by Spin Instructor and Marketing Director Jason Jaquays-Tarbox
I remember my first day of roller derby. No joke. I was a roller derby athlete for a very short time (a broken wrist and nervous mother kept my roller derby career short). I skated with a men’s team out of Central New York called The Quadfathers (we skated on quad-skates, making this name a perfect pun for the sport!) and fell in love with the entire world of derby almost immediately.
My whole derby experience started when my friend Geoff and I decided that we were going to check out a local women’s team (Assault City Roller Derby in Syracuse, NY) in a home bout (that’s what their games or matches are called) that a couple of acquaintances were skating in. I loved it. I’d been a fervent roller skater growing up, so this was right up my alley being one of the few quad-skate based activities happening post-1985.
Fast-forward to me sitting on a bench, nostalgically considering the last time I laced up a pair of roller skates. As a teenager in the 80s my diet consisted mainly of gummy bears and fruit roll-ups, Cyndi Lauper was my personal hero, and my wardrobe contained a quantity of neon rivaled only by the Vegas Strip. Even though few of those details had changed, somehow – this was different.
The last time I went roller skating, for a classmate’s birthday, my skates accessorized with yarn pom-poms but this time they’re paired with $70 knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, a mouth guard, and a helmet. Instead of sharing the bench with a dozen other prepubescent “Saved By The Bell” super-fans, I share it with a dozen guys who all look bigger, faster and physically more stable (and some mentally less-so) than me. It’s my first roller derby practice.
The first practice is rough.
We finish with a scrimmage, and while removing my skates I estimated that, by morning, my body will be host to at least four new bruises. I’m excited, reminded of a time when socialization didn’t involve a computer and a virtual social network but actual people and toe-stops. I’m also a little bit proud. I had several good blocks and a couple of solid hits–which isn’t bad for the guy whose Kool-Aid-stained face was usually the last chosen for any team in gym class.
But what I’m most proud of, is showing up. We’ve all heard the expression that showing up is half the battle. And on that first day of roller derby practice, I think I finally understood why, as a 30-something adult. Making friends was no longer as easy as finding someone in the sandbox without a playmate. I wasn’t revisiting a sport I’d played as a child. I was doing something 100% out of my comfort zone with no previous experience.
And somehow my biggest concern wasn’t the athleticism (and boy are those skaters athletic!), it wasn’t the costly equipment and it wasn’t the threat of broken bones or a rearranged face. My biggest concern was whether or not I’d fit in.
I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty confident guy. I don’t have any problems going to parties by myself. I don’t have a problem having conversations with people I don’t know. In fact, as a hobby, I get up on stage in front of thousands of people and act, sing, and dance (before I found fitness as a career, I wanted to be the next Ray Bolger)!
But walking into that first practice, I WAS TERRIFIED.
Did I have the right skates? Would the other guys laugh at my bright red skates? Would they look at my slight frame and wonder why a skinny, older guy was dumb enough to try skating with these giant, bearded, manly men who were body checking each other clear across the practice space?
Where does this fear of fitting in come from? Why do confident individuals find themselves so worried about such a trivial and superficial idea?
Joanna Cannon wrote the following for Psychology Today:
The need for acceptance is a basic human instinct – although some value it more than others. We all want to fit in, to belong.
The key to fitting in is to choose the community or tribe that you want to belong to and then allowing yourself to bring your full value to that community. Easier said than done, right? Let’s dig into the solutions instead of dwelling on how…
SOLUTION ONE: Make the transition into a new group of people or community easier by doing it with a friend. This is especially effective when it comes to fitness or weight loss – having someone to go with you to the gym can make that visit less intimidating, but you’ll also have someone to lean on when your resolve is waining or you’re thinking about reaching for that second dessert.
Even better? Find a gym (like Elevate Fitness) that REWARDS you for bringing your friends to the gym with you!
SOLUTION TWO: Remind yourself that everyone there is working on something and everyone there is worried about fitting in. When you remember that everyone is in the same boat, it makes it less intimidating to go to the gym, or try that group fitness class or hit up that new support group.
SOLUTION THREE: Be aggressive about meeting new people. Instead of waiting to feel comfortable in a new situation, MAKE yourself comfortable by introducing yourself to someone. Find someone else who looks nervous, or uncomfortable or shy and introduce yourself! Not only will you meet someone new, but you’ll help someone else feel more comfortable, too!
What are some tricks you use to help yourself fit in when you’re someplace new? Want to see how easy it is to fit in at Elevate Fitness? Try us out for free.