Looking At Life Differently, Week 23: Changing The Way I Think About Me

Malala Yousafzai

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


Like many of us, there was a time in my life when I thought I should start bodybuilding. To make a long and boring story short and boring, I worked out like a bomb for almost two years and looked virtually the same as when I started. It didn’t help that every wall was a floor-to-ceiling mirror. I tried everything – eating emasculated chicken, dieting, water pills, and supplements guaranteed to pump me up like a helium balloon. Apparently the patented molecules had never encountered anything like my bird-like metabolism before, for after two months of drinking that vial sludge after every meal, all I could show for my efforts was that I had apparently lost the ability to have a bowel movement. This made me gain weight, but not the kind of weight that I was going for.


There is no end to what some of us will go to in order to look good on the outside. We are not here to do a social commentary on makeup and Lululemons and those short shorts you have been rocking. Working out is good for you and we want to encourage you to get to the gym or Training Center and drop some sweat. That is not what this is about. We are not interested in  denigrating you for how you dress, or how much you spend on your personal appearance. There is nothing wrong with looking good and we encourage you to shower and occasionally dress up and look your best. I may never truly understand how that eyelash medieval torture device works, but I support your right to attempt to use it without pinching your eyeball.



But here’s the deal. There is no end to what some of us will go to in order to look good on the outside. This can become problematic when it defines how we feel about ourselves. Living your life to impress others can be a trap that can have a catastrophic impact on how you live your life and how happy you are with that life. So many of us feel as though we somehow do not measure up.


Defining yourself by the standards of other people is dangerous, and this need to live up to the expectations of others has been rammed into us by the stick-figured girls in the media who still manage to pull off a six-pack with their Botox and fake body parts. We emulate men photoshopped into perfect thousand dollar suits and new cars, with a supermodel on each arm. Culture tells us that this is success, that this is beauty. Those of us with stretch marks or bellies, with poor cheekbones and weak chins, will never measure up. If you don’t believe me take a look at the long list of aging Hollywood actors who have mutilated their hairlines and faces just to pretend to not be aging. They are paying thousands of dollars to fight a fight they cannot win. We are all getting old. Deal with it.


The point we are trying to make is that the system for belonging, for finding love, for feeling valued, is largely messed up. We lie when we date, seeking to put our best foot forward. We look for love in all the wrong places. We judge each other by what we look like, by how well we flirt, or dress, or measure up to some unrealistic standard. It’s all a game, a psychologically damaging contest that often dismisses the best of us, the brightest, the kindest, the most worthwhile… the unbeautiful.


Many of us have struggled our entire life to fit in, and feel good about how we look and who we are. We have never been satisfied by the look of our shell. Here’s the bad news. You probably never will be. Ever.


The opposite of bad self-esteem is not good self-esteem.

 The opposite of bad self-esteem is self-acceptance.


Esteem follows acceptance, not the other way around. You can diet, eat right, work out, take bowel-clenching supplements; but that won’t change how you feel about you on the deepest levels. We are a generation with low self-esteem and insecurity, bombarded by images of perfect teeth and wrinkle-free pretty people with impossible waistlines. You will never be able to compete with Photoshop. Even models don’t really look like models first thing in the morning before they’ve “put on their face”.


Maybe it’s time to stop that treadmill, take your toys, and leave the building.


Imagine if we tried our best then didn’t care about the rest.
Imagine if we could care a little bit less about our love handles and flaws.
Imagine accepting ourselves exactly how we are, in spite of what we look like.
Imagine the freedom.


At Excel Martial Arts we are dedicated to helping you find wholeness and meaning in life, both on the gym mat and in the real world. We seek to encourage you to do your very best, but also enjoy your life and find purpose with the skin you are in. Not all of us will stand on the podium and hear the cheer of the crowd but at the end of the day, that stuff really doesn’t matter as much as we’ve been lead to believe. Your life has meaning, even if you will never be a supermodel. Life can be so much more than these shallow pursuits, and we want to invite you to excel in your very own special way.