- excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one's own troubles.
I’ve pushed and pulled my body over and over again and even after grinding away for years I still find myself tested. Every time it happens, and I'm not ready for it, it might as well be the first time.
It’s just as awful. Just as choking. Just as desperate. And it happens to everyone.
It really doesn't matter the exact situation, the routine is the same.
The frustration starts slowly and builds, bubbling to the surface like a tea kettle. It can be as simple as missing a move you know in jiu-jitsu. Or struggling with a weight that was easy last week. Or even getting crushed in a work capacity.
Then self-talk starts - but not the positive kind.
Negative attitude breeds negative thoughts breed negative actions
For me, this is the magic moment.
This is when I learn how weak I actually am. This is when I look for pity. It’s a desperate search to see who feels sorry for me and who wants to take it easy on me. Who wants to be my friend and help me out by letting me work a little bit less or help me find the easy way out? Who will find it in their good graces to let me do a little bit less? To let me quit. To tell me that my weak little effort was good enough.
I’ve had these moments many times over the years. They are always just within reaching distance if I want them. And to this day, every time I’ve found myself here, no matter how often I look I have yet to find my hero.
Where is my hug? Maybe I’m doing it wrong? Maybe I should have surrounded myself with more compassionate people?
Or maybe I just need to realize that no one cares about my gurgle of self-pity.
Anyone who has ever trained has been where I’ve been.
They’ve felt my pain.
Henry Rollins says, “Scar tissue is stronger than real tissue. Realize this strength and move on.”
Is it that simple? Well, it isn’t that complicated...
I am guilty.
Even after years of training.
Years of getting kicked in the teeth day after day.
I still have ego.
I still think that I am special. That I am prepared.
That my fitness will carry me when my mind is weak and that my mind will carry me when my body is weak. The reality is nothing can be further from the truth. When my frustration mounts and I don’t stay ahead of it. It might as well be the first time I tried to swim a mile, or wakeboard, or spar or Olympic lift, or hike a 14er.
No amount of fitness really prepares you for getting punched in the face or the first time you are exposed and staring down a 5 thousand foot drop off or first realizing that water can be as hard as concrete. These things have to be experienced again and again for you to even grasp what they truly are.
And experiencing hard things the first time can be a little traumatic, no matter how tough or fit you think you might be.
The first time I had to step over a several thousand foot drop off, my knees actually buckled in fear. We were probably 13,000 feet up and I had never experienced exposure before. Vertigo swallowed me and my throat constricted so that just the tiniest pinhole of air could whistle through. I desperately looked around for a helping hand. For someone to rub my back, and tell me it was going to be ok. I wanted someone to wipe my tears and comfort me. But alas nothing. Nothing but more elevation. More horrific drop offs. More snow, wind, and discomfort. More anxiety. No hug was had or given that day.
I remember being in Thailand in 100-degree heat and choking humidity. Just standing in the ring getting punched and kicked for 15 minutes straight by a much taller, much faster Englishman with broken teeth. Everytime he hit me it hurt worse than the time before. Every kick felt like a hot knife getting stabbed into my ribs or into my legs. I found myself desperate for a way out of that ring. The self-pity was a gigantic glob in my throat. Sweat and tears had mixed in my eyes effectively blinding me. I was so tired I couldn’t keep my hands up. This was dangerous. I was getting hurt. I wanted out so bad. When I retreated to my corner all I got from the tiny Thai coaching me was “Hand Up!, You No Get Punched If Hand Up!” Then he actually slapped me in the face hard enough that I felt my jaw pop and spun me around for another five minutes of getting beat to a pulp. No hug was had or given that day.
Two weeks ago in Jiu Jitsu I was wrestling with a much smaller opponent. I outweighed him by 70 lbs and was much stronger. But none of this seemed to matter as he put me in progressively worse positions. As he choked me and bent my arms into submission. I tried to slow it down, to banter, to joke, anything to just catch a breath and make my lungs feel less like they were going to explode. What I got instead were more armbars, chokes and general humiliation. I tried to use my assets. My strength and my conditioning. And as soon as my arms were wet noodles and my lungs were straining so hard that it sounded more like I was whistling instead of breathing. There were no assets. There I was, just a dude getting choked by a guy half my size, and there was literally nothing I could do about it. No hug was had or given that day.
Each and every one of these days has physically and mentally broken me. These situations expose me. Not who I want to be, but who I am. The weakest part of me. They let me know exactly what I can’t do. Exactly where I fail. Exactly how weak I really am.
They have let me intimately know the depths of my own self-pity and no matter what situation I find myself in, no matter how bleak or sad it is in my eyes. No matter how deep in the pit of self-pity I find myself. I have yet to find someone to reach and hand out and to pull me out of my own pity puddle. No hugs. No icecreams. Not a single one. Ever. My self-pity is mine and mine alone. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. No one can feel it for me. No one can take it away from me. Like a sick stray cat. I know it’s gross and I don’t like it, but I chose to let it in. I chose to feed it. I chose to pet it. I chose to let it be a part of me.
The well of self-pity seems to be ever deepening and I would love to say that when you fall in someone will be there to help you out.
But in my experience, that has never happened. Not once. Probably because you can’t fall into the well of self-pity. You have to actively jump.
You have to make the choice to shift your focus from self-improvement to self-pity.
You have to want to suck as much as possible. To get as little out of the experience as possible.
You have to make a monumental effort to take something that should be a positive experience and make it negative.
All of these experiences were hard for me, at the time, some of the most difficult things I had done. But none of them hurt more than my ego and each one exposed a weakness that I can improve upon in the future.
And while none of these things ever got easier, the more I attempted them the better I got at dealing with the fear and the frustration. As routine and repetition wore on, I found hit harder and harder to feel sorry for myself.
I wish I had tricks for helping you out, I really wish I did know a way for you to improve without having these breaking moments. Without having to feel the frustration and self-pity. Without exposing the parts of yourself that you don't want to ever know about.
But if it’s really that much harder for you than everyone else, maybe you should quit.
If you struggle so much more than everyone around you, maybe it is too much.
Maybe someone should pick you up and wipe your snotty nose and tell you it’s going to be ok.
Maybe you aren’t cut out for this.
Maybe you aren’t good enough.
Maybe you aren’t strong enough.
Or maybe you are...