Monday, February 2, 2015

Thoughts about life, crap, training, and stuff - What it really means to find yourself

Everyone has a story behind their origins in finding their love of lifting, fitness, etc that explains why the iron was life changing for them.

I do.  But I've written about that before, so I won't now.  Instead, I have something I want to write to the young dudes that have reached out to me the last couple of weeks that were dealing with situations in their life they felt helpless about.

I want to share something with all the young dudes that read my stuff, and convey something to them that I feel is important.

I can and have always been able to identify with the young kid that wants more than anything, to be big and strong.  I understand the need for that in his life.  It represents acceptance and affirmation that he is worth something.  To himself, to his parents, to his friends, to his girl, whatever.  At least, that's what it represented to me.

That I was worth something.  Because after years of loss and disappointment, life sometimes felt so totally out of control that I ended up with terrible anxiety from it.  But lifting, and getting bigger and stronger was something I had a certain amount of control over.  And it was something that gave me a positive investment on my return.  The more of myself that I poured into it, the more it gave back to me.

Looking down from the 40 year old mountain I sit atop now, it doesn't look meaningless to me even from up on high.  And by that I mean, with a greater degree of life experience and understanding of what is really important at this stage in my life.  And what was important to me then, is still important to me now.  And is still important to virtually everyone who sets foot on this Earth.

And it's really simple.

It's the need to just fucking feel good about who you are.

Why do you think that people talk and write about self esteem, self worth, and loving yourself so much?  Because having those intangible feelings about who we are, outweigh so many other fleeting things in life that only give temporary happiness.

And it may be that right now, as a young man, feeling strong and powerful feels like what you need more than anything else to feel good about who you are.  It was for me.  It saved me in a lot of ways.  And for some of you that are in some fucked up situations, it may be what you're clinging to as well.  And my advice to you is to hold on, and weather this storm like a god damn champion.  

Yes, building muscle is just an exterior.  But fuck if it doesn't feel good, right?   It's just an exterior, but when you're young and haven't developed the ability to emotionally fend off what is supposed to hurt and what isn't, every setback feels like shit.  Then you feel like you're dangling from the cliff you call "life", and lifting may be something you feel like is the only thing that keeps you hanging on.
I know right now, there is some young man reading this that has sat in his room and felt completely alone in his pain.  Completely detached from the world he knows, because he feels like he can't find who he is.  Who he wants to be, or what he wants to be seems evasive.  Like it's a million miles away.

Maybe his situation at home, or at school seems hopeless.  Maybe he has an estranged father, or abusive foster parent, just got his heart broken for the first time, or is in some other fucked up situation.  I don't know your pain.  It is unique to you, and has to be resolved by you when you are strong enough to do so.

Rejection, loss, the questioning of "how good am I?" or "why doesn't anyone care about me?" are questions young men end up asking themselves in their own private thoughts, but are too scared to admit to, or talk to anyone about.

So I will do it.  I'll talk about it.

I went through that.  I suffered from it.  And whether you believe it or not, all you have to do is look around at the other dudes sitting in class with you, or wherever you are, and I promise you that most of them are going through similar shit.

It's called suffering.  And it sucks.  You can succumb to the suffering and wilt from it, and let it make you angry and jaded, or you can let it help you grow into something more than you are.  To help you become a man that you can be proud of one day.

But that's entirely up to you.  I can promise you this however; most of how we deal with shit as adults can be traced back to things that happened to us when we were young.

What kind of man you want to become from it is your choice.  Do you want to be a man that can reach out to a young kid just like you someday, and be an inspiration to him with what he has made of his life, or do you want to become a cynic, or a failure?  A man that never outgrew the bitterness of those shitty years that he let tear him down into a shell of what he could have become.

All of us, even us grown ass men, struggle with these same concepts throughout life at various times.  We will question our own heart, our own desires, and our own willingness to continue suffering when it appears that no end is in sight.  And sometimes, we will take the easy way out, and make shitty decisions and choices that lead us down terrible paths.  We will say things and do things that cannot be undone, and they will haunt us for a very long time afterwards.  And when we wake up and look at the carnage we have caused in our life, we will eventually have to reconcile with the fact, all of it was due to our own choices.  And a real man, will own that.  A real man, will accept the consequences of his actions.

But back to the title of this post.......

So what does it mean to find yourself?  Because that's such an ambiguous term.  What does it mean to be happy with who you are, or to love yourself?

I once explained to someone, that I see the happiness with have in our life like a pie chart.  The slices that make up that pie chart are made up of the various things in our life.  Our job, our hobbies, our siblings, or parents, our kids, whatever.  They all get a slice within that pie chart, and we get to decide how much of our happiness we derive from those things, based on the size we give them.

Some people make their hobbies a huge part of their life happiness, and it gets a huge piece of that pie.  Some people make their significant other a huge piece of that pie, and a great deal of happiness is derived from that relationship.  It varies greatly from person to person, but overall, that pie chart is what makes up our life.  The bigger the slice something gets, the more impact it has on our personal happiness.  If succeeding at work is a huge slice, then failing at work means there is more grief in our life at that moment.

Just like if a friend or loved one is a huge slice of that pie, if we lose them for some reason, it can be devastating because that entire piece is now completely gone from our life.  And it can never truly be replaced.

Finding who you are, is about deciding what you want that pie chart to look like.  What you want to fill it up with.  And loving who you are is about deciding how much importance you are going to give each slice.  For me, as a young man, my pie chart mainly consisted of lifting, because that is what meant the most to me, and what gave me the most happiness.

It was also something I had control over.  And the bigger you make a slice that you ultimately have no control over, the greater the chance you have for having less personal happiness in your life.  This is a sad but hard reality of life.

Right now, you may feel like your pie chart is filled up with things that bring you more pain and unhappiness than joy.  When I got old enough, I had to make a choice to remove certain people from my pie chart because keeping them in it caused more unhappiness in my life than I needed.  And once I did, things got better.

You may not be in a situation to do that right now.  And that's ok.  It's just as important to remember that you don't want to become the things you hate.  Often times, young men grow up and become the father that wasn't a good one to them.  Or the husband that wasn't a good one to his mother.  And if that's what you hate, don't become that.  Be something better.  That is completely within your choice.
On the way to developing a bigger body, don't forget to develop your positive virtues as well.  With courage being the most important.  As Maya Angelou wrote.....

"Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage."

Remember this, it's not about reaching that destination you so desperately want to arrive at.  It's what you do with the time between now and then, and what you decide to fill your life up with.  Because the choices you make between now and then, are ultimately going to determine where you arrive.
So be wise about what you do with your suffering, and how you respond to it.  Your choices and reactions will shape who you are, and what you eventually become.

I also stress to anyone that has been through trauma in their life, to seek help.  Therapy isn't for people who are weak.  It's for people who don't know how to deal with the fragmented parts of their life.  The pieces that are still too painful to process.  If you don't get help, over time, they will eventually manifest themselves in some sort of destructive behavior.

To close with something very clicheish.....hang in there.

"Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor." - Alexis Carrel

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  1. Holy fuck I needed this right now. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Paul.

  2. Thanks for writing this, Paul.

  3. Exactly what I needed to share with some loved ones but couldn't put up the words

  4. Thanks for this, man. Seriously.

  5. You continue to open up your heart more and more. And be vulnerable and exposed. Thats REAL MAN SHIT.

    I hope you know that your voice and message echoes and echoes. Further than you can imagine.