top of page

Don't Be Ashamed - Love What You Love

Updated: Apr 6

When others mock your passion, it's a good sign you’re onto something special. 

Bodybuilding Magazines
My Teenage Love for Muscle Magazines Changed My Life for the Better (Photos credited to Flex Magazine)

No Shame


In his book, Zen in the Art of Writing, the great Ray Bradbury writes this:


“By the time many people are fourteen or fifteen, they have been divested of their loves, their ancient and intuitive tastes, one by one, until when they reach maturity there is no fun left, no zest, no gusto, no flavor. Others have criticized them, and they have criticized themselves, into embarrassment.”


Sadly, Ray reminds us that too many teenagers divest their love because they fear embarrassment or being mocked by their peers. I had one true love that caused me some embarrassment and ridicule as a teen: I loved bodybuilding magazines.  


Late at night, I’d lay on my bed flipping through a giant stack of muscle mags. The pages of Flex and Ironman were packed with photos of Venice Beach barbarians screaming through workouts with gritted teeth, popping veins, and clouds of chalk that evoked scenes of muscular mayhem right out of Mad Max and Gladiator.  


When it came time to buy these thick and glossy magazines with tanned, ripped, oiled, and almost naked men on the cover, I felt embarrassed. Buying these mags at Barnes and Noble felt tantamount to buying porn at a gas station. When I approached the bookstore counter, I’d avoid making eye contact with the bookish clerk and just hoped he’d put the magazine in a paper bag so no one could see the fleshy male attraction I’d pour over for the next two weeks -- reading every article and staring over and over again at the shiny photos of jacked men flexing their biceps and heaving colossal weights.   


Yet, the embarrassment I felt was worth it because the wonder and inspiration those magazines gave me changed the direction my life. They offered me a portal to secrets: “The Secrets to Building… Cannonball Delts, Barndoor Lats, Washboard Abs, Tear Drop Quads, and Diamond Shaped Calves." Staring at these barbarians and following their secrets, I began to believe I too could journey north of the wall and master the one thing I felt so drawn to do in my life: lift weights like a maniac. By following their example, I would never be ordinary again. I'd be myself.


Your Thing


When you follow your heart, ignore the shame, and listen to the barbarian inside, you begin to do what resonates with who you are. You begin to do what you are drawn to do and what you are meant to do. You begin to do your thing.

After a while, the pull of your thing becomes so powerful that no amount of embarrassment or criticism from others can stop you from pursuing your thing.  Soon, your thing just becomes you and your purpose. It’s how people begin to see you and describe you, and above all, how you begin to see yourself.  


When I was 16, I lifted weights like a savage. That’s what I did and that’s who I was. And by pursuing my thing, I slowly became myself. Once that happened, things in my life began to click. I began to see my body change for the better. I became strong with measurable results. I gained a healthy identity and the self-confidence to go with it. 


I still recall a key turning point. On my 16th birthday, I bench-pressed 200 pounds. It’s still one of the great seminal moments in my life. I had put in the work and earned the result. After that, I began to believe I could accomplish great things in life. I had momentum, and momentum was all I needed. 


Two years later, I was named All-State in football and recruited to play football at the U.S. Naval Academy, where I eventually bench-pressed 400 pounds, by the way! Then I became a Marine Infantry Officer, and after that, a bodyguard. Hard to imagine any of that happening if I had not continued to pursue “my thing” when I was 16, fueled in large part by those giant men inside the glossy pages of Flex magazine.  


Joy Envy


I’m so grateful I listened to my heart and ignored those who mocked my love for bodybuilding magazines as weird, gross, or cheesy. Despite the raised eyebrow from a bookstore clerk, the mocking laugh of a teacher for reading them, or the assholes who called me “gay” for buying them, those magazines -- and the freaky bodybuilders inside -- changed my life for the better. They taught me to do what I love and ignore the critics. 


Here's a final thought on “the critics." 


When others mock you for what you love it's a good sign that you’re onto something special. The reason others mock or ridicule you (and your passion) is because they see the joy your passion brings you. They have what Ray Bradbury calls “joy envy.” Your joy reminds the critics of the joy they’re missing from their own lives. Your joy presses on their wounds and they hate you for it.  


So if you have kids, please tell them about “joy envy.” When they hear the criticism of others, they can smile knowing they’re on the right path – their path. And they get to stay on that joyful path for the rest of their life. What a gift!


Use the art you love to fuel your passions and goals, and never apologize for the type of art you use to get you there. Love what you love, do what you do, and never be ashamed for any of it.   


1 Comment

Joy Envy. Damn. I knew I forgot to teach my daughter something before she went off to college! Good stuff Ed...forwarding this 'better late than never' teaching moment to her now...

bottom of page