Drop Some Knowledge 2: Social Physique Anxiety

My sports psychology class is so interesting. I’m super into the whole mind-body connection, the mental battles during physical performances, blah blah blah.

We went over arousal, anxiety, and stress and how they are connected to sport/exercise performance. One type of anxiety that some people may face: social physique anxiety.


This is the anxiety one may feel about others checking out his/her physique. Whether the physique is actually being scrutinized or it is just the person’s perception of the physique being looked at, this person feels a great sense of anxiety.

I know I often felt anxiety about wearing shorts or tight-fitting running clothes while running. Here’s what I used to wear (2011):


It was for my first ever Mermaid run (18-miler). I came in 5th overall and didn’t even realize it until later, haha. During those times, I always wore those shorts because it seemed to cover up my thighs (… if you didn’t know, I used to have a bad relationship with my thighs).

The year after, by the advice of Misty, I wore shorts that were tight (or she just suggested I wear shorts that were actually short, instead of those long, baggy ones):


I came in third overall and 1st in my age group (not because of the shorts, haha. I just became a bit of a faster runner). Anyways, by that time, I had gotten over my thigh-anxiety. I decided to focus on my running performance, improve my fitness, and get faster. With a lot of hard work, it all happened.

In doing so, I also went from having low self-esteem (from when I was 13 until my early 20’s) to having much higher self-esteem! Studies also show that people who improve their exercise performances and fitness levels can also raise self-esteem,Β especially for those who have low self-esteem to begin with:


These are all important to be aware for yourself, as well as if you are a coach, exercise instructor, or physical education teacher. Sometimes, the ones who need to be sticking with an exercise programs are the ones who drop out because of social physique anxiety. Find ways to encourage these people to stick with it for the long haul, and hopefully all of the benefits will overflow like crazy.


With that being said, I went out for my 6-mile tempo run yesterday with some short shorts on. Yes, things jiggle and wobble, but I didn’t really give a wild hoot.

Started out with a 2-mile warm-up: 9:01, 9:04.

Then my 6-mile tempo (which is supposed to be run at 8:00-8:05, my goal marathon pace range): 7:59, 7:51, 7:55, 7:50, 7:52, 7:49. Whoops. Too fast.

2-mile cooldown jog: 8:57, 8:53 (and cooldown 0.3 mile walk for 4 minutes).

Total: 10+ miles. Love it!

Today will be an easy 8-miler. I love love love my easy runs!


What sports might be associated with a lot of social physique anxiety? What ideas do you have for helping people work through their anxiety?

Have your self-esteem and confidence been boosted by increased fitness/exercise?

What noticeable mental and emotional changes have you observed from your involvement in physical activities/sports?

12 responses to “Drop Some Knowledge 2: Social Physique Anxiety

  1. Yes, I’ve found exercising (running, swimming, lifting, yoga) has really helped raise my self-esteem and it seems the faster I run/swim, the better I feel about myself. Exercise really builds my confidence!

  2. I’ll just respond with an Alanis Morisette quote: “I think there is no better way to invite a human being to view their body differently than by inviting them to be an athlete, by revering one’s body as an instrument rather than just an ornament. It’s a really great way to reorient how you see your body so you can see it as this incredible, awe-inspiring machine that you need to fuel well in order for it to function.”

  3. I used to HATE when it turned to shorts season and would be grossed out by the jiggle of my legs at the gym…NOW I embrace my thick legs, their cellulite, and jiggle parts because they are STRONG. and as you said “I don’t give a hoot” what may go a swishing and a swaying when I’m doing box jumps or jump squats cause it it wasn’t for those legs I wouldn’t be doing those activities in the first place. Awesome post to share! Thank you! Your class seems so interesting! What is your major? And congrats in your running achievements :)!

    • My major is kinesiology, and I love all of the kin classes!
      Soooo glad that you have embraced your strong legs for what it can do instead of what they look like. There is so much freedom once we get to that point!

  4. Pingback: Drop Some Knowledge #8: Postural and Mechanical Loading on Bones/Ligaments | blessed with thunder thighs·

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