Monday, May 1, 2017

Please stop loving yourself "just as you are"


Most of us remember significant firsts.  

First love, first day of school, first fight we got into, first time we got our heart broken, the usual run of the mill life stuff.  Sometimes we even remember our lasts.  Last time we saw a loved one alive that passed away, the last day at a particular job, graduation day, the last time we got drunk and woke up in a urine filled ally with a homeless man rummaging through our pockets for spare change.  Stuff like that.  Run of the mill.  

I don't know how many days of football practice I've had in my life, but I remember my first and last.

My last wasn't significant other than I knew I didn't desire to chase that dragon anymore.  I would love to say I retired, but since that day I've checked the mail for my checks and not a single one has arrived.  

My first day of practice however, was far more significant.  

I was ten years old and scared out of my mind.  I had already been in plenty of school yard scraps by that age, but duking it out with another G.I. Joe enthusiast was quite different than strapping on way-too-big shoulder pads and an even way-too-bigger helmet, and smashing into other waddlers.  That's what it looks like at that age with those giant shoulder pads and helmet on, right?  You kind of waddle around, unsure of where to run or what to do.  Not unlike being at the front of the crowd during a black Friday sale.  Face smashed up against the sliding glass doors, just waiting for them to open so you can dash inside and run around frantically trying to find that television that will now be on sale for ten dollars less than it was just hours ago.  

Where was I?  Oh yeah, first day of football practice.

So there I am, totally confused at every drill, scared out of my mind.  And there's these Magnum P.I. wannabe mustachioed men wearing daisy duke style jogging shorts, standing around yelling at everyone.  Blowing their whistles at what seems like ambiguous moments throughout the day.  

"I'm just getting up to full speed, coach!  Wait, what?  Stop?  Ok.  Now you're yelling at me and I have no idea why."

Thoughts that go through every married guys head while he's trying to make a baby with his wife.

But I digress.

The final drill for the day was something called bull in the ring.  There's one kid in the middle of this circle of other kids surrounding him.  Every kid in the circle has a number.  When Magnum P.I. calls a number, whatever kid is assigned that number runs at ol' boy in the middle and they smash their wee little bodies into each other.  

My number gets called a few times.  In my mind, when it gets called, I'm running so fast that if I had been beside Usain Bolt I would have pulled his flesh right off his body with my blinding speed.  When I hit the other wee little dude who was in the middle, in my mind, I was crashing into him like that comet out of that horrible movie Deep Impact.  I'm causing tidal waves of death from Mississippi all the way to New York in these collisions.  

But not really.  

Apparently, I wasn't running very fast at all.  And also, my hitting was apparently less than the magnitude of 70,000 tons of TNT.  I looked it up.  That was apparently the force for the comet in Deep Impact that Frodo Baggins was able to outrun on a really shitty motorcycle.

So dumb...

After a few of my less than stellar collisions, I felt something pulling on my jersey.  It was a non-mustachioed man, who was not wearing daisy duke jogger shorts.  He didn't have a whistle to confuse me with, either.

Oh, it was dad.  

He pulled me off to the side and said to me "if you don't start hitting harder I'm going to take you off this field, put your ass in the car, and drive you home."

The scared shitless ten year old inside me thought this actually sounded like a very good idea in that moment.  So I agreed with him that he should just take me home.  But I probably sounded more like a scorned woman at the time, because I started my retort to him with a "fine".

You know what I'm talking about.

"Fine, just take me home."

Something a husband has probably heard from his wife during a night out at a romantic restaurant  overlooking the city during a seven course meal, where things went from awesome to awry in less than thirty seconds, and he could not figure out how.

But I wasn't having a seven course meal.  I wasn't overlooking a beautiful city from the 40th floor either.

Clearly, however, I was acting like a little bitch.  And like a little bitch I got in the car and pouted.  Dad drove off in front of everyone, and the whole team had stopped the drill to watch this scene unfold.  We didn't make it home however.  

Dad pulled off to the side of the road, to have one of those after school TV special type talks with me.  You know the one.  Some big life lesson is about to go down.  The dad, or older father figure type who has been consistently rejected despite his efforts to just show the wayward kid that he cares about his well being and what he's doing with his life.  That one.

"Listen son..." as most genuine dad speeches start off with.

"I just want you to be the best player you can be.  Go out there and give it your best effort."

That was it.  I know, after this already long write up that that speech seems very anti-climatic.  There was no one dying of cancer to go out and play hard for.  There wasn't some golden scene of glory that was going to fill up the screen in my after school special because I decided to actually try to the best of my ability.  

In modern day speak, this is what dad said.....

"Son, you suck.  You play like a little bitch.  Man up."

Are you triggered?  I read a couple of years ago that telling young dudes to "man up" was bad in some way.  I got triggered that day.  For sure, that happened.

"Take me back to the field."

Also in modern day speech..."release the Kraken."

Dad smiled that crappy overacted Bill Paxton style smile and drove me back.  I got back in the line up, and I remember seeing red.  Ok no I'm not exaggerating this time.  I was mad as hell.  When my number got called, I decided it was indeed time to ring the bell.  Namely, my own.  As I actually did run as fast as I could, and did slam into the other plastic plated toddler really, really, hard.  Well, as hard as a ten year old can.  

Shut up, Dad


Anyone who has ever been involved in contact sports where you take blows to the head, knows what the black lightening is.  That "flash" where it's black, but you get that white flash in it?  You know the one.  The one you eventually come to love after enough brain trauma has occured.

Well I got that.  Not sure if the other kid did, but I knew then by contrast, that indeed prior to this I had not been running very fast or hitting very hard.  

Dad's after-school special speech had paid off.  I carried that moment with me until the last practice I ever had.  

"Man up.  Stop being a little bitch.  Your best probably isn't as good as you think it is."

Probably not the title you're going to see headlining an article at elitedaily, or any other such horrifically similar internet soapbox that carries article after article about how loving yourself "just as you are" is so vitally important.

And it is.  I think you should love who you are, exactly as you are....if you have zero desire to improve anything in your life.  

If my dad had been an elitedaily reader, he probably waits until after practice is over to hand me a coconut water and tell me what a "good job" I had done.  Totally enabling my lackluster effort and sense of paralyzing fear.  

"Love that effort out there, son.  Good work.  Drink this coconut water.  Hydration is important."

But this was late summer in Mississippi.  There was no coconut water, and my dad was born in 41, had 19 brothers and sisters, walked up hill to school both ways, worked in the fields all day after said walk, and later served in the 'Nam.  

In other words, that coconut water speech wasn't happening because my dad?  Well, he was a man.  

And he treated me like a man.  Wanted me to compete to the best of my ability, and wasn't making excuses for my fear, and lack of effort.

He didn't tell me to love myself "just as you are son.  You're my only son, and whatever effort you give is good enough.  You'll get better in time.  Just hang in there, kiddo."

No he impressed upon me that the here and now mattered, and that it presented a time to get better.  To not be satisfied with my poor effort, and that if it meant him embarrassing me in front of my teammates to get the best out of me, then that was happenin'.

"Well, all kids are different, and some respond better to..."

Blah blah blah.  

I don't believe that the hammer should be the only tool used to in order to drive someone to strive for better.  But the elimination of it is just as wrong as pulling it out for every occasion.  My dad was all accolades when I deserved it.  When I didn't, out came the "son, you really kinda suck" speech.

Show me a kid that is consistently coddled and never has foot broke off in ass, and I will show you a kid that consistently under performs in everything they do unless they are naturally driven on their own.  Some kids do have that, but even those kids, I've found, are receptive to tough love and hard, but fair, criticism.  Most kids, however, will skate by with doing the bare minimum effort if the bare minimum effort is what you've taught them is good enough.

And those kids, the coddled ones, the Coconut Water drinking after practice where they didn't break a sweat kids, become adults.  And they preach this coddled message that lacks any bite about self awareness, self improvement, self discipline, and the very fact that loving yourself, "just as you are", is not really loving yourself at all.  It is indeed a form of apathy.  And what's the opposite of love?  It's not hate.  It's apathy.  And apathy is the very thing that stunts personal growth, and makes someone shrink in the face of hard decisions and criticism.  Apathy is the very thing that will encapsulate your life in a world of mediocrity,  misguided self appreciation, and an unhealthy level of acceptance about who you are.

In the serenity prayer, we ask for God to help us accept what we cannot change, but also to give us the courage to change the things we can.  

Not, "God, I don't need to change anything because I accept the conditions in which I totes have control over."

"Did you just say a prayer to me using the word "totes?"  Ok, it's Sodom and Gomorrah time for these kids." -- God's answer to your totes prayer.

"The Lord God is totes fed up!"


There's a segment in society, and its very clear message is that we all are special, yet at the same time somehow equal.  Completely deserving of things we don't have to work for.  

I quit coaching football because of this.  We're back full circle to me being in fourth grade here.

Back then, I had to earn the right to get on the field.  The kids with no hand eye coordination that couldn't catch a cold or hit the broad side of a barn with a bass fiddle didn't get playing time.  Fat Johnny or Skinny Samuel weren't shunned because of how they looked.  They didn't see playing time because either they sucked, and couldn't play, or because they were cowards who shrunk in the face of adversity.

There, I'm not sugar coating it.  

No, it wasn't Normandy, but as young men our initiation into manhood, or adulthood in general, often does start by cutting our teeth through physical conflict.  And this most certainly established a pecking order, both on the field and off it.  It separates the wheat from the chaff, as they say.  

I remember years later when I played both quarterback and middle linebacker that I had flowers delivered to the the prettiest girl in the school, as she was named homecoming queen.  Had I not been the signal caller for the offense and defense and been respected by my peers, then I simply established very early that I was totes a creepy stalker child.  

Yeah, I just used totes again.  And that whole last paragraph read like it was written by Uncle Rico or Al Bundy.  I actually had a point in there so let me make it.  I could send her flowers without it being creepy as hell because of the position I had earned with my team, and peers.  I know, it's nuts to have certain perks like that due to earning something, but sometimes that happens in life.

So where was I?  Oh yes...

So I quit coaching because I was forced to play kids that reduced our odds of winning, because the school created a mandate that all kids got equal playing time.  Now you think about that for a minute and what that does to desire, passion, and motivation.  How does that set kids up for success when they are coddled and led to believe that effort is unimportant in the process of earning something?

Then they are set free to adult in life.  And grow up to believe in this warped ideology about what they deserve.  

"You deserve a good man/woman."

"You deserve a good job."

"You deserve $15 an hour to dip those potatoes into a bucket of oil."

"You deserve free college.  Let someone else pick up the tab."

"You deserve to be on that field because it's shaming you to let you sit on the sidelines while the other kids that worked really hard get all the playing time."

At what point were they told that the only thing you deserve, is what you can work to obtain, and work to keep?  

I'm not advising you hate yourself.  But you can hate your efforts, or lack-thereof.  

You can wake up and hate how you feel because you're 50 pounds overweight.  You can understand that you have the power to change it, and somehow find the "courage" (I know, it's hard) not to eat 42 tacos that day, or rationalize how you earned food like a trained dog because you did 30 minutes on the stair stepper the day before.

You can change your whole life with one decision if you want to.  But in order to do that, you have to care enough about your life to not become apathetic to it, or the situation you are in.

The net is overrun with articles about what you deserve, how to change your life into the "one you always dreamed of".  And then often times, these same internet publications tell you "just love yo self like you are."

You want a new life?  Does it suck?  Care enough to change the one you have.  Find the courage to make that one decision. 

You want a new body?  Does your physique suck?  Care enough to change the one you have.  Stop being slothful and make better food choices. Stop reading articles about beauty at all sizes.

You want more money?  Bank account sucks?  Get a second job, or get educated in a field  that offers better pay, or sell all your cats on e-bay, cat-lady.  Maybe if you did that, you'd get a date.

Any form of self improvement does not come with self love.  It comes with an overwhelming desire for self change.  Which will come with an eventual acceptance that a lot of work and adversity will present itself to you.  That's good, I like that.

It does not always come with self hate.  But it can be encased inside of the dislike or disdain for what currently exists.  Change or improvement in any fashion certainly will not come if you drown yourself in an ocean of apathy all the while calling it self love.

There's a difference in being the best, and giving your best.  Something I too have impressed upon my girls at everything meaningful they will do in life.  There's too many factors out of their control that may keep them from the best at something they want to do, but it's 100% within their control to be the very best they are capable of.

Maybe the reason why your life sucks, is because your efforts sucks.  

Maybe you should stop being a little bitch and man up if that's the case.

If that triggered you then then I suspect it's the case.

Thanks, Dad.


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