Admitting to insecurity isn’t really the sort of thing most internet tough guys are willing to do — by acknowledging that your capital-letter laden confidence waivers in the physical realm, people worry that their words will somehow carry less weight when arguing with strangers on the internet.

So allow me to clear something up: we’re all a little insecure sometimes.

If you’re like me, and you’ve devoted a fair portion of your adult life to fitness, you’ve probably noticed that those things you feel self-conscious about don’t simply evaporate as your fitness level increases. As you get better, your insecurities evolve with you. In my early twenties, when I could have eaten nothing but cream cheese with a spoon and still retained a six pack, I was self-conscious about how strong I was. When my friends threw two plates on each side of the bar to knock out reps of 225, I’d watch and wince, aware that I could only muster five or six reps at that weight.

I can sense some of you thinking to yourself sarcastically, “Wow, musta been really hard on you, not being able to bench press 300 pounds.” I get it — when you’re struggling to squat 205, it’s hard to feel bad for a guy that’s worried that he can only squat 300 — but that’s the nature of insecurity, folks. It’s not based in reason; it doesn’t dissipate once you cross an imaginary number on the bar or the clock. Insecurity exists on the mental plain, not the physical one, and as such, there’s very little you can do physically to mitigate it.

Sure, as the years wore on and I got stronger, I grew less insecure about the weights I loaded on the bar — in part because the numbers were growing and in part because I came to understand how unimportant those numbers truly were, but that didn’t cure me of insecurity. These days, I start my chest workouts by warming up with 255 on the bar and instead of worrying about what people think of that, I worry about what they think of the extra few pounds I now carry on my midsection.

“You’re supposed to be a fitness guy,” I can hear imaginary critics saying, “but that gut doesn’t look all that fit.”

That insecurity has, over the years, been an incredible motivator for me. In many ways, I’m less a fitness guy than I am a problem solver. When I feel self-conscious about something, I work to address it — but not everyone has that same unique combination of psychosis and passion for self-hazing, and in many, those insecurities manifest as something far less productive: inaction.

A recent survey of 1,000 women from across the country indicated that 65% of them had avoided the gym at one time or another for fear of being judged. While a 1,000 person sample size isn’t really big enough to qualify as a reasonable cross-section of the American public (in my opinion), that figure seems accurate based on my experience. What may come as a surprise to some, is that I’d be willing to bet that the figures would be similar for men if you could somehow rope them into answering honestly. I’d imagine many male athletes would be too insecure to admit that insecurity ever seeps past their powdered protein armor (only 36% of men self-reported as having avoided the gym for fear of judgment in the same survey).