What do you believe in? Do you have a belief? What philosophy is it based on? What is the foundation of this philosophy? Is it the truth? What truth is this? Who’s truth is this? Do you question those so-called truths? The most important truth is, do you know YOU? What do YOU stand for? Do you love YOU? Do you, really?
I was raised a catholic and still am. My wife adopted this faith as well as my children. It is our choice. What is your choice? Your choice in religion? Or are you ‘spiritual’, not religious? Maybe you’re an atheist. Maybe an agnostic. It is your choice. Choices have to be respected.
I have come to question a lot of things about my chosen faith and about me, just like, I assume, you would have also about yourself. You see, I have always told people who don’t know the sport of body=building very well, that preparing for a contest to ultimately, win or get a podium finish is like an extended period of Lent. Yep, Lent!
To achieve the goal of presenting your very best and improving your chances of winning, I have to go through an extended period of Lent, or in other words, an extended period of self-deprivation. However, the difference with actual Lent, is that with Lent, you are told to ‘give up’ something you love – it could be chocolate, alcohol, smoking or anything else that makes you ‘feel good’ and somewhat makes you also ‘feel guilty’. As a kid, I remember choosing to give up chocolate during Lent and that was difficult because I loved chocolate. I still do. One of my many weaknesses.
In the preparation of yourself for a body-building contest, you have to take this philosophy and multiply it and take it to another level. A level that very few are willing to take. You don’t just ‘give up’ one pleasure, you have to ‘give up’ many. And not just for a month (approximately the period of Lent), you have to ‘give up’ almost all the pleasures of life, all the things that make you ‘happy’, for anything up to 20 weeks, give or take. That is 5 months of your life. Five months of self-imposed self-deprivation. Five months of saying ‘no’ to things that make life a little bit more pleasurable, a little bit more happy.
You live in a self-imposed ‘purity bubble’ in a world that is in a continuous state of decadence. That is what you have to do, to achieve a ‘look’ that the judges and fans are looking for when you’re on that stage. That body-building stage. That is why I believe body-building is the toughest sport in the world (others would argue otherwise but I understand differences in perception). That is what you have to do to get the results. To win. This is what you have to do in this sport, just like a swimmer needs to swim daily for his sport, just like a soccer player has to kick a soccer ball around.
Got me thinking about Lent and our society’s insatiable desire to win, sometimes to win at all costs. You see it everywhere. On tv reality shows, In relationships. In business, In sporting events, in schools and even in families. To ‘get ahead ‘ in life, we’re taught to fear losing. Fear failure. Growing up, I would hear my grandparents and aunties and uncles reminding us kids the point of Lent was self-denial. That by depriving ourselves of something we love, of something that brought us pleasure was a good thing. That it proved that you were strong. What a load of you know what!
Here’s where I am at odds with this way of thinking now. Here’s where I am at odds with my chosen religion. It is the propagation of the whole set of attitudes that implies that being pleased with yourself is somehow wrong. Suspect. That not being the same as everyone else is crazy. That being different is dangerous. That high standards means lots of losers and that suppressing or ‘putting people down’ is the best way to make them grow, The best way to make them spring up.
The bible says that we need to love thy neighbours as thyself. Lovely philosophy but flawed! Back to my earlier question: do you really love YOU? I think there are more people than not that do not really love themselves. Think about. Too much of our society and its teachings are designed to make most of us feel like LOSERS MOST OF THE TIME.
Gee, they have even got one of the most popular reality tv programs, with that very word in it. To make us feel like LOSERS MOST OF THE TIME. Like I said, its everywhere – in the media, on tv programs, in gaming shows, in our examination system, in our organizations. Its everywhere. So, I now question that very belief of ‘loving thy neighbour as you love yourself’ and the philosophy it stands on. If machinery of today’s society, is designed to make most of us FEEL LIKE LOSERS MOST OF THE TIME, then, if we really did love our neighbours as ourselves, most of our neighbours would get the short end of the stick. They would get a raw deal. They would lose out.
The up-coming Winter Olympics is a celebration of elite talent and what I am talking about will be on show there. The podium finishers: first, second and third are celebrated. Whole countries are judged on their medal tally and haul. What will be on show during these games, is it is as if we were governed by the philosophy that only the top three count and the rest are ALSO-RANS. This philosophy is flawed! I’ll tell you why.
When I started my body-building competitive career (over 20 years ago), I always felt my biggest competitor was ME. That no matter who I came up against in contests and no matter what result I got, I would not lose sight of the fact that I am competing against ME. I was setting my own standards for ME. My goal was to set my own targets. My goal was to be better than I was yesterday and the week before that and the month before that and the year before that. Even though winning or being in the top three was a goal of mine, it never defined who I was as my performance was not tied to the result, but it was tied to the effort I had put in to it. I dreamed of being a better ME. I dreamed of bettering myself at each contest, compared to prior contests. To prior years. Not to others That’s comparing apples with apples.
However, most of what we’re taught in life is to win and sometimes to win at all costs. With that comes the dreadful mind-set of the fear of failure (refer to my earlier blog on this topic and how everyone should love the ‘f’ word more). This is a direct consequence of the idea that winning is very important, even though it is so difficult. So, fear of failing becomes more paramount. A disease of the mind. The best strategy in this case would be to avoid losing. To avoid failing. So, everyone effectively accept the ‘status quo’. Everyone be the same. Don’t be different. Its too dangerous.
So, if the best strategy is to avoid losing, its best to lower your sights, lower your standards, lower your goals, dream small – not big. Keep your head down, don’t try to stand out but above all, don’t try too hard. Nope! Don’t try too hard. That way, if you fail, god forbid, you can always blame your laziness, not your lack of ability. You can continue to fear failure and stay the same. That is what society wants. For everyone to stay the same. If you fail, you escape responsibility for your actions and explain your failure by claiming that the particular challenge/contest/business venture/ relationship you were in did not justify the energy needed to sustain it.
What a load of rubbish!
I think it was the recently deceased Nelson Mandela that said that ‘being small, serves no one’. I agree. However, much of what society and religion has been founded on is the philosophy of being humble or in other words – being and thinking/dreaming SMALL. Thinking too big, dreaming big, is not encouraged and dangerous as it leads to being ‘different’. Being different can be very costly to you, the individual, and the society, as we are taught to believe. What Mr Mandela was trying to say, I believe is that being ‘small’ or being ‘humble’ for the sake of being humble serves no one: it does not serve the person giving it nor the person receiving it. It does not serve humanity.
What Mr Mandela was saying was probably that if humility is the mode, then apathy is the mood. Inaction and indecisiveness is exactly what society wants. Inaction or apathy is the fuel of all fears. And we wonder why the fear of the ‘f’ word – failure, is so rampant in our society. Its because, the firewood that strokes these flames is everywhere, in the very fiber of society and religion.
Its sad, but true, it seems that most people need to be stroked like a pet cat. Frozen with fear, people need to be stroked emotionally and psychologically in a positive manner, by someone for something, almost every day. If they are not stroked, they are a heap of mess. If that is for one person, then it must be for many more. Energies are low. Belief in self is low. Depression and diseases of the mind are rising exponentially around the developed world. The obesity epidemic that has been gripping the world in recent times is only a symptom of a bigger problem caused by the machinery of society and religion. The obesity epidemic is a symptom of the ‘obesity of the minds’ of people ( I will talk more on a later blog).
Its okay to be different. Yes, being different does come at a cost. But it is ok. Be brave. Know yourself more. Love yourself more. It is okay to love yourself more. We are each meant to be different and to celebrate and appreciate each other’s differences. That is what makes the world go round, right? You have been blessed with a bunch of talents or gifts and you have a responsibility to use and improve your bit of YOU. Your bit of creation. In turn, if possible, you should also help improve the talents and gifts of others. To not allow yourself to dream big, to not allow yourself to imagine a better, more improved you. To ignore these god-gifted talents yourselves and take it to new heights, new standards is to deny yourself and others a most beautiful thing. It gives humanity the short end of the stick, the raw deal. This is the ultimate disrespect to your creator, whoever, whatever religion that you follow.
So, get up and love yourself!
Why not love yourself a little today and then love others. Make a commitment to love yourself, even more, tomorrow and continue for as long as you live. Love YOU. This is not soft. This is not wrong or bad. Now, your neighbours will not get a raw deal, when you adopt that saying “love your neighbours as yourself”. They will get the BEST OF YOU. That is what I have taught my daughter to say as her prayer every night: “God, help me be the best I can be, for ME and for everyone else.” Notice, it is for her first and foremost, not for mum or dad. And so, if she hypothetically came last or out of the top 3 in a contest, but if she tells me she gave it her best, then, in my eyes, she won. In my eyes, her effort and her participation tells me she won. And that is exactly what she will believe in. That will hopefully, instill a belief that will lower the risk of her fear of failure and allow her to just ‘have a go’.
Participate. Just do it!
It is okay to be an ‘ALSO-RAN’ and also feel like you’re a winner. You’re a winner because you didn’t believe in apathy or inaction. You’re a winner because you tried. You gave it your best. You gave it a go. You’re a winner because you came in fourth, exhausted and encouraged – because last time you came in fifth. You’re a winner because winning is also – giving yourself to others freely; winning is also never whining; it is also picking up a beer can you didn’t throw on the beach; it is becoming that dream of yourself that would fulfill you as a person with high self-esteem; it is being glad you are you,; it is unconditional love; it is a way of thinking – a way of living; it is a habit (so is losing – be careful).
Winning is all in the attitude, an attitude of the mind. Your attitude toward your potential is either the key to or the lock on your door of personal fulfilment. Action squashes all fear.
Now, consider an alternative definition of Lent: don’t give something up, take something on. Dream big. Dare to be different. Don’t fear failure. Set higher standards for yourself.
Love yourself. Love yourself more. Love others. Give more of YOU to the world. Exercise your attitude of mind.
Become a somebody!
All the best in your journey in the sea of life.
Until next time,