I dropped out of graphic design in College to work as a labourer on a construction crew for a year and a half, and have continued working construction as a summer job. The rough job really changed me. Even though I was taking active steps towards overcoming my fears during my early college days, construction helped build character that I would not have gotten anywhere else. In some ways construction is the best thing that ever happened to my game.
I needed summer work and my friend was able to land me a job on a construction crew. My friend shared some encouraging words the day before work, “This is a hard fucking job. You’ll probably quit, but at least it’s something for now.” Nice. It was hot as fuck my first day of work, and I ran to meet the gentlemen I was going to work with. Winded and sweating I enter the work truck, and nervously shake these calloused gentlemen’s hands. They tell me what to expect on my first day, and I already feel anxious as fuck. I bust my ass the first day, confident that I did a terrible job; they keep me employed though, and so I kept coming back. I enjoyed the hard work, a lot. Being raised by an elitist grandmother, I always though construction was below me, but after my first week part of me realized that this line of work was exactly what my life was missing.
Truth be told, I was intimidated as fuck by these construction gentlemen. I never felt like I was good enough to be on their crew, and their whole way of speaking and working was tough. I would have been 18 or 19 when I started, and working with older gentlemen was foreign to me. When they made fun of me, as construction gentlemen do as a way of endearment to their fellow man, I actively defended myself and got angry even. The summer passed and I decided to drop out of school to continue work in construction. I ended up getting accustomed to the construction banter, I started to turn the brutally hard work into menial routine, and most important, I got over my anxieties through this process. Construction changed that for me most; situations that seemed scary or rugged, construction prepared me for. Working such a hard job with a lot of dangers really made me approach life differently. Construction hardened me in a way other experiences hadn’t, and while I can credit the raw dangers of the work environment for that, I also owe it to the guys I worked with. Having a bunch of grown men constantly throwing banter back and forth, or laughing at stupid shit on a day to day basis, really makes you look beyond the menial nature of other embarrassing situations or environments you face in your life outside of construction. If you do something truly embarrassing at work, you bet your ass everyone is going to laugh at you, but that’s how you become hardened, because you realize that certain situations are out of your control and you move on from them stronger; that’s what construction did for me.
Not to mention, construction shifted me from a 160 pound pudgy beta (I did work out, but not to this extent) to a 190 pound foot ball player-sized gentleman. The pure athleticism this job required leaked into all facets in my life. I’m no longer content during my off season sitting around, I now feel that I am forever active; I have to work out on my days off, I have to go for long walks, I have to challenge myself physically at all costs since working construction. Being physically active all the time not only gave me a physical boost, but a mental one (I have to assume this is due in part to higher testosterone production), and knowing that I was able to shift myself into an athletic gentleman – a gentleman I would have never considered before construction – made me realize academics and other activities in my life could be improved by hard work.
Hanging off of a rope while carrying 200 pounds on your shoulder really makes situations like approaching women seem trivial. Facing bigger gentlemen who look like they have never worked a day in their lives seems trivial. Falling off a sky-high beam because you were doing something stupid makes getting laughed at because you tripped over a curb seem trivial. The more I worked construction, the more I realized that a lot of average fears anxious people such as my prior self had, were trivial. Having that edge in understanding your fears really pushed me to challenge life head on.
During a presentation in school I stood on the table to add extra emphasis to the anthropological study we were presenting. The table slide right from under me, I landed on my back in front of a class of one hundred. Some laughed, and some offered support. I got up, and without a word acknowledging the stupid tumble I took, I continued with my presentation.
If this was two years ago, before I started construction, I would have been a nervous mess.
I remember a female friend of mine back in high school told me I was ugly. She told me I was a nerd and that maybe one day I would be attractive. Maybe. That lingered with me, and that pain followed me for a long time. I remember feeling a crippling anxiety take over me. I went to my house, sauntered past my mother, went into my bedroom and balled my eyes out. I remember going to sleep right after my cry-fest and waking up with a outlook I did not want to believe: I was a fucking chump; some lame mother-fucking clown was what I became to women. I hit rock bottom, my confidence plummeted for awhile here, more than it already was, but something changed inside me. I was fucking pissed. Not only at her, but at myself, and at my station in life.
During my high school year, I wasn’t unpopular, but I wasn’t the guy girls were swooning over either. The girls who showed interest in me were just as awkward as I was, not to mention they were far from lookers. I suffered from crippling anxiety, getting up in the morning and knowing I’d have to face people made my stomach turn. This anxiety became a shitty cycle however, because I felt like over talking and being obnoxious would alleviate the anxiety, and when someone would call me out for being annoying as fuck, I would linger on that persons comments for months, and this would make my anxiety worse; this same cycle continued to repeat itself throughout high school. I remember a girl asking me a basic question, a girl who I had only spoken to a handful of times prior, and I responded with “your mom” because I thought this would get her to laugh and like me. She looked confused, and told me “you’re weird.” I remember lingering on that feeling of being called weird for almost a year, and wondering what it was I was doing wrong with women, and people in general. See, at this time anxiety was not something I understood beyond it being a natural state of who I was; this state kept me in a rut of fear and awkwardness. That girl who called me ugly though, she really helped put things into a different perspective, she made me realize that everything I was doing was wrong, that my approach of being obnoxious and over talkative was not attractive, that my slender frame was weak, my ideologies were weak, and my overall approach to life, was weak.
I woke up from that nap, and realized I needed to change. It wasn’t an over night process, this took years for me. One of the first things I did was quit this silly vegetarian diet I had been on for almost ten years, which turned out to be one of the best choices I have ever made; at this point I always worked out, but starting to get more protein intake from meat sources made me rapidly bulk up. Within less than a year, I went from a scrawny little guy to being large and muscular. This change in size built a level of confidence I didn’t have before, and I started becoming less fearful of others. In addition to these body changes, I started focusing on my style. I bought more fitted clothes, wore nice shoes, and ditched the glasses. Ditching the glasses, like becoming a meat eater again, was a paramount change. Turns out the same frames I wore since I was ten up until that point really narrowed my face out, and made my eyes look weird. Wearing contacts showed off my eyes, and started to give my face a more shapely look. For the first time in my life, I felt attractive. Fresh off my new found confidence, I started to realize that all these ideas I had about people and the world were wrong; I started to face things head on and when I did, I realized my fears were irrational. The more I feared something, the more I pushed myself to approach it. Now, while the physical changes helped, this battle was still mostly a psychological one, and even with approaching situations head on, I still had the lingering insecurities that I was not good enough, that I was ugly, that I was weak. It sounds weird, but reading seemed to help me get over these insecurities. I started learning many social-oriented subjects (Psychology, Endocrinology, Criminology, etc) on my own, feeling like I was becoming a better human each time I discovered something new about these subjects, because I realized I was able to relate a lot of these ideas to myself.
Still, it was not enough just to become more physically attractive and more intelligent, and while what I’m about to say may sound unconventional, I needed validation. I started getting female attention for the first time in my life at around 19. I remember staring into her eyes fantasizing about how much I wanted to fuck her, we made out for awhile, and I started undressing her. She stops my advances, looks at me, and tells me “You’re really hot, but I don’t want you thinking I’m easy.” I know this seems trivial, but hearing that a girl thought I was hot, it became an addiction. It became an addiction to know I was attractive, to know I was worth it. Of course, the issue here is that it’s easy to get into a rut of only ever being valuable when people give you value, and that’s what happened for a time. I think though, I needed that time to build myself up to the person I am now. In a way, I needed to get the validation that I wasn’t a loser from every girl I met in order to get over the invalidation of the first girl who called me ugly.
I saw the girl who called me ugly a couple years after I set my change in motion. I remember thinking to myself, “I’ve progressed so much, do you think she’ll call you those things now? Do you think she’ll comment on how much you’ve changed?” I spoke to her briefly, expecting her to comment on my large frame, my confident posture, and tasteful style, and she did not say anything about any of these changes. In fact, she was completely indifferent to my changes. I left and realized something profound, that moment that set all of these moments into motion, was insignificant to her. A moment that triggered positive moments for myself, meant nothing to her. This realization was the final puzzle piece in getting over myself, and realizing validation meant nothing. I finally saw that validation was nothing, and that you can only count on yourself for happiness.
I think back to that day of that girl calling me ugly, and ask myself how I would handle something like that if it happened now?
I’d give her a cold stare, and move on with my life.