Even at a very young and tender age I was vain and extremely conceited. I remember the day I first noticed the first signs of definition in my abs. I was sharing a bath with my little sister. I must have been maybe 5. Young but with an abdominal section well beyond my meagre years. I remember noting that my big brother didn't have the same muscular mid-section. This made me feel superior and proud.
I liked to think I was strong for my age. I used to think I was strong for my size. Around the school yard I felt powerful and imposing for some reason, maybe I was just a more aggressive child or maybe I was just a little more angry then most, definitely part of it was that I was overcompensating for being labeled, 'short". Whatever the factors, a part of my sense of self was, in part, firmly vested in my physical stature from the get go.
I was proud of being the fasted in my class. I was proud to beat on the tallest kid in class. I entered 5 and 10k races and loved the validation I felt when I was presented with a certificate of completion for my efforts. I went for long hikes in the bush and pretended I was a soldier. I used to get off the school bus a few miles before my stop and ran the rest of the way with my child hood best friend just to prove I was tough. A teacher labeled us "the two toughies". I watched action films with wide, impressionable eyes, thrilled and excited by cavalier violence and Arnold Schwarznegger's biceps. Sports stars, action heros and feats displaying physical prowess gave me a tangible rush. I was getting pumped on body image.
And then...puberty. Didn't grow quite as much as everyone. Didn't quite feel as physically imposing as I had. I still exercised and played rugby where my tenacity proved valuable, cricket where my lack of co-ordination and confidence proved disastrous, and gave everything a nudge, but I didn't dominate proceedings. The field was stronger and hairier now. I still had muscular definition and the belief I had and was some body, but my ego was tempered.
I continued to explore. I took an introduction course for wannabe aerobics instructors, signed up for half-marathons and a marathon while experimenting with smoking various substances and hit the gym with friends who were bona fide gym rats in the making and made my narcissistic streak appear puny in comparison. More and more I began to really appreciate how much fun working out and exercise can be. Exercise was an adventure, and I loved adventures. And exercise also made my abs pop, and I loved my abs.
The more I worked out, the healthier I felt and the less it became about physical aesthetics. When I pushed myself, my self-esteem, along with my muscles, became stronger and more defined. It is with a sense of inevitability I find myself workings as a personal trainer. I am now able to share my love of exercise and working out, and when I can impart that love to someone else, well, that is a very rewarding feeling. When I can glimpse some healthy vanity shine through a client, when a client breaks new boundaries and sets new personal records and when that sense of play and adventure that can come with working out and exercise is alive it gives me such a kick. I just love that. It reminds me of when I was a child first noticing the first hint of what were to become my abs.
I love what working out does for my body, my mind and my relationships. It is not so much about self-absorbed egotism these days. It is not just about superficial feelings of self-appreciation, I feel a deep sense of achievement by doing positive and healthy activities with those around me.
So go on, show yourself some love, hit the gym, play some sports, go on an adventure why don't you. What have you got to lose apart from a few percent body fat? Work it out and enjoy another way which you can love you, like I love me.