How to Stop Feeling Like a Lost Cause
The person you are versus the person you act like.
There are two versions of yourself.
There’s the person you are, and then there’s the person you act like in the world.
The greater the distance between these two people, the more unhappy you probably are. The more you make your true self a “shadow self”, the more inauthentic (and miserable) your life becomes.
Living a double life will cut your life in half. Your time will be split between two very different people, and “you” won’t really exist.
For me, it all started because I was bad at basketball.
In 7th grade, I tried out for my school’s basketball team, and after 2 days of tryouts, I didn’t make the first cut.
I was out of shape, kind of chubby, and really just not very good at basketball. My free throw percentage was appalling. I had no business trying to play for the team, but I wanted what basketball players had.
I wanted to be on the basketball team because I thought that if I made the team, I’d never get bullied again and I’d never feel bad about myself again. I thought I’d get abs and girls and friends and everything else a 12-year-old kid would want.
Instead, I got sent home.
But looking back, getting cut was the best thing that could have happened to me.
A few weeks after I got cut from basketball, my mom told me I should “give wrestling a try”. At first, I immediately rejected the idea.
I thought wrestling was “gay”, and I was already chubby and awkward. I didn’t want anyone to have anything else they could make fun of me for. Not getting harassed was the leading driving force for most of my decisions until I was about 20.
However, I found out a friend was also trying wrestling, and that a lot of NFL football players wrestled in high school to get better at football.
This changed things.
I decided to give wrestling a try, and I’m so thankful my mom got me into it because wrestling completely changed the course of my life.
Most wrestlers wrestle because their dad did it. I wrestled because my mom thought I needed something to do. This made my wrestling experience unique because I had never seen anything like wrestling when I started.
Wrestling is a wild sport. It’s insanely tough and ridiculously complicated, and it gives you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It’s an adrenaline junky’s best friend, and it’s an incredible tool for early-stage personal development.
Wrestling gave me the confidence to stand up for myself, it gave me the discipline to become more physically fit and healthy with my diet, and best of all, wrestling led me to Jiu-Jitsu, which is now my favorite thing in the world and my job.
Wrestling changed my life, but wrestling also has a dark side. All combat sports do.
The dark side of combat sports.
I write a lot about the beauty of combat sports.
Some people have read my articles and used them as motivation to start their own martial arts journeys.
I love the personal responsibility, the lessons on life, overcoming struggle, and bouncing back from both defeat and triumph that you must do in combat sports. These aspects of combat sports (whether it’s wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or MMA) are fundamental aspects of the human experience that I wish more people were able to experience and learn about.
Combat sports allow people to experience these things in a condensed environment.
The problem with combat sports is a social one. To put it bluntly, the culture has some kind of fucked up elements to it.
For me, the struggle was always that I never felt like I fit in. I was too sensitive to be a good wrestler — I cried too much. I was too anxious to become world-class at Jiu-Jitsu. I was too artsy to be a fighter.
Honestly, when you look at my upbringing on the surface level, I was never supposed to fight anyone. The fact that I’m doing this for a living is kind of ridiculous.
It gives me imposter syndrome.
To fight well, I always thought that I had to be this tough, stoic, strong man who didn’t feel anything and never struggled because that was what I saw in my combat sports heroes. They never struggled, they only overcame.
I was never like that. I was constantly struggling with every aspect of the combat sports experience.
Hell, when I first started wrestling, I didn’t even like being touched by people.
I was a grappler to everyone I interacted with (and a pretty good one), but inside, I was more, and I was holding that side of myself back.
The person I am and the person I was acting like were very different, and because of that, I was miserable doing my favorite thing.
How I stopped living a double life.
Eventually, the double life became overwhelming.
I wanted to quit Jiu-Jitsu because I was neglecting the other aspects of myself so much that Jiu-Jitsu wasn’t fun anymore. I thought Jiu-Jitsu, though I loved it, was the problem.
“I wasn’t born to fight people. I’m just good at it,” I thought.
I’m also good at other things. I’m okay at writing. I’m a decent friend. I’m getting better at teaching and speaking as well. For my age, I’m pretty good at all of these things.
I neglected these interests for years because I thought that doing so would make me a worse athlete. I didn’t see other athletes “pursuing other interests”, and when I did, they always lost a step in their competitive performances. Doing anything besides training felt like a risk.
Still, I had to give it a shot. I had to do something other than fight to feel like myself. I had to stop living the lie that I was telling myself.
I started seeing myself as more than just a vessel for medals. I started to see myself as a human. Life is more complicated than sports.
That’s how I started writing. Writing gave my sensitive, anxious side an outlet that I never had before. It made me more intelligent, and more thoughtful, and it increased my self-esteem a lot. I was very surprised and the positive effects of this new habit.
At first, I thought that writing was going to make me weak and frail, but that's not what happened.
Writing made me stronger. I didn’t constantly have unresolved anxiety anymore, so when I went to Jiu-Jitsu, I could just do Jiu-Jitsu.
Leaning into my weird, sensitive, artsy side made me better at doing the “tough guy” stuff that I do like Jiu-Jitsu, lifting weights, and wrestling. I stopped living a double life by putting the two sides of myself together.
There are a few lessons here.
The first lesson is that complete humans are usually happier and more successful than incomplete ones that work hard. Most people know this but don’t do it.
Anxiety destroys your chances of success, happiness, and peace.
For athletes, increased anxiety is correlated with decreased performance. However, 30–60% of all athletes experience anxiety. Overcoming anxiety changes your life.
The second lesson is focused on people who struggle with expressing their emotions. If you can express your feelings and emotions, you don’t become weak. You become someone whose feelings and emotions don’t weigh you down anymore.
Fear is not a sign of weakness. Fear is a sign of being a human.
Expressing fear doesn’t make you weak in anyone’s eyes except those of someone who is more afraid than you.
When you express your fear, you start living authentically.
When you start authentically, you stop feeling afraid.
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