shared reality of everyone working on themselves is much closer to the truth than what you first thought.