When you’re a little kid being overweight is cute, as you get older, that’s not the case. It eventually becomes a source of guilt and humiliation from your “friends” and yourself.
From the ages of 8–14years old, I was fat. That’s just a fact. I consistently weighed 15–20lbs heavier than my peers.
I knew that I was overweight, but it wasn’t something that we ever talked about in my family. I had been that way since I could remember. It never had a negative impact on me growing up until the day I couldn’t play football anymore.
I had been playing Pop Warner Football since I was nine years old. Before every game, we were required to weigh ourselves to ensure we didn’t exceed a defined weight class for our division. In theory, it makes sense. If you control weight classes, you level the playing field and keep kids safe. (Now that I’m much older I don’t believe that to be true. Genetics play a significant role in sports, but for now, I’ll leave it at that.)
Having played since a Pee-Wee, I always barely made weight, but nevertheless, I was never benched for not making weight. This year was different. I was 15lbs over the maximum weight limit. I never did make weight before the first game and was indirectly forced to quit. I hated myself for not being able to play. My friends would brag about football while I was stuck at home doing nothing. For the first time in my life, I felt like an outsider.I was 13 years olds.
It was that experience that negatively impacted my self-confidence for years to come. I came to believe that If I could just lose the weight, I would be happy just like my friends.
So the summer before my freshmen year of high school I asked my mom to buy me an exercise machine. Through a lot of hard work and multiple workouts, I lost 20lbs. My friend’s who hadn’t seen me all summer couldn’t believe I lost all that weight. On the first day of school, I remember wearing the tightest shirt I could find. I even tucked it in to make me look even slimmer. My confidence was at an all-time high.
I even ended up playing football again for a few years before I realized wrestling was better suited for my stature. But even then the issues with my weight never disappeared.
A running conversation with my wrestling coaches was always about my weight. Wrestling at the precise weight class is crucial for competing at the highest level possible. I knew that but hated what it took to lose the weight to stay ranked. During wrestling season my weight fluctuated an average of 15 pounds every week. We ate when we were hungry and starved ourselves when it was time to make weight. That’s how we dieted. The constant struggle to lose weight took a toll on me both physically and mentally. It took almost a decade to fix and understand.
Through high school and my young adult life, I attached all my self-worth to how I looked. It became an infatuation. I would say to myself, “If I were skinny then all my problems would go away.” What a lie! I wasn’t happy until I got there. And when I did lose the weight, I found myself unhappy again because it was impossible to keep it off. When I wasn’t able to maintain a certain weight my confidence would drop drastically. I called it “yo-yo confidence”. I was tired of these emotional roller coasters. Then one day, I decided I was going to stop chasing the elusive 8-pack. When I did that everything changed; I learned to develop a level of self-worth, self-belief, and self-assurance that was completely detached from how I looked.
I began studying the Greats and what made them successful. Book after book, I noticed something profound. They never once mentioned anything about eight pack abs. Instead, they talked about believing in yourself first and taking action for the things we did not like. “Be yourself,” said Emerson. “Realize your potential,” said the Dali Lama. “Trust yourself and you will know how to live.” said Goethe. I took all these things literally, even if that meant I could never be the perfect weight again.
Which is why I believe the most important thing you can do in your life is to develop self-confidence through internal belief systems. “Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” Lao Tzu
How you look is the icing on the cake (pun intended).