While finishing up my training the other day, a young boy approached me and said, “Strong! You’re strong! I want to be strong like you!”
This left me absolutely speechless. This little boy couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old. I had no idea what to say. I stammered out a thank you and slurred, “You can be strong, too.” He smiled and gave me a fist bump before walking into my gym’s kid area for his youth MMA class.
This might seem completely unremarkable to some people. I don’t know. I will readily admit that I’m young—only 23—and I don’t have any children of my own. Hearing that little boy tell me that I was strong left me dumbstruck, and it triggered a rush of memories and self-analysis that left me in a daze for a few minutes.
You never know who is watching you while you train. You never know who you’re impressing, who you’re inspiring, or who you’re instilling with a desire to be stronger. You might have your training partners in the gym, but what about the people in the audience at your last powerlifting meet? What about the teenager in line behind you at the gas station who wishes he was as big as you? What about the family members who wish they had your drive and passion for training but would never share that with you? What about the young man who reads your website and wants to be big and strong? You never truly know the number of people you’re reaching and affecting.
You never know at any given time when there is someone, somewhere who considers you a role model. You never know when someone is admiring your efforts and dedication.
I remember being that little boy once. I remember being at the gym daycare while my mother was working out. I remember seeing men, men who looked big and strong, and wanting to be like them some day. I remember being both frightened and enthralled with the weights they were lifting, and how strong they seemed to be.
I remember when I was fifteen years old and a girl teased me for being skinny. I remember being intimidated by the bigger lifters in the gym who could put up so much more weight than me. I remember racking up injuries and walking with a cane and feeling so damn weak.
I remember getting under the bar for the first time and how my legs ached for days afterward. I remember psyching myself up for a deadlift with three plates on each side for the first time. I remember the first time a girl told me that I was a “big guy” after two years of lifting, and how it had all been worth it. I remember the first time I worked out with one of my younger cousins in the gym and how thankful he was that I was willing to help him.
After that little boy’s comment, I remembered all the times that I had felt weak. I remembered all the times that I had wished I was stronger. All the training, all the plates, all the effort— it will never be enough. I will never ever feel strong enough. I will spend my entire life needing to be strong(er).
But for that one little boy, I was strong. And I think for the first time ever in my life, even if only for a moment, I believed it, too.