This is a guest post from Camp Nerd Fitness Headmaster Amy Clover SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen Deadpool, for the love of gawd go watch it already, then get your ass back here.
We can all resonate with Deadpool at least a little bit.
For whatever reasons, we run around hiding our faces because we’re convinced — if someone sees who we really are — they’ll run in the other direction.
My whole life, I’ve hidden who I am because I thought I was “supposed” to be different: changing my body, my interests, the way I talked, the way my brain worked, who I was, in order to be worthy.
After every breakup, I’d run to the gym to cardio myself to death because *obviously* it was my body’s fault he didn’t stick around. I realize now how incredibly effed that is. I just thought that was what I needed to do to be liked and loved.
Note from Steve: For some, this can manifest itself in the belief that being bigger and stronger or more ripped will solve all of our confidence/happiness problems. In short, it’s the feeling of being “forever small.”
The idea that we need to be a certain way in order to be validated is a story we tell ourselves. One that gets us nowhere and nothing. Mine was about my body, but maybe yours has to do with needing to be seen as the “funny friend” or “smart one” – maybe you feel the need to achieve certain milestones to establish your worth (wealth, the status of a certain job, or the respect that comes with having a family or partner).
Without validation from others, I was worthless. It was only when someone else loved me that I thought I was worth anything at all. And I was always surprised when I couldn’t keep my mask on all the time (doing and being all those things that weren’t really me).
Just like Deadpool, we’ve gotta make peace with who’s under that mask.
My wish is that you get to the end of this post confident in your next steps to finally taste the Daffodil Daydream of your own being… that came out wrong… or did it?
Ready to turn your horror movie into a love story? Here’s the Deadpool guide to loving yourself. Not literally, though.
Step 1: Investigate “You”
You’ve probably heard the term “authentic self.” While it may make you want to gag from even uttering mouthful of such new age woo-dom, it’s something most of us should pay more attention to.
When Wade Wilson wakes up deformed after all the tests Ajax has done on him, he’s crushed. Though he had no control over what happened to him, he determines he’s no longer lovable because of how he turns out. His self-worth is instantly reduced to zero.
Deadpool’s experience is just like any trauma that’s happened to us, be it bullying, abuse, ultra-painful rejection or simply living a life to meet the expectations of others. Instead of seeing and accepting the way we really are, we react with fear, anger, or a sense of defeat.
These experiences shape the beliefs we have about ourselves, some of the most common being that we have to look a certain way to be worthy, we’re not enough, we’re a burden, we have nothing important to say, we’re worthless, and a whole bunch of other horrible things we’d never ever say to anyone else. We start to believe we have to know the perfect thing to say and do in every situation, instead of just being ourselves. Are you you? Or the “you” you think the world wants?
Maybe you were made fun of for being skinny, so now you feel you have to be buff to be worthy of positive attention, or you lost someone way before their time and now you’re afraid everyone will leave you without warning, so you cling to people. Maybe something horrible happened to you, and now you’re constantly on the lookout for danger, anticipating it in situations where there isn’t a threat (which can keep you from true intimacy). These beliefs are strong; they feel like the truth. But they’re not.
Here’s the truth: These experiences happen to us, but they are not who we are.
The real you – the person you are right here and right now – is pure f***ing worth. Every single person on this earth, exactly as they are, no matter how “deformed,” is worthy of happiness.
While it’s easy to read that and understand it logically, it’s a whole other beast to start believing it.
Make peace with your “Deformities”
The first step to embracing your “deformities” – the stuff you think needs changing – is to truly face what they are. You have a few options; pick your poison:
1) Write it out
If you’ve ever gone to Strong Inside Out, you’ll know I’m a biiiiiiig fan of journaling. It’s helped me work through my own “deformities.” Here’s how to start:
- Open a Google Doc.
- Write down whatever’s bothering you for 5 minutes.
Not the most intricate of tools, but incredibly helpful for processing what happened, how you feel, and tearing apart the beliefs fear has instilled in you. You never have to share your notes with another soul if you don’t want to.
Those of us who are really proud might not be able to bring ourselves to write down the things that bother us. It’s easier to throw our hands up and say “this is all nonsense” than admit we don’t feel like we’re enough.
When we refuse to face things that bring us pain, we give them more power. The terror increases because we’re sure if we look at it, it will destroy us.
I’ve got some news for you, friend: you are not some fragile little flower. You are ALIVE, and here to level up your life.
Heroes don’t shy away from their problems, they face them. You can’t deal with what you refuse to face. Seeing your fears and beliefs out on paper makes them less ambiguous and can help you see them for what they really are; it helps to take away some of their power over you.
You need to get it out so you can look it in the eyes like the badass you are. This is the only way to deal with the issue in the long run – turning to a diet or whatever other fear-based shortcut you come up with (getting a pump before you go out), just won’t work in the long run.
2) Physical attributes don’t define your self-worth
…no matter what David Beckham sounds like when he talks, or how Ryan Reynolds got so far in the acting world.
A lot of us hide who we really are because we think we’re supposed to look different. We feel shame about not looking like the 5% of people depicted as beautiful in the media, and society ain’t helping.
You’ll read a lot of propaganda on the interwebs about why you should look different than you do (often so they can make money) and how to do it by totally wrecking your health (Steve recently wrote about this). When you aim for physical goals aligned with love for who you truly are and the healthiest version of you — rather than needing to look different to be worthy — it can be a truly positive experience. When it’s based in needing to be good enough, however, it almost always leads to disastrous ends.
Whether you’re looking to achieve big physical changes, or going after some status in your career, you cannot shame yourself into positive changes. The energy doesn’t add up. You’ve gotta embrace what you’ve got, even if you plan to change it (in a healthy way).
To do this, explore the real reason you think you need to change. In the case of your body – explore your “need to look perfect”:
Is it because you think perfect people have their shit together? They don’t. That’s their own particular mask to fool the world.
Is it because you think your problems will disappear when you become “perfect?” First of all, there is no “perfect.” Second of all, they might… and new troubles will come in to take their place.
Is it because you’ve always been taught you need to look that way to be attractive? That this is how you achieve acceptance and status?
A great exercise to break through this mindset is to actively focus for one full day on finding beauty in real people around you. Not just superficial beauty, but real, heart-expanding beauty inside and out.
Ugh I just set off my own gag reflex. What I mean to say is go out and find something that gives your heart a hard on… or heart on???
Jot down what you find throughout the day. I bet you’ll be surprised just how many forms beauty can take.
Remember what Vanessa said, “It’s just a face” (or a body). Your worth runs so much deeper.
3. Stop one-upping your pain
When I was really struggling, I knew no one had it as bad as me. I held all the pain inside, refusing to talk about it because I knew no one would understand. Whenever anyone said they had it hard, I always had my own version of “ball gags, brownie mix and clown porn” to argue back with.
Whatever we focus on becomes our reality. I fought for my own pain, which made me live in it every single day. What I didn’t realize was that just like Deadpool, I could fight for something else. When I chose to fight for healing instead, my reality shifted.
There’s a certain sick satisfaction we get by thinking we’re alone and in more pain than those around us. It feeds our egos and fears, giving us a sense of “terminal uniqueness”; we think we’re so different that we’re beyond help and incapable of change.
While I believe you are indeed a complex, distinct snowflake-of-a-being, you are never so broken that you’re beyond help and change. To tell yourself that is to give up on any purposeful happiness you might create.
Talk It Out
The reason we hide from who we really are is that we are ashamed of it. Our old (false) beliefs are so strong, they’ve made our truth revolting to us.
Every single superhero-in-training (X-Men especially) deals with this. It’s the natural outcome of our society. Maybe you’re scared you’ll never have the job you want. Maybe something happened in the past you’ve never fully processed, or maybe you just don’t know how to talk about the thoughts that go through your head that you think you’re ‘not supposed’ to think.
Talking to someone who’s got your best interests in mind is probably the most healing thing you could ever do. If you read my last post here, you know how big a fan of therapy I am. While I know that’s not the most welcome option for everyone, it’s been the single most helpful aspect of my personal recovery (and many others’ whom I’ve helped along the way).
That said, if it’s not your thing, there are other options with less stigma attached to them. For instance, online chat platforms are available for free or for very little and they can be a great way to get comfortable with talking about your stuff before you talk about it with someone in person. You can talk with trained listeners or real therapists online 24/7. A few examples are 7 Cups, Talkspace or BlahTherapy. Please keep in mind that non-therapist listeners won’t always have the answers you crave, but their hearts are usually in the right place.
Still iffy about therapy even if it’s online? Find your Weasel.
Weasel is the only person Deadpool really opens up to because he’s a good listener and he’s got his back no matter what. Usually, you’ll know when you’ve found your Weasel, but if you’re still on the lookout, here’s the ad to post in your brain’s classifieds:
- Is a good listener: Doesn’t constantly interrupt, tell you you’re wrong or judge you, actually hears what you’re saying (instead of “Uh-huh”-ing you to death).
- Can put ego aside: Lots of us are fixers, but sometimes we just need to talk stuff out so we can better understand it. You should feel comfortable saying, “Do you mind just listening to me for a few minutes? I need to talk through this,” and know this person will.
- Keeps things private: Trust this person enough to keep things between you quiet.
- Wants the best for you: When Ajax came into the bar and snagged the pic of Vanessa, Weasel told Wade right away. You want someone who’s going to look out for you, even if that means they lovingly call you out when nasty stuff like fear is threatening to ransack your life.
When Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead come to your aid, let them help. I know it’s scary, trust me. But the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Four or Five Moments
Let’s just put this out there: change is HARD. If it was easy, you’d be all sunshine and rainbows by now.
The recommendations I’m making here require you to get down and dirty with stuff you may not have looked at in a long time. Scary stuff. Here’s where I’m going to defer to Colossus…
Four or five moments is all it takes to become the hero of your own life.
Those moments might be extremely uncomfortable at first, but you have to stay with them — to sit with whatever demands to be felt — in order to move past them for good.
Most people don’t push through these moments. They avoid them, looking for quick-fix solutions that are more comfortable than dealing with the real stuff. And to their surprise, they always land back in this state of defeat. This is why they feel like they’re incapable of change. We need to focus on the real, root cause:
Diet plans focus on the symptom of overeating, but not on the reasons why we use food to escape life.
Some personal development rhetoric focuses on positive affirmations that completely contradict what you feel about yourself, ringing untrue and actually working you deeper into dark thoughts.
When we try to change our lives with these methods, we come to believe we are failures because they don’t work. But it’s the programs that fail us.
We have to deal with what’s real; we have to commit to the suckage of it until it stops sucking so hard.
Let me lay some truth down on you: You can handle anything that comes your way. Anything. You just won’t know that’s the truth until you have those four or five moments and come out the other side. You may be a different person after; we all know Deadpool came out the other side looking like a totally different hero. And that’s the point.
Give it your maximum effort and you will come out the other side.
Take off the mask, make peace with what you’ve been labeling “deformities,” and find an ally along the way to help you see your own false narrative.
If you’re taking the plunge, comment with “MAXIMUM EFFORT!!!” below this post so I can send you spirit fingers vibes from afar!
Amy Clover is a fitness personality, speaker and the force behind Strong Inside Out, a site that helps people “become stronger than their struggle” through fitness and positive action. In addition to being one of our beloved Headmasters, she’s a yellow belt in Taekwondo and was president of anime club in high school. Nerd alert!