Allow me to set the scene for you…
There’s an hour-long “BodySculpt” class I like to take every week at my gym. It involves jumping around with weights to loud music. Since that’s pretty much the only real workout I’d otherwise get all week, I added personal training earlier this year. That also happens at the gym.
I give a semi-believable approximation of my best efforts in class, but I pull out all the stops and put on my big-girl shorts for personal training sessions.
When my personal trainer, Sarah, shows me an exercise she wants me to do, sometimes it looks really hard. But instead of saying, “Oh HELL, no,” which is how I feel, I reply, “Okay!” as though she just suggested I eat as many chocolate-chip cookies as I can in the next two minutes.
I don’t want her to think I’m a wimp, you see. That I’m not trying very hard. That I’m not committed.
A Public Shaming … Of Me, By Me
Along those lines, there was a day a couple of months ago when I was in my BodySculpt class — nothing to do with Sarah and personal training — and I got tired halfway through. For the first and only time ever, I decided to leave 30 minutes into the 60-minute class.
Making my way through the gym’s main area back to the locker room, I bumped into Sarah, my trainer. “I saw you in there, working hard,” she said with a big smile and a jaunty thumbs-up.
“You had to see me on the one day I left halfway through,” replied My Guilty Conscience, to my horror.
Instead of just smiling back at her and saying, “Yup! Great class. See you Wednesday,” which is probably what Sarah was expecting, I had to yank myself out of the quitter closet and confess I’d left early. Why?
I’m sure Sarah *wasn’t* thinking, “Why isn’t Tina still in class?” She was in the middle of her own workday, she couldn’t see the classroom from where we were standing, and the schedule of fitness classes (which have nothing to do with her) is probably not top of mind.
In other words, she wouldn’t have known I’d left class early if I hadn’t told her.
I’m Not the Only One
It’s bad enough when you’re the one who outs yourself. It can be just as awkward outing someone else.
Years ago when I worked in an office, I was having a casual conversation with a coworker when he mentioned having been in a certain neighborhood at lunchtime.
“Oh, what were you doing over there?” I asked, just out of curiosity.
He looked uncomfortable and said, “I … had a therapy appointment. That’s where my therapist’s office is.”
We were both embarrassed that I’d accidentally outed him as someone who goes to therapy. I’d had no clue what I was getting into by asking the question.
Why do we insist on telling people whose business it isn’t the very things we’re most embarrassed, ashamed or self-conscious about?
I think it must be because either:
1) We think somehow they already know, or
2) We think if they don’t know already, it must be obvious from our discomfort that there’s something to know, so we might as well let them in on it so they’ll stop wondering why we’re being so weird (because they can SEE that we’re feeling weird, we’re sure of it).
In any case, keeping our business to ourselves doesn’t always feel like an option in that “caught in the headlights” moment.
But having been many times on the other side of unnecessary and unexpected revelations from others, I’m encouraged to practice keeping my own counsel about my weaknesses, secrets and failures.
(Remember “Lions and tigers and bears, Oh my!” from the Wizard of Oz? Here’s a new one: Weaknesses, secrets and failures, Oh my! Weaknesses, secrets and failures, Oh my! …)
It will probably take practice to act as though people can’t read my thoughts and don’t know how short I’ve fallen of some personal or social mark. But gee, it seems doable if I put my mind to it.
I don’t need to tattle on myself. It’s bad enough I sometimes eat things I’ve dropped on the floor.