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Self-Image and Experience

I had the opportunity to set up a booth for the gym at Fishers Fun Fest, a local event put on by Fishers Martial Arts this past weekend. The event was geared towards kids so there was a lot of vendors with typical fun things kids like to do. There was axe throwing, multiple bounce houses, cotton candy, Kona Ice, and other opportunities to win FREE things. What were we offering? We had a barbell set out with some weights for kids to come see if they could lift it. Before the event, I honestly didn’t think any of the kids would be interested in picking up a barbell. How do we compete with Kona Ice and cotton candy?!

I was very blown away by the result. Almost every kid that attended the event came up to lift the bar. Some kids’ multiple times. From a 14-year old with very little training experience to another girl licking cotton candy off of her fingers so she could get a better grip on the bar, I was pleasantly surprised to see all these kids getting excited about lifting weights. It wasn’t just about lifting the weight but being able to do something that they didn’t originally think they can do. It was this that got me thinking…

There were adults at this event as well. We had a light bar with weights for the kids, but we also had a Rolling Thunder, a piece of equipment to test grip strength, for the adults. What I witnessed was that almost all the kids, whether they were a bit hesitant at first or not, gave it a shot to lift the bar while very few of the adults expressed any interest in the Rolling Thunder. So, my theory is that we as adults have either completely lost the ability to have some fun and try something new, or we are afraid of trying something new because there is the possibility of failure, or the experience not living up to our expectations. It wasn’t that the kids weren’t afraid of failing, but that they didn’t care and decided to do it anyways.

I could be completely reading way too much into this situation, but I don’t think that’s the case. My theory as to why the kids dove into the experience of deadlifting and the adults expressed no interest whatsoever in the Rolling Thunder, or even were hesitant on letting their own kids deadlift boils down to self-image.

At the early stages of life, we haven’t yet built up an image of ourselves in our mind. We don’t really think of ourselves as anything other than a kid experiencing new situations. Kids haven’t yet been fully conditioned by society and their peers as to what they should look like, what they should do, or how they should act. Most kids fully immerse themselves in new experiences because even if they fail, or it doesn’t meet their expectations, they haven’t yet conjured up such a huge self-image, so it doesn’t feel personal. They might feel emotional about certain situations, but because they haven’t yet been told enough times who they should be, they aren’t afraid to go get after it again.

We as adults on the other hand are a complete mess. We have created an idea in our heads about who we are that any experience that could lead to that being shattered; we shy away from. It’s easier to not try something than it is to experience thoughts and emotions that don’t lend themselves to our previously held beliefs about ourselves. If you think of yourself as a strong person, it is much easier to continue to think that than it is to enter in a Powerlifting or Weightlifting meet to see how strong you really are. Society has created frailty. The fear of failure and negative consequences are so strong that we would rather sit on the sidelines because it makes us feel more comfortable.

So, what is the step forward? I think the best step forward is to start stripping down our self-image. Why is it that we have created that specific self-image anyway? What if we have just continued to be sold lies and we continue to go along with them? What if we don’t really know who we are? What if we are constantly evolving and constantly changing? What if experiencing something new doesn’t have to coincide with our current beliefs about ourselves? Can we start framing bad experiences in a positive light? If we can start thinking about these questions in a different way, I think we are on our way. Sometimes kids have the answers right in front of us.

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