Growing up, I never recall hearing things from my parents that made me doubt my own abilities. Neither my mother nor my father would tell me things about myself that made it seem like I was incapable of being someone of value.
All of my unhappiness with myself seemed to come from other places. I would take every example of unrequited love with a desired or actual girlfriend and form some narrative that I just wasn’t good enough. I would fan those flames more every time I wasn’t picked for an athletic event at school. I would continue to think less of myself if I felt I didn’t have the intelligence to understand a class I was required to take.
And that inner voice would just gnaw at me:
“She doesn’t like you because you’re ugly.”
“You weren’t picked for the team because you can’t aim when you throw.”
“You don’t understand the equation because you’re stupid.”
No one told me these things directly. I told myself these things. Over and over and over again.
And every time Goodyear would transfer our family to a different state/country, I’d go through all of these feelings again.
I could even find a way to craft the narrative to say: “They don’t want you as a friend because you’re not cool enough and you don’t wear the cool clothes.”
I recall living in one place in particular where the social norms were so specific, even my mother had to convince my father that if he didn’t buy me a certain brand of clothing and/or get me involved in certain social functions, that I would never fit in in that town.
This would have been circa 1988.
Even my mother knew they had to play the game. The cliques were that apparent, so ingrained in that city.
And when you spend the better part of your adolescence telling yourself these stories, these fabricated stories about yourself, you not only start to believe them…you become them.
So, it should come as no surprise that as I got older these stories became my life. And my life became a mess.
Now I could take the fuel of that feeling of being unattractive, uncool, and lacking in talent and become something different. Now I was someone who believed all the bad things I said about myself. That fuel became the desire to want to end my life and the words I told myself were: You are not good enough, you have no value, your parents will be better off when you’re gone.
It didn’t matter (at the time) that I did indeed have some talent, that I was attractive (or more so than I told myself) and that people actually did care about me.
The story I began to craft for myself made it easier to self-destruct.
And in hindsight, it explains all of the drugs, all of the promiscuity, all of the infidelity, all of the lies and all of the misery.
I became the person even I could no longer trust or look at in the mirror.
For me, the coping mechanism was drugs. All of my unhappiness could vanish behind substances. For my clients (many of them), the coping mechanism is food, maybe alcohol, maybe medication or some combination of each.
Many of my clients suffer from those same feelings of inadequacy and it manifests into a body they can no longer be happy with and emotions they can no longer live with.
So, it shouldn’t surprise me when some of my clients can’t reach their goals. It’s a lot of self talk…a lot of very bad, very dark, very destructive self talk.
For them, it’s the voice that says “You are not worthy of success. You don’t deserve that body that you are working towards.”
And it paralyzes them. Just like it did me.
People ask me how I got clean. I got clean because I couldn’t live with that piece of shit human being I had become.
I stop lying because no part of my life improved due to my dishonesty with myself and with others.
And slowly, very slowly, I tried to focus on self-improvement.
Fitness started it for me but fitness didn’t save me. It just helped me get one foot in front of the other. Then I started eating better, then I started feeling better. So, my external appearance changed.
And then became the even slower change with what was inside me. I had to kill off this person who could find no value in himself and start asking myself that million dollar question:
How will you choose to live in this world?
When I became a father, that answer became a little bit clearer. I could not be the person I had been and raise a son in good conscience to be anything like me. I had to love myself first. Even if it was a fraction more than I could muster the day before.
Then I started this business and it was my opportunity to move the needle forward again. I had to be the person who transformed. I had to be, to some degree, a success, so I could coach my clients to success.
And my life, as I write this, is so much better. It’s so much more fulfilling.
I still fight that voice though. There is that nagging whisper in my mind that says “It can all come crashing down.”
And maybe that’s what keeps me going. I’ve lived a life where the only person who could tear me down was me. So, I had to start controlling the impact that voice had on my life.
It started with recognizing that maybe I wasn’t as bad of a person as I thought. Maybe I could put enough good back out into the world and establish some value, some worth, and get just a little bit of my dignity back.
And I don’t have it all figured out yet. I still look at this guy in the mirror and say: “You’re not what you should be.”
But I keep trying. I’m constantly in awe of these painfully small bits of improvement.
I guess it started with hating myself a little bit less every day so I could be less distracted by my negative self talk and motivated by helping others do the same.
And when you see this picture below of Jackson and myself, it’s another reminder (as it is for Sebastian): he deserves better than the person you used to be. Be the person you were meant to be.
“We Make Great People Greater”