Disclaimer: this article is in no way intended to be disparaging to the countless motivational and uplifting gym teachers out there. It is merely a personal metaphor based on a popular stereotype that, more than likely, has little basis in reality. 

Despite the title, this is not an article about food distribution. It’s not the name of the world’s worst high school comedy, either. What it is, however, is an article about allowing yourself to feel good and be proud of yourself. Revolutionary, I know.

As far as personal achievements go, I feel that I’ve done pretty well. From working as a support technician in a call center to being spotted for my writing ability and having the company create a role just for me – which, by the way, was and still is my dream job – my life couldn’t have taken a more favorable trajectory.

So why don’t I do cartwheels out of my front door every morning?

cartwheel photo
Photo by frankpierson

Because, you see, I have a mean-spirited gym teacher following me around. Think Mr Woodcock but without the charm.

This gym teacher is visible only to me, and he does his best to make me feel inadequate and question my achievements. Sadly, for the most part, the cranky bastard succeeds.

When my (absolutely brilliant) therapist first suggested that I visualize and put a face to my feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness, I immediately imagined a gym teacher with a whistle jammed between his tobacco-stained, crooked teeth. Having always been useless at all types of sport, this seemed like an apt personification.

Whenever I achieve some great personal feat (and, as I mentioned earlier, there have been quite a few), Mr Woodcock (or, alternatively, Bob Hoskins in that one episode of Frasier) blows his infernal whistle in my ear and yells “You suck, Mijnhardt! You’re nothing, and you’ll always be nothing!”

Because this gym teacher has been with me for most of my life, I believe him. Of course I’m nothing. I was stupid to think that I could ever be something. Thank you for setting me straight, Mr Gym Teacher, sir.

The next challenge assigned to me was to visualize the good, positive, uplifting feelings. This, fittingly enough, I struggled with.

How about a cheerleader?” my therapist offered. Yeah, what the heck, I thought, and let my imagination do the rest.

cheerleader photo
Photo by skeeze

When, a week or so later, I returned to the couch still plagued by feelings of failure and inadequacy, I wanted to know why the blasted cheerleader wasn’t doing her job. Was she experiencing pom-pom failure? Pep-meltdown? Cheer, damn you!

Once again, the sad state of affairs was placed in perspective for me.

I had been feeding the gym teacher while leaving the cheerleader to starve. By choosing to only listen to Mr Woodcock’s skewed opinion of my achievements – or lack thereof – I had unconsciously inflated the fellow to the size of the Goodyear Blimp. The cheerleader, on the other hand, had become emaciated and weak, her voice now a feeble squeak against the gym teacher’s powerful roar.

It wasn’t her fault that I wasn’t hearing her. It was simply easier to feed the glutton that had been feeding upon my happiness for at least the past twenty years.

My challenge now is to start feeding the cheerleader. Small snacks (of trust) at first – I don’t want to shock her delicate system to such an extent that the poor thing expires – and then gradually give her bigger meals until she has regained her strength and can do what she does best, namely cheer!

And, if she gets too corpulent, we’ll just slap a red suit and a beard on her and call her Santa Clause.

Originally published at www.forourloveofwriting.com.