A pat on the back is great until you’re standing at the edge of a cliff.
The worst thing that our loved ones do is coddle us. Tell us that we’re doing a good job. They mean well, not realizing the lifelong damage being done.
Worse yet, we sometimes find that thing that makes us feel bigger, stronger, more powerful. A skill, a hobby, a self help course, and it disconnects us even further from reality.
Very rarely you find a person willing to shine an honest light on you. Show you a true reflection of yourself. This moment will bring crippling pain. But the more painful, the better. The path to enlightenment isn’t through self improvement, it’s self destruction.
Destruction of how you see yourself and the world around you. Violent attacks on your ego, destruction of your comfort.
I was an awkward 16 year old.
Didn’t have many friends and was terrified of girls. I felt powerless and lost. I found Magic because I thought that it would make me the most interesting person in the room, and bring me those other missing pieces in life. I turned to magic like some turn to Jesus.
After a family dinner I was showing Card Tricks to my cousin. I felt so proud of myself for fooling him, stupid smirk and all. That’s what it turned me into, someone who needed to feel bigger than his dumb little audience. Unfortunately this happens to many magicians.
I sat there with my inflated ego and waited for him to bow before my greatness. What followed was swift and painful. As I sat there with my self-congratulatory smirk, he snapped and asked me what I was smiling at, “you’re hermit locked in your bedroom. You never get out, you’ve never had a girlfriend, and except for your three friends, nobody really likes you.”
I tried to defend myself, to deny it, but the words sank deep, and they hurt. They hurt so much because they were true.
Five years ago I was a down-on-my-luck security guard with a Masters degree. I blamed the recession, I blamed a lack of connections, I blamed everything but myself. It was Vlad and his fedora against a cruel world.
Still no girlfriend, absolutely no social life, and a nasty little case of depression. Or self pity. I don’t know what it was.
I was hanging out with one of my three friends after finishing my late shift at work. It was probably around 2 am, and we were probably walking to the diner to engorge in another burger with another giant side of cheese fries, extra cheese. This was my social life.
I don’t recall what triggered it, but it was probably a long monologue full of self pity. I did those a lot back then. My friend had enough.
“Vlad, honestly, you just need to marry the first girl that comes your way. It doesn’t matter what she looks like. It doesn’t matter who she is. Whoever is willing to give you the time of day should be the one. You won’t do better.”
Those words were the very last thing I thought about that night. A broken record that looped as I fell asleep. They were the very first thing that I thought about the next day. They hurt me so much, and I didn’t know how to cope with the pain. They were the best thing that ever happened to me.
I felt sorry for myself for many days, until I realized that he was right. Whatever image I had of myself was wrong. I wasn’t likeable, I wasn’t approachable, and if I did find someone it would be a fluke. I wasn’t a victim of the universe, I was ungrateful and lazy, hidden behind a veil of self pity.
The discomfort triggered growth. A five year change that started with Pickup (yet another manipulation to fill the void in my personality) made a few pit stops in delusional self help rituals, and grew into a complete transformation.
To this day it feels nice to have people tell me how clever I am, or well I did something. It’s comfort food and I’m only human. But those rare moments of brutal honesty are what feed my growth and my change.
They’re what saved this blog from adding more noise to the self help nonsense in the world.