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As I blankly stare into the dregs of my $8 beer, letting the Chainsmoker’s newest single pound its way into my body with the exasperation of someone who acknowledges that they’ve made poor choices and that it won’t be the last time they do, I realize my friends are staring at me from across the table. After a cursory scowl to deter the pack of bros scouting for a extra chairs so the girls with them can use them as coat racks, I turn back to the conversation I’d unwittingly ignored.
“Man, did you see that guy fly off the mechanical bull? He’s concussed for sure,” my friend marvels.
I slowly shake my head, a familiar sinking feeling in my gut. While the rest of the group expounds upon the times they definitely did or didn’t make it to the end of the bull ride, a slow, wide smile splits my friend’s face into a rictus of perverse joy. As his mouth opens, I can hear that battered rational voice in the back of my mind give a defeated sigh.
You could practically hear the switch flip. Everyone’s head snaps to me, their eyes alight with anticipation. My eyes narrow, and my judgement burns away in a surge of self-righteous heat. I slam down the rest of my drink (and my friend’s too, because screw him) and stalk towards the padded floor with which I will soon be intimately reacquainted with.
The moral of this story (besides “my friends are all enablers”) is that the fastest way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t do it. Ever since I was one of two black kids growing up in the suburbs, being condescended to about the quality of colleges I planned to (and did) attend, I fed off dismissal. I thrived on disbelief. The feeling of satisfaction I feel after defying expectations has only been topped one and a half times in my life- it’s like a drug. People have always told me that positive thinking is the key to success and I’ve become a better person out of spite and self-loathing just to prove them wrong.
Some people say they work best under pressure and folks, there’s no pressure quite like crushing self-esteem issues. I was trying to get back into shape about a year ago, and after working out my macronutrients and caloric intake I was projected to lose about 20 pounds in a year or so. I sneered down at my phone, signed up to swim in a race across the Golden Gate bridge (which is a whole other story of regrets I’ll get to), and lost 40 pounds in the last 9 months.
To be perfectly clear, I’m not negging myself on the daily- it’s about the challenge. When I look in the mirror, I’m not pointing out all my flaws, or admiring the progress I’ve made. I’m deciding to look good enough that people will want me for my charming personality AND my body. You can set goals and reward yourself for doing anything, but if you really want to succeed in life you need drive. Hunger. Maybe you just hunger for rewards, that’s fine. My local taqueria recognizes me on sight now, and I can’t judge. But the next time you’re feeling down on yourself for something don’t just have a few too many drinks at happy hour. Do that, and then shake off that hangover and turn that hate into something great..
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