You Are Flawed. And So Are Your Heroes.

superheroesMy 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:


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.


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


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 – 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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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

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298 thoughts on “You Are Flawed. And So Are Your Heroes.

  1. I’ve been living this for yeas now. My life has gotten so much better because of it. You put it into words very well.

  2. This is a spectacularly well written article Steve, and thank you for the reminder of Guilt vs. Shame (something I’ve been struggling with in a new job I just started and am not excelling at as much as I expected I would). My failures don’t represent my worth as a person, just my skill in that arena, and skills can always be improved over time. Much love brother.

  3. Great article Steve! Loved it!

    One thing I’ve always felt shame over is my body image and the way I look. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked in the mirror and thought about how much I hated myself, and then eaten a pint of ice cream and wallowed in my own self pity for it. This year I’m trying to change that and not give into the “I don’t have time” excuse I’ve been making. I’ve joined Rising Heroes and I’m trying to be more active in the community, something I hadn’t done before, to hopefully help keep myself more accountable and motivated, because really I’m the o my one holding me back.

    Victimized? I was molested as a kid, and frequently have receive bad treatment from men since then. I don’t know what it is, but I seem to get a lot of attention from assholes and weirdos when I haven’t even been looking for sexual attention. As a result, I’ve felt like and almost accepted that that’s how I’ll always be treated, and love and a healthy relationship like what some of my friends have isn’t going to happen for me. But I also know that I haven’t really tried at a relationship either, so I’m trying to put myself out there a bit more, or at least not take crap from people who are mistreating me.

    I guess my superpower would be compassion and empathy. I love organizing things and taking care of people, and I think I do a pretty good job of it.

  4. Fuck man, you and Domino’s delicious advertising just made me order a home delivery pizza and now I’m out of pocket and a kilo or two heavier!!

  5. You rule man — rare I get impostor syndrome, maybe I dont do enough. Think of it like being a kid, and maybe doing well at school, but then reaching the NEXT level, like representative level and realising, “fuck, I’m not that good, shit, is it OK? Should I be here as a GASP representative?” I got it last week at a martial arts demonstration , new black belt, out of practice for a couple months being invited to present in front of hundreds, scarier than the big grading by far

  6. Yeah I hear ya, I used that to my advantage; spent the first 2 weeks of the year overseas and lost in time, spent a fuckload so all the New Year/election rage pus the no money FORCED me to dig my heels in at work, get a better job and just not socialise with crud or spend hours scrolling through social media newsfeeds and clickbait.

  7. I love this article. It really was a good one. And it’s true. The longer we stay in a victim mentality, the harder it is to pick ourselves up. There are a lot of things in my life that I went through the victim mentality. But I realized at the end, that it DID happen and I refuse to let it be the end.

  8. I feel guilty and ashamed about a lot of things. The foolish things I had done when I was younger and didn’t know better make up half of it. The other is the fact that I have always been somewhere in between: I wasn’t poor nor rich, but my home wasn’t exactly perfect or happy either. I went through a lot as a child that I probably wouldn’t have noticed if professionals hadn’t told me — all because that was all that I knew. You wouldn’t know the difference between being wet and being dry when you spent all your life floating and swimming in the ocean. Yet, through all that, I make it out okay? I know it’s supposed to be something to be thankful for, but I can’t help feeling out of place. Whenever you see people with difficult background they usually turn into a troubled person. The most troubled I’ve been was going head to head with a bully teacher back in high school. I never fit in. And that bothers me … a lot. Since I can’t fit in anywhere, I’m trying to create my own space so that I don’t feel out of place anymore. It gets lonely sometimes, but it’s this or compromising who I am to fit in.

    I’m not sure about the superpower, though …. I’m not that funny or dependable or anything alike. My skills are mediocre and not so special. Maybe my superpower is … existing? (Hm, narcissistic much?)

  9. The email linking to this landed in my inbox and got a little burried, and today I got that far in clearing out the inbox and thought ‘ok, today I have time to click this.’ Whoa, Steve. As Elvis says (croons, really) I’m all shook up. Gotta think about it, and figure out where to go from here.

  10. I have suppressed any kind of negative feelings for years, trying to be the perfect little girl so that my mom (who raised me on her own) wouldn’t suffer too much. I dealt with social anxiety, that I tackled and overcame, then depression, that I also overcame. I get mad at people who play the victim and claim I can’t understand because now I’m (mentally) healthy. Whenever I see a “malfunction” in my mind I try my best to overcome it before it takes too much place.
    Nowadays I’ve begun expressing my negative feelings. I’m okay with sadness but not so much with anger. I either suppressed it, or let it explode. I used to self harm but have stopped that now (it’s been 2 years, after 10 years of doing it). I get obsessed with what makes me angry and keep thinking about it every moment I am not busy.
    This article seemed 100% logical and reasonable (and well written too! Thank you Steve for sharing it!). I have no idea why it made me want to share my story but there it is (in a very condensed form of course). There’s always a way, it’s never easy but there’s always a way.

  11. Such an inspirational article. I really enjoyed how you broke down guilt vs. shame. I think it is so important for people to understand the difference. That part hit home for me. I guess I never was able to decipher what parts of my life and up bringing I still feel shame from or for. This is a topic I will definitely be thinking about. This is an article to save, re-read, and share. Thank you so very much.

  12. I really, really, REALLY appreciate this article. It’s made me re-realize a few things that I’m constantly coming up against in my struggle to lose weight throughout my entire life.

    I overeat, mostly as a way to cope with my emotions. I’m in the midst of the onboarding process and yesterday I had a bad day, so I just threw the rules I set up for myself out the window and pigged out. I’m ashamed of my overeating. I know that everyone slips up every once in a while and indulges in things they shouldn’t. I should work on my relationship with food. I can make it healthier.

    I’ve been overweight for as long as I can remember. I was teased heavily throughout my childhood. I’ve thought for a long time that this is just how my body is and always will be. My weight has been and is holding me back. With NerdFitness, I want to reconnect with my body and learn how to bring the body of my dreams into reality.

    I’m also a perfectionist and really hard on myself. Whenever I make a mistake, I come down on myself SUPER hard.

    I have a deep capacity for love. The passion I have for my work and loved ones is amazing and has pushed me to do amazing things. I want to give that love to myself. I want to love my body with that level of passion that rocks me into action. I’m ready to begin the long journey of changing the rest of my life.

  13. I agree 100% with this post. I guess I kind of always believed it but never had the words to organize it into a coherent thought or explanation. Anyway on to my baggage as asked.
    I feel an intense desire to be liked, fit in, have friends, be social, date more girls and such. I feel that I can’t. I’m not smart enough, not funny enough, too skinny and weak, blah blah blah etc. I also have been addicted to pornography. Something that overtime has swung between causing shame, and causing guilt various times. It is also a large obstacle to my problem above written, as it messes with my idea of whether or not I can be good enough to date or find love, or get married as long as I am stuck in the false and degrading trap of porn.
    Ironically my superpower is that I relate with others, I really get empathetic and can throw myself into their lives, I love helping people, I love listening to them, I want to see them succeed and will do anything I can to help, only that my fear blocks me from putting it to use.

    That hurt a little. But admitting is the first step to change. It isn’t a secret anymore, I said it.

    Thanks Steve.

  14. I like this it’s interesting. Especially the way you change the hero names in the first part and then revealed it later. I like the way you open up about this and everything on this article is good to me. But only one thing, the heroes aren’t real so how would we know if this could possibly work in reality too?

  15. thank you Chris Johnson! I hope you are well brother.

    Steve (as he holds up 2 fingers to his chest and looks into the distance)

  16. Good article, good kick up the backside as I have no ‘problems’ or obstacles yet still make excuses like I’m too busy with kids, work, university, farm etc, even though I watch TV more than 2 hrs most days. Time to just get on with changing things in my physical life and stop waiting for the perfect time / situation to get healthier.

  17. Luckily much of this is something i have been working on for a few years now. I have read almost every book Brene Brown has written. It is so freeing letting go of the shame. I accept responsibility for where I am. I have so many flaws but my biggest flaw is asking for and accepting help. I am a loner in many ways and in particular when things are difficult. I am also an all-or-nothing that ends up breaking me to more on the side of nothing too often but I plan to change.

    I don’t feel I victimize myself but I know I still continue to have challenges from many aspects of my past. I am working with a therapist for my PTSD from past experiences and while they still effect me I am consciously trying to change or accept those things I cannot change and not allow myself to wallow in my circumstances.

    One of my super powers is empathy and relate-ability. I can meet people I have little to nothing in common with and I can find connections to try and understand their perspective.

    Thank you for your articles. I have been reading like a mad person and while much of it is things I have heard before coming from the nerd perspective has made it much more palatable for me.

  18. The reason you keep writing these things even though you feel guilty and like you don’t have the right, is because there are people like me out there who need to hear them. People who are receptive and need someone to tell them what they may already know, to give them the strength they need to move forward and grow. I can understand why some things in the article may make some people angry, but those are the ones who need to hear it the most – even though they may not agree right now. Thank you for being here and I am SOOO glad I found you. It has only been a couple of weeks, but I already know this is where I need to be.


    (By, Derrick
    D. Mack) from his poetry collection
    Poetic Expressions: A.K.A. Expressions In Poetry

    When a hero

    Where there
    is love

    There’ll be a
    a way

    To search and

    A better day

    I taught you
    to be strong

    But now you
    are confused

    To see me
    weak, beaten and abused

    I taught you
    never to give up

    But now
    you’re hurt to see me in defeat, battered by the angry sea

    I shot for
    the stars

    But missed

    And fell in
    shame and disgrace

    Leaving you
    to deal with heartache and pain,

    Now you ask
    what do you do?

    now that your
    hero has failed

    Where there
    is love

    There’ll be a

    To search and
    discover a better day

    A positive

    Is all you need

    To rise and
    succeed when disappointment enters your dreams

    Young minds

    And depend on
    love to keep them together

    When times
    are dim

    And your hero

    Depend on

    And where
    there is love

    There’ll be a

    To search & discover a

    brighter day.

  20. I’ll admit that I have been claiming victim-hood from my 2x torn ACLs that I suffered in high school, which triggered some intense weight gain. It has been years and I haven’t been able to get it permanently under control. I liked this articles many great points.

  21. The biggest thing I’ve let happen because of Shame (or external justifications) would be that I’ve let my diet be terrible and not conducive to healthy processing because of the justification that it’s easier to eat cheap and nasty food when you live pay to pay. I’m about to start a new job where I won’t need to live that way anymore and my wife and I already have a budget snowball running to fix our financial dependencies.
    I’ve often told myself i’ll deal with health and fitness stuff after i’ve finished uni/established my career/etc and I think i’m ready to start being the person I deeply want to be instead of who just who I’ve let myself become.

    Thanks for the words of wisdom Steve.

  22. Steve, I’ll join the rebellion.

    I have had shame for having (intentionally withheld illness) for years. I can reattribute the shame into guilt that I can own and address in more straightforward terms. The coping mechanism for me has been self destruction.

    My victimization is that I was physically abused as a child and the low self esteem and depression has held me captive for years. It also made me prone to my (intentionally withheld illness) and compounded the shame I associated with having it.

    My superhero powers are my sense of humor and my analytical skills. I would go as far to say my sense of humor is very self deprecating and no holds barred. I can always laugh at myself. It debases anyone else from hurting me. But my self deprecating jokes are really the threshold of me unleashing my “we made fun of me, now we’re gonna make fun of you” mentality of jokes. I guess if I reframe my shame as guilt, accept that I did nothing ro deserve to be beaten up as a kid I can keep my sense of humor in relative check so I can grow beyond the problem.

    I think I see a link to my physical fitness level and having shame for my illness. I have the tools and support to set realistic fitness goals and make lasting lifestyle changes. I’m in!

    Long live the rebellion!!!

  23. Wow. This is an incredibly well written article. It has always amazed me how the American people so love to hero worship, and then when the tiniest flaw is found ripping them down from the very pedestal that they put them up on in the first place! The use of actual super heroes is such a great way for people to start seeing not only their own flaws, but the flaws of other people as HUMAN. Everyone has flaws or problems or excuses, the only difference is that some people try to overcome those roadblocks, while others feel comfortable parked in front of them. Steve, I have great respect for someone who is not only a great writer, but someone who encourages, respects, and isn’t afraid to offend in order to help in the long run. Bravo Steve, don’t let any of those haters get you down! Your awesome!

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  26. Thank you Steve, as I read, I felt like I was being punched constantly. I needed it badly, so many examples given and coments shared hit me directly and described so many feelings and situations I find myself in daily. It was like a slap in the face, I needed it verry much. All thats left for me is to stop having shame, take responsability for my life and stop being a victim of my own thoughts and actions. I am so glad I found your site, best thing Ive ever found online. Thank you so much, God bless.
    Luciano Hartley
    Lima, Peru

  27. Excellent article, Steve. One of your best. Changes happen for us when we let go of our life narrative that isn’t working for us anymore, that’s painted us into a corner. Accept where we are now, claim responsibility for how we’ve reacted to it, and move forward. Be kind to ourselves, but quit being the victim. And stop playing the tapes.
    Brene Brown’s work is life changing.

  28. This was a fantastic article. I’m not really someone that gets angry at other people but I really fall into the victim mentality. Where I tend to push the idea that what I’m going through and the struggles I’m facing are all caused by other people. That it’s not any responsibility of mine to make my circumstances better because other people caused it so that means that it’s only fair that they correct it.

    But I read a quote recently that shifted how I thought of things and was really a good precursor to this article. The quote read:

    “Do not push the responsibility of your own happiness on to others.”

    Just like you said above, things happen that we can’t control, but responding correctly and assuming that your wellbeing and happiness is singularly your responsibility is important.

  29. My mom had this book entitled “Act, don’t React”. That title alone said it all to me. In that phrase, to me, it says that a person needs to take responsiblity for their actions and their lives and that you decide how you will respond to any given situation. You can choose to take the reins and be in control, or you can let other people and events control you and just react to them. I never actually read the book, but I when I find myself reacting to things (past or present) I try to take a breath and remind myself that I have a choice and I can choose to take positive action or I can be a victim of my circumstances. I try to choose the former. Sometimes it’s hard to see the way out. There will be times when it feels like whatever you do, no matter how many obstacles you overcome, you just keep encountering more obstacles. But you have to keep fighting.

  30. I have given up on losing weight and getting into shape so many times before and I can change that.
    I have been through a lot of turmoil in my life despite how young I am. And I have been hurt so many times. My life has been full of crazy-ass twists and turns that people my age typically don’t deal with. (I really don’t want to delve to deep as some is recent and I am not ready to talk at length about it.) And I can accept responsibility by stop telling myself I caused it all when really I didn’t. I had no control and I accept that now. And I am going to prove the ones who did that I will succeed despite their saying otherwise.
    My super power? Art. Anything art: drawing, painting, poetry, cooking, anything. So I am proud of it and it helps me cope.

    I also just want to say: Thank you. This article is so important to me now because it is exactly what I needed to hear. It gave shape to the recent change I have dealt with and how to move forward.

  31. Thanks for writing this. I was just curious enough to click on it in my inbox and glad I did. I’ll be a more regular visitor here now. Cos this right here is the shit. Before I got to the Roosevelt quote bit I was going to comment “you’re in the arena man!” But you alread know you are, and (super)power to ya!

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  33. Excellent article. Love the Roosevelt quote at the end too. Never heard that one before …

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  35. Steve,
    I really appreciated this post for many reasons. It hit home! Thank you for doing what you do, keep keepin’ it real and inspiring others.


  36. I loved this article Steve, thank you so much! I’ve written down some of your quotes from it and stuck them on my wall so I’ll be looking at them every day as I start your quest. I am totally the person that feels like a lost cause so eats pizza, and hides at home on a Friday night because I’m afraid to date again so it was amazing to read you writing that – it made me feel like part of the family already and I’m only just starting out! I’m determined to shift myself out of my comfortable misery!

  37. Great article Steve! It give us all a lot to think about and do. I fall into these traps all the time and have to pull myself out over and over. It has taken me a lot of years to get to a point where I can be honest with myself and stop blaming everyone and everything for where I’m at in life. You are dead on….keep on keeping us honest.

  38. I see this with my own boys. I have four and even doing LEGOs, one searches for hours for one tiny piece and another will give up in less than a minute and scream that the LEGO set is broken. Hard work to reset mindset.
    I even have to consider my words while teaching. Instead of blaming a kid for being bad, I have to isolate the behavior. Tough to do when dealing with mercurial junior highers.

  39. Have you talked to a woman about this? Because as a woman and a reader of the whole 4-Hour series, I think you are misinterpreting the instructions there. The “exercise” is meant to be done with a trusting partner, not a Tinder date, so it’s someone who already knows your input on such things and is in no way forcing you to do something against your will. It is definitely not rapey – a rapist only cares about his pleasure. Here, you’re literally focusing completely on the other person and her pleasure.

    I suggest you look into orgasmic meditation. Your future girlfriend/wife will thank you!

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