Without labels… who do we know who we are?
If we were who we are supposed to be, wouldn’t it make sense that we could be who we are?
But, we can’t.
To belong, we have to be labeled.
To be politically active, we have to be labeled.
To eat healthy, we have to be labeled.
To work out, we have to be labeled.
To work, we have to be labeled.
To live, we have to be labeled.
What’s wrong with being our self?
Nothing really… well, except that means we would have to put in the time and effort to find out who we are, what we stand for, and worst of all… be confident in who we are.
Think about it for a minute…
When was the last time you did something for yourself?
When was the last time you thought an original thought?
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and challenged who was staring back at you?
How many times a day do you think for yourself rather than just going with what you’ve always thought?
How often do you agree with the people around you, so you don’t have to have the uncomfortableness of going against the grain?
How did you get where you are today? Did you create your own path or follow in the footsteps (or vision) of someone else?
I spend a lot of time talking and working with people to disrupt their current thought/action process… not because I enjoy demolishing people’s lives but because they understand something has to change and they don’t know where to start.
So, what’s the most logical way to find out who they are and where we are starting?
Ask them and then shut up and listen.
People will tell you everything if you give them a chance. Who they are, what they do, why they think the way they do, and yes, even if they don’t realize it… they will tell you why they are happy/unhappy and what actions they took to put themselves in their current situation.
People will tell you everything about their identity and who they think they are… and they will also tell you what external force put them where they are… but the one thing people don’t realize is the WHO put them in the position they are currently in.
People who exercise, will tell you what sort of exercise that defines them, but they won’t tell you who took the action.
People who eat healthy, will tell you what product or diet they are on, but they won’t tell you who takes the actions.
People who consume drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, will tell you what product they are hooked on, but they won’t tell you who takes the actions.
Think about it for a another second…
When someone is a runner, crossfitter, cyclist, (insert every sport available) … they usually pick their favorite or where they fit in and describe themselves that way.
i.e. I’m a runner.
When someone eats healthy, they have to be defined by a name… you can’t just make positive food decisions… because we don’t want to sound like weirdos who don’t fit in.
i.e. I’m a Vegan.
When someone makes poor life decisions, they have to have something else to blame it on… because we can’t take personal responsibility for our unhealthy choices… It must be someone else’s fault.
i.e. I’m a social smoker.
When was the last time someone admitted who they were to you?
I’m Gary and I live the way I do because that’s the way I want to live. I spend my days talking to people, challenging their way of thinking, and helping them grow. I eat healthy, I like to run but I do all sorts of exercise, I don’t drink or smoke anymore because I made the conscious decision to not do it anymore… I have two boys that I love dearly. Nikki and I have worked outside social norms to develop a positive relationship so our kids can see how two decent and loving people can get along even when there are differences in life choices.
How hard is that?
Define yourself for who you are, not by what group you will or won’t fit in…
I know, it’s really difficult…
How do I know?
I tried so damn hard to fit in and I couldn’t… I couldn’t find a group that would accept me. I couldn’t find a diet I liked or that I could be perfect at. I tried using nicknames like Run Epic and Out Run Your Excuses to cover up who I was in hope people would latch on and force once in my life accept me!… but turns out that didn’t work either.
I had to do some soul searching. I had to look deep inside myself and find out who I really am. I had to define myself, not by a word or a group… but define who Gary Stotler is, what he stands for, doesn’t accept into his life, how he thinks, challenges himself, talks, looks, acts, speaks, and … the list goes on. The process has taken me years, no… over a decade of conscious and subconscious effort to bring forth the person who is here today. It took years of heartbreak and loss, many years of feeling left out and alone, attempt after attempt to try to fit in this group and be rejected… so moving to that group and still not being good enough…
I’ve been mocked and laughed at many times for how I choose to live my life. For the longest time it was painful to feel like I was never accepted for who I was… but it turns out being rejected by others for who I wasn’t was less painful than being rejected by myself for who I was.
It wasn’t until I fully committed to myself that I was able to learn myself. I had to take the mask off and dig deep into the corners of my soul to find out who the Man in the Mirror was and who his is today. Watching the face slowly change and wondering every single day if the feelings on the inside would change with him. Watching everyone around me find social acceptance and standing on the outside hoping one day I could fit in the cool kids’ crowd. Wondering if anyone would ever recognize who I was or what I’ve accomplished…
Turns out, all those painful moments and memories forced me to move forward down my own path. Not being accepted for the way I eat made me create my own idea of what healthy choices looks like. Never fitting in as a runner or crossfitter made me look at wholistic health and find the movement I enjoy and works for me.
I used to tell everyone that I was 400 pounds, have lost half myself, and have run multiple 100 mile races… I didn’t tell them because I was proud of myself for what I had done and the positive lifestyle changes I made… I would tell people because I thought if I told enough people, someone would think I was cool, and they would want to be my friend. I thought if I told enough people I would get on the cover a magazine. I wanted someone to want to write a book about my story. I wanted nothing more than to be on a TV show and have them ask me questions about how I did it and how I could help others do the same…
But here I am… all this time later and all these accomplishments later and no one has called. Honestly, no one really even cares what I’ve done, good or bad… All the pain and disappointment that I felt for not being accepted has led me to one thing…
It’s led me to me.
I know who I am.
When I look in the mirror, I know who the person looking back at me is.
I can look into that person’s eyes and know what he is thinking. I can challenge him in ways no one else can. I can accept him in ways no one else wants to…
Best of all, I know the confidence the Man in the Mirror has… I know when he sets his mind to something, there is nothing anyone can do to stop him. I have trust in him that when he says he can and he will, there is no valley to low or mountain too high… he will find a way. I know when he finds himself in a bad situation, he would rather live a life of poverty and starvation to keep his self-worth in tact than to let someone belittle and betray him… There is no risk or gamble too high for him as long as he is betting on himself and he has control of his portion of the game. With enough time and effort, he has the patience and fortitude to outlast any storm. He will move forward with every opportunity and will dig his heels in with every adversity…
I hope you can look at yourself in the mirror and feel the same. Don’t let the thoughts and feelings of others rule the 5 inches between your ears. Find your true self, define who you are, and go like hell to create the reflection in your mirror you will be proud of.
You will encounter many defeats on the journey. You will find many dead-end paths. You will lose encouragement of others and often you will feel the resistance of those who “love” you most trying to “save” you from failure and heartbreak… but I can tell you from experience, it is better to love with all you have and get your heartbroken than to give up the chance for love for the fear it might leave you.
Believe in yourself and BE YOU.