You Are Flawed. And So Are Your Heroes.

My friend Mike was orphaned before he really got to know his parents.

Fortunately, he was was adopted and raised by a loving family. They didn’t have much, but they did whatever they could to provide for him. Despite growing up with these amazing people, Mike always felt like he didn’t belong.

He did what he could to hide his real feelings: that he’d never belong, that he’d always BE on the outside looking in, that nobody really appreciated him.

You see, the real version of Mike, the part he locked away inside, would terrify others. So he kept it bottled up and put on this act that everything is cool when inside he was deeply conflicted. I was fortunate enough to get to spend quality time with Mike, get to know him for who he really was, and I learned to accept all parts of him.

My other friend Jimmy is also an orphan surprisingly, though his path has been drastically different from Mike’s.

You see, Jimmy was born rich. Like, Scrooge McDuck rich. He WAS old enough to remember his parent’s accidental deaths, and it crushed him.  Although all of Jimmy’s needs were taken care of (thank you, life insurance policy), this environment and upbringing created some challenges.

I’ve known Jimmy for years, and it’s been tough to watch him work through layer up on layer of destructive, obsessive, rageaholic behavior.

Like many of us, Jimmy’s been searching for meaning his entire life – everything else has been handed to him, and it’s left him unfulfilled. Who could blame him? So he needs more, thinking this will fill the hole in his heart, at all times.

Despite all the money, and toys, and attractive women, and success, there’s one thing he’ll never have:

Enough.

He is hurting internally, and yet he feels like he can’t share this with anybody. After all, nobody wants to hear about the problems a very wealthy, good looking person has, right? “Those problems aren’t real! Try not being able to put food on the table for your family!”

I’ve known both Mike and Jimmy since I was a little kid, and have grown up with them.

Two orphans with tragic lives, two very different upbringings, and real internal pain and shame that they feel they can’t share with anybody.

These tales might sound vaguely familiar to you.

You see, Mike’s real name is Clark. Clark Kent. Better known as Superman.

And Jimmy? That’s Bruce Wayne. Better known as Batman.

Superheroes are flawed. That’s what makes them interesting.

hulk

We all have superheroes that we love and relate closely to.

Have you noticed something about the best characters? The ones that are written so convincingly that we can’t help to become deeply invested in them as people?

They have critical flaws and tons of baggage that often sabotage their own efforts. Although they are superhuman, they are – with the exception of Superman – human.

And that’s what makes them interesting.

Every superhero that’s worth a damn has a strong character flaw or weakness. Superman’s weakness is kryptonite, sure. But really it’s that he will always feel like an outsider and feels an overwhelming obsession to save people who don’t appreciate or understand him. Batman’s weakness is the fact that he’ll never be good enough, never sacrifice enough, and never save enough people. Enough is never enough.

Let’s go across the aisle to Marvel, and we’ll find similarly flawed characters in Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Tony Stark’s Iron Man. These guys’ flaws are very plain to see, and it’s what makes us love them. Hell, even squeaky clean Captain America only really became interesting when he was rewritten with some edge and… gasp… flaws!

How about female heroes like Black Widow? Natasha Romanoff was raised and trained as a freaking assassin and will spend the rest of her existence trying to right the wrongs of her past.

We love these flawed superheroes, because it makes them relatable, vulnerable, and REAL. It gives them an identity; as readers of comics or viewers of a movie, we get to look inside these people and know that they feel real pain too, and we see parts of ourselves in them.

We accept two things:

  • These superheroes are fictional characters.
  • There are parts of them I can relate to and learn from.

We accept these characters for who they are, and know that their flaws don’t define them but in fact, have shaped them into who they are.

Why, then, don’t we do this with our real-life heroes and ourselves?

Our heroes have flaws too

cracks

Are you familiar with the term “feet of clay?”

It’s an old term that refers to the construction of a statue – no matter what the statue is made out of (gold, silver, etc) or how well it’s reinforced… if the statue has a flaw like clay feet, it’ll still topple over just the same when pushed.

In psychology terms, it’s a term used to describe when we meet our heroes and realize, despite an otherwise impressive statue, that just like us, at their base they’re flawed and imperfect. Although we accept flaws and chinks in the armor of our favorite superheroes, we are told “don’t meet your (real life) heroes”. Why? Because that’s when we’ll learn that they don’t live up to the impossibly high standards we have set for them – leading to disappointment.

But I would argue that meeting your heroes and learning they’re human is significantly more valuable than continuing to put them on a pedestal and assuming they’re perfect.

When we compare ourselves to the idealized, public facing versions of our heroes – be they a celebrity, a blogger, sports star, or writer – we feel like they’re so special and that we’re incapable of doing what they’ve done.

Wrong. Our heroes are just like our superheroes! They’re people with flaws and baggage and anxiety, and that’s what makes them both relatable and interesting.

It also means that we can learn from them. They ARE us.

Let me share an example from my own life:

Tim Ferriss, 4x New York Times best-selling author, podcast genius, and the guy who pretty much owned the term “life hacking” is known by many as one of the most productive and successful people on the planet. You might have heard one of Tim’s podcast episodes or read The Four Hour Workweek (which was the impetus for me starting Nerd Fitness), and told yourself enviously, “I wish I could be like Tim” or “I wish I had Tim’s life.”

I have said to this myself many times over the past decade.

You see, I had created a superhero version of Tim in my head that wasn’t accurate – I didn’t have the full picture. It wasn’t until I read Tim’s posts like “Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide” and “Productivity Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)” that I could see Tim for who he really was: a dude who had been thrust into the spotlight, doing his best to deal with it while helping as many people as possible, and he’s also dealing with a lot of shit that most people aren’t aware of.

I know this was incredibly difficult for Tim to share publicly, and I applaud him for it – I bet many were disappointed that the man they aspire to be didn’t “have it all”.

I bet even more had a different thought, however: “Oh shit, you mean he doesn’t live a perfectly structured life every day? That he TOO has days where he can’t get out of bed and struggles with vulnerability and anxiety and imposter syndrome? Me too!”  

I had conversation recently with my friend Mark Manson, who writes and runs an absolutely fantastic blog at MarkManson.net – he’s also the best-selling author of incredible “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***.” He has a MASSIVE following (millions), has sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his book, and I can only imagine the amount of hero worship he gets on a daily basis. Mark told me about a guy who wanted to interview him for his “morning productivity hacks,” assuming Mark was superhuman and that his perfectly structured routines led to his success. Mark’s story made me laugh:

“Well, I wake up between 9 or 10AM, because I was up late playing Overwatch. And then I lie in bed and check Facebook and my email. Then I sit down at my computer, drink a Redbull and mess around and then try to get some meaningful work done. Sometimes it happens. A lot of the time it doesn’t.”

Your heroes don’t succeed because they don’t have flaws. They succeed in spite of their flaws, or BECAUSE of their “flaws”. I’m thankful to Mark and Tim for opening the door and showing people that their lives aren’t flawless – that they too are real people who sometimes have bad or unproductive days.

The point I’m trying to make is this: Your heroes are not perfect robots. They have messed-up lives, crippling anxiety, depression, and baggage, just like you. And they have found a way to move forward and achieve their goals.

The more we can look honestly at our heroes and realize they’re just like us, the more we have to look internally at our own flaws and own them…and then succeed in spite of them:

  • That “supermom” with 4 kids who stays in shape? She has flaws too and succeeds despite dealing with a formerly abusive husband and a fear of abandonment.
  • That guy at the gym you wish you looked like? He hates his home life and is hiding behind steroids and another set of bench presses to find his happiness.
  • That author who you wish you could be like? He’s a recovering alcoholic and writes to heal the pain in his heart from a lost child.

We all have baggage. Our superheroes. Our heroes. And ourselves.

Welcome to the club!

Unpack your Baggage: Guilt vs Shame

Brene Brown, vulnerability expert, author, and courageous woman whose TED talk has been viewed 28 million times, has become known for a very important topic:

The difference between guilt and shame.

When we eat bad food (or binge watch TV, or date a revolving door of men/women, or drink a case of beer, or pop a few pills) to escape, when we hide behind a mask of anger, lash out, or retreat further into isolation… it’s oftentimes due to shame and not knowing how to deal with it. As we’re unpacking our personal baggage and taking ownership of it, our reaction will fall into one of those two categories (guilt and shame).

One is significantly more constructive than the other.

In her words:

Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is, “I am bad.” Guilt is, “I did something bad.” How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?”

How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake.

Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.

Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders. Here’s what you even need to know more: Guilt is inversely correlated with those things. The ability to hold something we’ve done, or failed to do, up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s adaptive.

Whatever has happened to you in the past; whether it was something you did or something that was done to you, please understand the difference between guilt and shame – apply your thoughts to the action, not your identity:

“I ate an entire pizza today and sabotaged my diet this weekend. I am a failure and a waste of space.” = shame. Not healthy.

“I ate an entire pizza today and sabotaged my diet this weekend. I can’t believe I did that. That was stupid of me.” = guilt. Healthy (though still painful).

Guilt can be constructive and uncomfortable, while shame can be destructive and cause us serious damage. When we’re shameful of our behavior, it can cause us to feel even more shame, and thus seek more quick fixes, or avoid the problem, or sink even deeper into a hole, which we then get ashamed of as well.

It’s a horrible feedback loop that we can get stuck in.

Remember, flaws are nothing to run away from or harbor shame for. Our heroes are flawed, and that makes them human.

So are you. And so am I.

Let’s own it.

I want you to say this to yourself: “No matter what I’ve done up to this point, I am deserving of love and happiness. I am NOT a lost cause. I will hit roadblocks and struggles and challenges, and make mistakes and screw up and do stupid things. I can forgive myself for those things, and move on from them. My heroes are flawed and broken, and so am I. If they can succeed, so can I.”  

Become your biggest fan. And then get to work by taking responsibility.

Please note: it’s dangerous to go alone, take this: A Nerd’s Guide to Mental Health. Although it’s your responsibility to deal with, you do NOT have to deal with it alone.

Take responsibility for your baggage

flaws

Just as we can forgive ourselves for actions we’ve taken, judgment-free and shame-free, we can take ownership of our baggage too. Just like our heroes, we must succeed despite our flaws and issues.

One of the articles I’m most proud of writing is about “Personal Responsibility,” the most important trait somebody can develop if they want to start living a better life.

Yes. The baggage that you carry around might be AWFUL:

  • You might have really unhealthy parents who taught you sugar was a food group.
  • You might have been in terrible, abusive relationships.
  • You might have been abandoned by one parent or both.
  • You might have been screwed out of a job you deserved.
  • You might have a horrible physical ailment or mental illness that is genetic.
  • You might have been born in a certain country, of a certain sex, or into a certain religion, that you didn’t choose and have struggled in today’s society as a result of.

Many of these things might not be your fault. Like Bruce or Clark, we are raised in a certain way and don’t get to pick our parents or our upbringing or the tragedies that have befallen us. We’re products of our environment and upbringing and genetics, and it all mixes together in a really weird way.

These things can cause us to feel shame about our place in life, retreating inward, lashing outward, and feeling like a victim or martyr who is doomed to stay stuck because ‘my problem is unique and unsolvable.’ We look for somebody to blame, and we assume our heroes are only where they are because they don’t have the problems we do. And so, we don’t take action, because “we can’t fix it” … the problem is somewhere else.

If you’ve spent any time on the internet lately, you know that victimhood of any kind is IN!

It’s where the money is. Controversy and outrage put asses in seats and bring traffic, page views, and advertising dollars. We’re constantly being reinforced and taught that anything in our life that offends us is somebody else’s problem (shame on them).

It’s that tiny voice in our head that is screaming (and being rewarded): “THEY NEED TO KNOW THEY HAVE OFFENDED ME. I FEEL WRONGED. WE MUST PUT THEM IN THEIR PLACE. IT’S NOT OUR FAULT.”

I don’t say this to make light of the real challenges many have faced, but rather highlight a growing epidemic that freezes us from taking action and improving our situation.

When the voices in people’s heads telling them “I am a victim” is being nurtured and reinforced, when every article or post is an opportunity to be offended and outraged, and when we’re lashing out because we are offended (for ourselves or others), it’s minimizing the impact and help needed for people who truly are victims and need help.

Now, readers of this blog get offended at me all the time and have NO problem chastising me! Telling people to move more, eat less, find more time in the day, build systems to set oneself up for success, prioritizing health, and minimizing distractions seems fairly straightforward and inoffensive.  

After all, these people chose to come to Nerd Fitness most likely because they’re looking for guidance on fixing part of their lives.

Regardless, we ALWAYS have people who rush to tell us how insulting the article was: they can’t change because of ___. And sure, they have a darn good reason or a serious problem they’re dealing with! But they’re choosing to be offended and insulted by our words while the other 99% of the population is choosing to say “okay, how can I apply this to my situation?”

All change comes from recognizing something we didn’t see before, and then changing our behavior because of this new insight. When we choose to see the world with this outrage/victim lens, we’re essentially solidifying the idea to ourselves that: There’s nothing I’m not seeing, there’s nothing I can do differently, the problem is somebody else’s. It does not apply to me.

Instead of CHOOSING this mentality, we need to take ownership for everything that has happened to us, both good and bad. This is a radical departure and a serious challenge that flies in the face of prevailing society these days.

The truth is this: you already have all of the tools you need to succeed/lose weight/make meaningful changes in your life.

That might be painful to read. That tiny voice in your head probably just yelled at me. If you can not react to that voice, and instead look at the situation without judgment, you can also decide that you don’t need anybody’s permission to change your mindset or your situation.

As I said before, mental health can be an absolute beast and having the right kind of professional help will help you tackle it.

After all, the fact that you’re reading this means you are one of the luckiest individuals to exist in human history.

No, not the fact you are reading THIS article (I’m just a nerd who writes about Star Wars and push-ups in his underwear), but the fact that you exist in this year, 2017, with access to a computer and internet and modern marvels.

Life is AMAZING.

You don’t live in a cave! You have access to electricity! You most likely will not be eaten by a lion tomorrow! Or the next day!

The next part sucks, but it’s essential for growth: When you stop being outraged and assuming your problems are unique, and instead go: “Okay, this is the chaos I’m dealing with. What can I do about it?” you give yourself permission to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and take ownership.

There is somebody out there with your problems who has the life you want. This is great news. This is when change can happen.

You have everything you need to succeed already.

Therighttool

Accepting responsibility is tough as hell, because the alternative is WAY easier!

  • If we tell ourselves we’re a lost cause at getting in shape, it makes it easier to sit on the couch, play video games, and eat pizza.
  • If we tell ourselves that there are no good men or women to date, it makes it easier for us to justify not trying or potentially getting hurt, not being social, suffering through a lot of bad first dates, and instead sitting at home on a Friday. 
  • If we tell ourselves there are no good jobs out there, it makes it easier for us to blame Obama/Trump, the economy, and stay on unemployment or living with our parents and stop sending out resumes.

Did one of those sentences above made you angry? Maybe even… outraged? That little voice is saying, “HOW DARE YOU STEVE. You’re wrong because [reason I’ve been telling myself for years].

We tell ourselves these stories to stay safe and stay in our comfortable misery. We get offended so that we can pass responsibility onto others and justify inaction or failure.  

As I said before, it might not be your fault that something has happened to you, but it’s time to realize that it’s your responsibility to deal with it. Mark Manson said it best in his book: “a baby showing up on your doorstep certainly isn’t your fault, but suddenly it’s your responsibility to deal with it.”

What if you lived life as if everything was your responsibility to deal with?

I recently had a conversation with a long-time member of the Nerd Fitness community. He let me know that he was disappointed in Nerd Fitness, because after four years he was still unhealthy and overweight because I hadn’t written anything that had inspired him to change yet.

I knew the guy well enough and replied, “Hey man, we all have baggage. You’ve been waiting around for four years and nothing I’ve written has motivated you to change…maybe we’re not the problem? You have all the tools you need and a supportive community. Have you given yourself permission to take responsibility for your success? What specific action are you taking today to improve yourself?”

He got very mad at me and told me off, only to email back a month later with a “You’re right. I know what I need to do, and I’ve been using my medical condition as an excuse. I’m going to take a more active role in my health.”

Bruce Wayne didn’t choose to have his parents killed. Neither did Clark Kent. Natasha Romanoff was brainwashed at a very young age to become an assassin, and she has to atone for that for the rest of her life.

You probably didn’t choose to have [very real problem] or [genetic condition] or [serious obstacle] or [life altering challenge] happen.

But if you stop being outraged, stop deciding you’re a victim, and instead operate under the philosophy that your life as it is right now is 100% your responsibility to deal with, that you are not owed ANYTHING, then you can also realize that you already have EVERYTHING you need to take action on the problem.

I’m already prepared for responses from people who skim this article, with their defensive shields already up, saying things like: “Steve this is very insulting and you don’t understand, because you are [blank] and [blank] and [age]. Shame on you, and I’m offended because [this reason] and [this reason] and you can’t possibly know what I’m going through. I can’t [lose weight/change/get out of this relationship/eat better] because [valid reason].”

These are often the people with the most to gain if they realize they have ALL the tools (and the responsibility) to start dealing with it RIGHT NOW. That many people have succeeded in similar situations as them. That their problems are not unique. Which means it IS solvable.

If this sounds like you, stop taking pride in your baggage, stop proudly being the victim/martyr subconsciously. Instead of indignant, outraged, and unhappy, be responsible.

It’s what our heroes do.  

We all have flaws. We all also have super powers.

superherofigures

Here in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, we are all disasters. We all feel shame. We all feel guilty.

We are all broken.

Welcome to the island of misfit toys.

Like any motley collection of superheroes, we all have baggage that keeps things interesting. At the same time, just like the X-men, or the Avengers, or the Justice League… along with those flaws we also have superpowers.

Things we can do that nobody else can. Things that we’re better at than others without thinking about it. It might be compassion, empathy, humor, or inclusiveness. It might be a knack for a certain skill or aptitude. Things that if we spent more time focused on, it would make our lives better and the world will be better.

Regardless of how many bags you’ve packed to come here, welcome!

This is a community where you get to be yourself, where you can learn the difference between shame and guilt, and it’s okay to be vulnerable while you work through your shit.

We forgive ourselves.

We know we’re human and that no action we take is something that permanently defines us. Like any superhero, our journey is long and winding, and we have to find our way through the darkness.

We also accept personal responsibility for our place in life and our future.

It might not be our fault where we are right now, but it’s our responsibility to deal with. We choose to not get offended and not to use that to be a victim or martyr. We know that everything is written to offend or to make people feel like victims, and we’re going to stop letting this rule us.

We choose to allocate our brain power to better things.

If this article made you offended and angry and you want to yell me at me for not understanding your particular situation because I’m A, B, and C and you’re X, Y, and Z, no worries! Take a break. We’ll be here if you change your mind in the future.

If you’re ready, willing, and able to accept responsibility, judgment free, for where you are in life…

Welcome to the Rebellion.

You have what you need. You don’t need somebody else’s permission to start. You can choose to stop being a victim. You can be your own hero. And we’re here to support you on that journey. You can solve your own problems, and we’ll be your sidekick cast of supporting heroes ready to step up at every turn.

If you’re in, I’d love to hear from you below:

  • What’s one thing you’ve felt shame over that you can re-attribute to non-judgmental guilt: “I did that thing. I can work on that.”
  • What’s one thing you’ve felt victimized by in the past that has kept you prisoner, and how can you accept responsibility for dealing with it?
  • What is your superpower? What’s something that you do really, really freaking well? That you can succeed with despite the other parts of you?  

My challenges: I get impostor syndrome regularly (“Why should anybody listen to me? Who am I to write this article that reaches a lot of people? Why should anybody read Nerd Fitness? I’m just a guy that tries to help people, but I don’t have all the answers.”). I feel guilty sometimes because I was raised by loving parents, I had a pretty great childhood, I have never been really overweight (I was the scrawny/weak kid), and I worry that people won’t listen to me or relate to me because of those things. At the same time, I clawed my way to build Nerd Fitness from the ground up into a fun community, it’s successful, and it has created jobs for a dozen people while changing hundreds of thousands of lives (and growing).

I hate that I feel guilty about this sometimes.

Because I also have an overwhelming desire for people to like me.

I run a blog that often pisses people off, and I run a business that makes money, and that often pisses people off too. When people call me names or question my integrity or rip me to shreds on the internet for something, it feels like a gut punch. I have to remind myself to focus on the people that want to be helped. I try not to let those people that just want to tear me down/judge/criticize without knowing the whole story get to me, but it’s a daily battle which I’m getting much better at.

It does help to remind myself that oftentimes, many people are having bad days, aren’t ready to change, and need to vent on the internet and do so by attacking others.

Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Your turn.

-Steve

PS: I’ve already linked it twice in this article, but I’ll do it a third time. Check out A Nerd’s Guide to Mental Health if your baggage is of the cranial variety. It might be your responsibility, but it doesn’t mean it needs to be a solo battle!

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Photo: Daniel Kulinski: Crack, Miguel Discart: Hero Shelf

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  • bridgetpilloud

    I am a woman. I didn’t read it the way you read it.

  • Ok, I just wouldn’t dismiss everything else Tim has written based on this. And, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it (with a trusted, loving partner, can’t stress that enough)!

  • bridgetpilloud

    I have a deep and wonderful relationship with my better half. Our sex life is about intimacy and communication and he would never pin me down, and grind on my clit without input. Tim I haven’t read this in quite some time, but my impression at the time was that Ferriss, at best, treated the clitoris like another system to game.
    If you want a good resource on sexually satisfying your intimate partners, I suggest, “The Guide to Getting It On.”

    Intimacy and sexual pleasure require communication . This is not something Ferriss seems to understand.

    Call me crazy, but when I find a person’s writing to be as misogynist as this chapter, I am not going to keep reading him. There are too many good writers out there that I could be reading instead.

    But you go right ahead.

  • Ok, that’s your reading of it, I just did not find that chapter misogynist personally. Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check it out as well!

  • Laura

    I have attributed my weight gain to my mother’s unhealthy relationship to food and negative body image while I was growing up. I have told myself that it’s my fate to become overweight like her, and now that she’s lost weight (though not the judgey attitude) I feel like a failed version of her old self. Ouch. I am my own person, of course, and I can take responsibility for keeping her attitudes in my head and making them my own. I am an adult and can choose a new way. I put the food in my mouth that made me overweight and I can start making new choices. I also blame my father’s death four years ago. I was depressed and stopped exercising, and ate a lot of sugar to numb myself. Instead of yelling at myself for being weak and stuck in the past, I can go back to therapy to explore the remaining grief and I can start getting active again, one day at a time.

  • Jim Kelly

    First, thanks for a great board! I am 57 and have struggled with maintaining a healthy weight my entire life. I am like a see-saw, up and down. I have never been a smoker or a drinker, and even in my heavier times, I have always been pretty active. In my 30’s I put on quite a bit of muscle from 2 years of weightlifting as I was quite a bit smaller before. I like to work out, play golf, and I am a 2nd degree black belt in Taekwondo. Within the last few years I have been dealing with a slowly deteriorating disc in my lower back which has pretty much side lined me for working out and martial arts. I have been pretty bummed about it the last year or so and now I’m at the heaviest point in my life, a solid 270 lbs on a 5’9 frame. My wife and I decided to try your plan to possibly, “finally” come up with something that will stick for life. I have always been successful at getting into good shape and losing weight, but I have never been able to maintain. Hopefully, with some guidance and support I can accomplish that goal. If not for myself, for my darling 12 year old daughter who needs her daddy around as long as possible.

    Again, thanks for the program and you’ve got me hooked.

  • Hope Poole

    Loved this article!! So relatable and relevant! Just finishing reading the subtle art now and it’s helped so much too. Took me a while to wrap my head around the concepts but so glad I have. Thank you and keep on doing what you do best ….this work!! Xx

  • Erin Tomanek

    I really enjoy reading what you write. Its obvious you are real and thank u so much for your honesty. Im just glad to have found this

  • Jamie

    Hi Steve- Thank you for putting yourself out there and writing this. I am ashamed of myself when I binge eat-usually junk food. I feel guilty when I don’t exercise or do enough. I personally enjoy exercising and going for walks etc. I am looking to work on that get healthier than ever before! I have 2 beautiful kids who need me. ?

  • Greg

    Thank you for sharing this piece, Steve. Incredibly inspiring and spot on.

  • Nicole Michel

    This article perfectly aligns with everything I am being taught right now. Honestly, if I had read this a few months ago I would have been one of those haters. “You don’t know me” is one of my favorites defense mechanisms. Mostly, because it cannot be denied. How could you know the secret shame that keeps me overweight and the endless cycles of overeating then dieting, then overeating because I don’t see results dieting. You can’t, unless I’m vulnerable and willing to hear the truth. I am not a victim of my environment and I can change. My superpower is that I’m a really loyal sidekick! I’m not good at being top dog, but call me lieutenant and stuff will get done!

    Thank you for writing this article. I am perplexed at how much it reflects the heart I have for my future and the future of those around me. I want the truth and sometimes it hurts and people say awful things, but it will set you free. And if it changes one persons’ life then you’ve done your job. Well, done brotha. #leggo

  • Jean Carron

    I’m not one to usually post a comment but I felt like I wanted to do it this once. Just a thank you, a you are great and a keep at it ! I find a lot of myself in your writings and playing at life has been a way I’ve been considering to get me started on some training for sooooo long.

    Guess what ? Thanks to you, that’s a failure I won’t have to adress so, here I am and I don’t have the excuse that I have to build my own system first anymore… Now, to try to thank you by putting the energy it saves me into some level ups…

  • Jean Carron

    I’m really late with this one, so it probably won’t help, but who knows ? (That plus putting things on screen helps me find my own focus, so there’s that too.)

    I think I can relate. It sometimes (oftentimes) feels like I’m creating my own problems and then burning my energy to try and solve them. Feels like some big kind of waste sometimes, I mean, how wasteful is that when there are people with real problems, striving to overcome them ?

    What keeps me going is to keep both my feet in reality. The question isn’t “what have I done to deserve this ?” but “what can I do to make this love/attention/congratulations/whatever that I may not deserve useful ?” I mean, things don’t get better for anybody when I feel spoiled and undeserving. They do get better, though, when I exude happiness and do the most I can (whatever little it may seem as, for some people, it may mean a lot – happened a few times -) with those wonderful things that I’ve received for free.

    So I give myself breaks by accepting that feeling happy actually helps others more than feeling miserable. And it’s laziness when I feel like I’m at full power and yet still not doing a thing.

  • Mel

    I am a food addict along with substance abuse. A lot of shame goes with that and I appreciate what you have to say. You seem very knowledgeable. Its a daily struggle but what keeps me afloat is my ability to be resilient and I am also motivated to do the right thing. I also enjoy helping others.

  • Kasper Jensen

    Good article. You have a lot of valid points in it. For me, it was nothing new, since my previous guitar teacher talked a lot about the same ideas. It’s all about self-image (read a book called “Psycho-Cybernetics” for more on this topic. It’s great!).

    Basically, the concept can be summarized as “you will only become as good/successful/strong as your self-image is”. If you believe with all your heart that you can read 400 words per minute and put in the effort, you can learn to read 400 words per minute. If you believe you can learn to play 2000 notes per minute on the guitar, and you put in the effort, you can do that too (I know a guy who literally can play that fast, completely cleanly, with no string noise whatsoever). If you believe you can run a mile in under 4 minutes, and put in the effort, you can do that too (of course, this requires you to be physically capable of running).

    The point is, if you believe you can do it, and you put in the necessary time and energy, you can do it. Whatever “it” may be!

  • cody stoll

    I feel shame for my career in the Army. I’ve always been so ok with just being the “ok soldier”. That’s on me to turn into the kind of soldier I used to idolize and make sure I am at the top of my game. One thing I always felt held me back was having kids and not being able to go to the gym like I want because “the kids need this or that”. I will make better use of my time to work toward my health and physique. And one thing I’m really good at? I would say making a bad situation better whether it’s through laughter or something else.

  • Zettie Bowling

    I am guilty of caring too much for others while I slowly eat myself away. I have lost motivation for so many things in my life, even things that I enjoy, like drawing. I do come from a broken family, but I never really confronted my emotions about it. I’ve felt like I’ve lost my emotion a while ago. I’ve been in crummy relationships and havr had my heart crushed and broken to where I have gotten physically ill. I’m reasponsible for who I am today, and I hope that I can become the hero I’ve always dreamed I could be.

  • Sarah

    This article was so great and exactly what I needed to read right now. I hurt my foot 18 months ago running a 10km, and it was just the cherry on top of a BS Sunday, and all the wheels came off. I sank into depression, got unfit, and picked up weight. People are so used to me being mad fit and training every day, so whenever I tried to pick myself back up, I tried to do it full steam ahead from the beginning and failed. 2 weeks ago I decided I’m going to do it the way I know will work for me, and people will think it’s too little and too slow, but 2 weeks in I feel great, I have not missed one day. And when I’m training and I feel embarrassed because I’m fat or “only” doing short intervals, I tell myself it’s ok, it’s for me, and I’m not going to give up and blame others’ expectations.

  • Anna Lilliman

    Ok, you asked, and I’m aspie so I answer questions: What’s one thing you’ve felt shame:” being an addict. I do stupid stuff, feel bad about it, and then do more stupid stuff to deal with the bad feelings. People say that eating, reading, or playing computer games aren’t real addictions but I’ve done some really bad crap in the name
    of satisfying my desires. I still feel ashamed of it all despite having been in OA for years and knowing the difference between guilt and shame. I can try to again say “the amount I have been eating is stupidly big but I can make small changes to improve my eating habits.
    What’s one thing you’ve felt victimized by in the past that has kept you prisoner, and how can you accept responsibility for dealing with it?
    I am awkward- socially and physically. I have a lot of resentment of fast graceful people who just know the right thing to do in any situation. It’s cost me relationships.i can accept that I’m awkward and try to work on being less so. When I’m with the fast people I can remember that they have their own flaws. (Kind of. It still bugs me.)
    What is your superpower?
    I am an amazing teacher. I have taught courses I knew nothing about with no prep and kids still felt it was worthwhile and they learned a lot. I have tons of notes from kids telling me I rock and that they never knew a particular subject could be so much fun and that they learned so much and I’ve influenced their future. In a 2 month math course! You want me to teach Chinese? Dance? Skydiving? I’m your woman. You want a freaking awesome amazing incredible math teacher who makes math cool? That would be me.

  • Clara Schoppe

    I’m a 70 year old wife of 50 years, mother of 6, whose youngest is leaving for college half way across the country next month (and, no, I don’t have empty nest syndrome), mother-in-law, and grandmother. When my husband and I were younger, before the kids were born, we were bicyclists and it was not unusual for us to put in over 100 miles in a day through Vermont and New Hampshire, where our rides were anything but flat. After our first 3 kids were born we got them bikes and often took them on day rides, but never the long trips my husband and I had enjoyed in our 20’s. They were just too young, and to support them, my husband was working what was called Southern Swing Shift at the local paper mill, long since closed. When our oldest was 8 I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, Stage 4, and given 8 months to live. It turned out that I had had this cancer for 12 years already and didn’t know it. It first appeared as a little lump in my neck near the jaw, and my doctor told me it was just a little cyst that would go away, and I shouldn’t worry about it. So I didn’t. After my first 3 kids were born and my oldest was 8, my husband’s mill was in danger of being closed. One day, he came home from the 11-7 shift to take a call from the mill to come right back for a meeting. He was sure that this meant the mill was closing and he’d be out of a job (with 3 little kids, and a wife with terminal cancer no less). As he headed out the door, I noticed that the calendar by the kitchen door said today was March 19, and I called my husband’s attention to that and said, “This is the Feast Day of St Joseph, the Worker”, whom we had long ago taken as our Patron Saint of our family, and who was also the Patron Saint of all workers and of all fathers, and whom my husband had chosen as his own Patron Saint when he was Confirmed. “I don’t believe the mill is going to close. That just can’t be”. When he came home from the meeting, he was very happy. The mill was not closing; it had been sold, and all the workers were keeping their jobs and getting a raise to boot. We were so grateful to God and to St Joseph for his intercession for us that on my husband’s next long weekend, when he would have 4 days off, we packed up the kids and went on a Pilgrimage to St Joseph’s Oratory in Canada, to thank God and our Patron. When we got there, I was advised by one of the priests to visit the crypt of Blessed Andre and ask him for a cure of my cancer. I refused, because I was here to say Thank you to Joseph, not to piggishly ask for more from someone other than Joseph. But this priest was so adamant that he prevailed and I went to the crypt and abashedly apologized to Blessed Andre that I only came to him because I didn’t want to embarrass the priest and seem ungrateful, but, really, we are here to thank St Joseph for giving us a favor we hadn’t thought to ask for, and I asked for a cure, and said I would understand if that wasn’t God’s will, because we have already been given so much. Afew days after we returned home, my sister in Massachusetts, who was familiar with many doctors through her work in the States Comptrollers Office, called me to tell me of an experimental protocol that would begin as soon as Dr Arnold S Freedman got one more subject for a total of 6 subjects. The subjects had to have less than 6 months to live (that was true of me by this time), had never had any remission, and understand that the experiment might be fatal. I jumped at it, because when my first oncologist told me, “We can keep you comfortable,” that gave me, the mother of 3 babies, no comfort at all, and here, at least was hope, and so soon after our pilgrimage, it must be another favor. It was. I lived, but could no longer bear children as my uterus had to be cauterized to prevent me from hemorrhaging to death during the protocol. After I recovered from the protocol, my husband and I adopted another 3 children in gratitude for allowing the 3 birth children to keep both their parents and not be separated from one another. We specifically asked for children who had already been removed from their parents and were in danger of separation from one another. I never resented the doctor who misdiagnosed me so many years earlier, even though I was told by my first oncologist, when he was telling me that the staging showed I had only 8 months to live, that that lump, which i had had so long, and which disappeared with my first treatment, was non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and I would have been in stage 1 at that time, and it was very easily cured at stage 1. It was only when my current oncologist told me that I am not in remission, but am fully cured that I thought of him again, and this time with gratitude. If he had accurately diagnosed me, I would have been treated, and, because I always had very heavy periods, I would have had my uterus removed before the treatment. I would have been cured, but I never would have had the privilege of raising my 6 kids, or any kids, since it was raising my first 3 kids that formed me to be the person who would have adopted the second 3 kids. That’s who I am. Now, with my youngest leaving for college very soon, for the first time in 38 years, I can make plans that don’t have to be cancelled or changed at a moment’s notice, and the first of these is to shed 75 lbs that I have gained over the past 38 years. I am on an intermittent fasting regimen and including the ketogenic diet in that protocol. I started Sunday night at 8pm and I have been faithful since then to drink plenty of water, not eat between 8pm and 4pm (the one meal when everyone is home is dinner at 5pm) I have walked 10 minutes twice, and will again tonight, but I’m not likely to do much more than walk, since I have spinal kyphesis which throws me off balance because it forces my head to protrude so far forward of my body. It also makes it hard to swallow, and is expected to get worse and worse over time, as the pads between my vertebrae disintegrate. This was a side effect of my cure, but, hey, I’d rather walk with a bowed head than have died with my back straight.

  • Helen Rene

    In response to the article: this doesn’t necessarily have to do with fitness, but it does apply to my lifestyle.

    About a year ago, I had no control over my living situation, and I couldn’t change it. It didn’t bother me that i was living there, but what bothered me was one of the ladies I was living with. She was/is a horder, a slob, and hardly ever cleaned or after herself. I was home a lot, so I was cleaning a lot because I wanted a clean house, and something to do.

    It wasn’t a big deal until this lady I was living with came home and immediately started making messes with no regard for the others around her. I tried talking to her about it, but she would become hostile and use threats at me, just for asking her to clean her stuff up.

    After a while, it clicked…

    It wasn’t my fault.

    The reason she was messy and would get mad at me wasn’t my fault. So I took responsibility for what I could do. Instead of always cleaning up after her, i would focus on my own personal messes I created, and when I wanted the house clean, I wouldn’t be mad she mad messes, I would just deal with it.
    It’s not my fault the lady I lived with was a slob, and I don’t need to be ashamed of that, or be the victim, because we both have to deal with eachother. For the longest time i thought I was the one suffering from her messiness, but really, she is probably hurting way more, deep down, and it doesn’t help if I get mad at her. Accepting and working with what you are thrown into is sometimes the one of the best ways to help your living situation.

    That was long, hope I made sense. Kudos for reading it.

  • Serena

    I know this post is old, but I only just joined the mailing list, so I’m just reading it now. At the moment I’ve been sent away by my uni to do 8 weeks nursing work experience in the middle of nowhere, a small 700-population town of farmers. I was so averse to this at first, but now I’m on my 6th week and so grateful. Something about this place has changed me, I feel more mindful, like I have more clarity and I’ve been making better decisions.

    Yesterday I was just hungry all day, I snacked on biscuits out of the tea trolley, somebody left out packets of sweets for the staff and i had at least a handful. Actually, now that I’m writing this, that’s not that much, really. Today, instead of freaking out and being down on myself, I asked why was I hungry, what did I do wrong that I could fix today. I figured maybe it was having too small a breakfast, so today I ate a bit more, and we’re gonna see how that goes. I thought I would feel some massive change, but reallyI just feel a little bit different, and it’s making me make better decisions. It’s kind of weird.

    That part on shame vs guilt is really interesting, thank you for sharing!