My teenage years were tough times. Honestly, I didn’t think I would still be alive today. I remember feeling constantly depressed and anxious. I remember having barely any friends. I remember crying out of desperation and meaninglessness. I remember doubting I could fight off the demons that wanted my life.
But I also remember when I decided it was enough. When I took that first step towards hope. It all started with a little green book called the “Method Lafay.” The author was a philosopher and a sports coach that had tried to blend both together. The book contained a detailed workout program you could do at home with almost no material. At the time, I was 15 and extremely ashamed of my body. I weighed less than 60 kg for 180 cm. Pretty much only skin and bones. I don’t have to mention that I was often made fun of for being skinny.
So I decided to give it a shot. I was determined to change something about my life and building muscle seemed like the best thing to do. I bought a pull-up bar, a pair of old chairs and a notebook. I had no idea this would be a life-changing adventure.
I started at rock bottom. During the first physical test, I could not do more than 20 push-ups and 2 pull-ups. I began training 3 to 5 times a week. Every day, coming back from school, I would put heavy metal and hip-hop songs in my earphones and do my workout. I kept notes of every training in what became my first journal. I wrote down long observations on what needed work and what improvements I could make. I also started eating like a monster. One day, I remember asking my step-father if he could buy me 20 eggs every week for my regime. I still remember the disbelief on his face (I never got those eggs).
I improved very fast considering how low I had started. I built stamina, strength, flexibility, and a newborn sense of confidence. Progressively, I started identifying as an athlete. On Sunday mornings I would wake up at 6 AM and go on runs. I trained outside with my pull-up bar and my rusty chairs, whether it rained or snowed. But it wasn’t easy. I hit plateaus. I got injured. I got frustrated with my capacities. I had to learn to overcome my limitations.
I don’t think I would have made it to where I am today if I hadn’t opened that book. It isn’t the muscle I gained that mattered. It was the feeling that I could progress, that I could act on my reality. This period of my life taught me to be disciplined and to persevere. It taught me how to surpass what I thought were my limits. It taught me about nutrition, health, and physical training. Most importantly, it installed in me hope that a better future was possible.
During our teenage years, we can get very hopeless. School is rarely fun. We often don’t know what we want to do in life. And some like me, hate themselves and feel like they don’t fit in. But what that experience taught me above all, was that change is possible.That we can grow out of desperation and depression. That we have more power on our lives than we think.
To be clear, focusing on my body did not clear away all my existential anxieties. It would take many more years before I found answers to these questions. But dealing with my physical insecurities was a turning point. Learning how to persevere, to reflect on my training, to overcome failures, to be disciplined… These are all skills that supported my personal growth later on. Building my outer shell paved the way for me to build myself from inside in my 20s.
Sometimes, you only have to change one thing about yourself to realize that you can grow, that you have potential waiting to be explored, that your reality is not fixed. Looking back now, I see that it was not about changing my body, it was about changing my mindset.
What I wish you get out of this, is that even when you feel that you are in a desperate situation, you have the power to change. I won’t lie, it’s not easy to change your mindset. You have to be willing to play the long game. But it’s possible if you show up, and take that first step towards hope.