Nobody actually cares about authenticity. We might say we do and we may say that we are finding or being our authentic selves but does it actually fucking matter? Like have you ever met an asshole that described themselves as authentic and were just so grateful you crossed their path. And no one for damn sure wants to be in a relationship with the “authentic” jerk, in any way, shape or form because just like happiness I think people are barking up the wrong tree with authenticity.
We think it is something we care about or more importantly in our society that others care about but the only time that authenticity actually matters in our lives is when we are looking in the mirror. Are we being true to ourselves, to who we say we are going to be? From there the only thing that matters to anyone else in our lives is our actions. They can’t judge us on what we think of ourselves, how would they know and even if we told them, it is often only partially true. So it boils down to are we presenting ourselves truthfully to the world.
I used to ask myself what that looked like, I would look in the mirror or think quietly to myself “who am I?” I really had no idea, I was so lost because outwardly I was often living my life in a way that was built to keep others happy, to appease their judgements of me and to do what I thought would make people like me. But the worst mistake I think I was making was that my internal vision of who I wanted to be was not being outwardly expressed. I had suppressed myself to try to make others happy. I stopped striving to get better for myself and spent all of my time trying to have others like me and I just hated myself more and more as I did it. I spent so much time trying to live the way I thought others thought I should or in a way that I thought would impress other people and I had lost sight of who I wanted to be, of who I actually was inside.
Now I believe that we all have an aspirational image we hold onto internally of who we are and as we make choices that don’t align with this image we bifurcate the way we feel about ourselves. It may not be an issue every once in a while but I don’t think any of us had an aspirational image of being unhealthy, drinking beer, watching Netflix and bitching about our job. I know that much of the anxiety and depression I felt in my late 20’s and early 30’s could be traced back to short sighted, instant gratification decisions that did not align with who I aspired to be. You see I have always believed myself to be an athlete. It is just in my nature, I pick up sports quickly and find the most joy in being competitive and active. As I got older this became less of a priority. It is so easy to “find the time” to stay active when we are younger and have less responsibilities and I fell right into the middle aged dad-bod trap.
Now I am going to divert a little here as I feel this is important to say before I discuss my changes. Not everyone needs to be an athlete, not everyone needs to exercise every day like I have or attempt endurance feats or push themselves in the ways I have. They just need to align with their true self. With who they believe they are deep down inside. That is where I believe real joy and self-love comes from. It is wrought in the work it takes to become or improve on who we are and believe we are. These will ebb and flow but as long as we are consistently working on ourselves we will maintain an internal love and fire that will carry us through our darkest days.
So as I got older, drank more beer, watched instead of played sports and let anything fitness related I owned collect dust. So too did my image as an athlete. And as that collected dust my anxiety and depression spiked through the roof. I literally developed eczema on most of my body at one point as I was so stressed. I fully believe it had everything to do with how far out of alignment I was with who I believed I should be. Now here is where most people tell you the “found” themselves by repeating their affirmations every day and telling themselves they loved themselves over and over again and it all just got better. Well I don’t know, maybe that shit works for other people but every time I have tried, I just feel like a liar, it usually leaves me feeling worse as the person I am lying to is myself. So instead of trying to like who I was right now I went to work. I found a little luck in a book you may have heard of called Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book helped me deconstruct all the old shitty habits I had and helped me construct much more positive ones. I went all in on his word and started small. Like way smaller than you could ever imagine an ex-college athlete who did not seem to be in terrible shape would ever consider. I started with 5 push-ups and 5 sit ups a day. That was all I would allow myself to do for the first 2 weeks and then I added 1 push-up and 1 sit up a day after that until I could do 100 of each. The hardest part at the start was absolutely my pride. I knew I could do more but I also knew I had a track record of “going all-in” and then flaming out 2 weeks later when something came up or I hurt myself.
Almost instantly I felt more solid in who I was. I was more able to cope with day to day shit that came my way. My energy level increased and I was just much more content. Until I wasn’t. It didn’t take too long before I felt the anxiety creep back in. As I made gains physically I had this constant dread of slipping back into the way I used to be. I was so afraid of making a mistake that would crumble everything. I had been doing so much for my body to correct the physical image I saw in the mirror without realizing it was all for vanity and what I really needed was toughness but of the mental variety. Where I was struggling to perform was in adversity which is the true hallmark of a great athlete.
I struggled for a while feeling as though it was all so fragile and I was destined for failure. Then I failed. During the 4x4x48 I was unable to run many of the legs and was resigned to walking. I had trained, I was in phenomenal shape so this was a huge blow to my ego. But when you are sleep deprived, it’s cold and you are alone at 1am limping 4 miles you get some time to reflect. What did I learn? Well no one actually cares how you get it done and the mental benefits you reap from swallowing your pride and persevering are one of the greatest gifts you could ever receive. It is with that mindset shift that I have been able to counter act all of the fear I was feeling. I know it sounds too easy but it wasn’t, it was only simple. It took all of the work and fear to get there. I just hope that in my writing this maybe it doesn’t take someone as long as it took me to realize that I get to do all of the things I was doing for my physical health in the way I like doing them, I just have to adjust the lens with which I view the situation, changing my focus from vanity to mental strength. Really all I did was move my perspective to the internal benefits rather than the external rewards. I gave up on others noticing and went all in on intrinsic motivation. Completely selfishly it feels fucking fantastic accomplishing shit most people wouldn’t even attempt. I think that is one of the keys to unlocking true confidence and inner peace.
So as always don’t hesitate to reach out. I write this mostly for myself but if it resonates at all I would love to hear from you. I love helping others improve in any way. Thank you for reading and your feedback is truly appreciated!