Lifting The Film And Seeing Myself

(3 lessons I learnt from All The Way To The Finish Line)

Last week, my now great friend, Santiago Piqueres (filmmaker and producer of the documentary….and this new website), and I, had the pleasure of hosting around 30 of our close friends, family and clients at my place of work, Well Bath Health and Wellbeing Centre, for the launch of the All The Way To The Finish Line documentary.

We were honoured to receive some incredible feedback on the film. We knew how good it was but it’s easy to feel doubtful that others feel the same as you until you get actual validation. Santi and I sat together in my garden after the event, beside a fire and soaked up the good energy we had been afforded at having completed the project so successfully.

At the end of 2016, having experienced a profoundly intense mental and emotional breakdown, I found myself in a place I can only describe as Hell. I knew what I had experienced wasn’t normal by other people’s standards. Indeed, it was deeply troubling for many of my loved ones. Nonetheless, experienced it I had. Amongst the many things that tormented me in that time, one of the biggest fears I had was that what I’d experienced might have been for nothing- a figment of an imagination being formed in a malfunctioning brain!

It’s taken more than 5 years to feel ready enough to start to reveal this story, and All The Way To The Finish Line is the first real step in that process. I am ready to be seen again.

For so long all I did was try to be seen, I made myself BIG and BRASH to make myself visible. Operating in that way eventually broke me down. On Thursday night, I revealed myself again, but on terms I’d agreed with myself before the unveiling.

This last 5 years has brought me much awareness. One such realisation is that if I wish to be seen, I have to first see myself. When I commissioned Santi to make the film, I thought it was all about making other people see me, but what has happened has been so much deeper.

In watching the film (which I have done 4 or 5 times now) I have been able to do something that is not commonly done. I’ve been able to watch myself. Usually we look out, watched only by others.  The film shows me going about my normal life, working with clients, interacting with my family, doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and spending time birdwatching. Getting that point of view has been enlightening and contributed hugely to my personal growth. Here are the things I’ve learnt;

  • I look more confident than I feel- I’m aware that my experience and credentials make me an industry leader. I know people come to me because they believe me to be an expert. If I’m honest though, I’ve always felt like an imposter, and particularly since my exit from elite sport in 2016. The film has shown me that I at least look very confident. This has had the knock-on effect of giving me the confidence to actually feel confident. I clearly know my stuff and I’m carrying that to my clients with more conviction since seeing the film.
  • I like myself- I look at the guy in that film and think, “he looks like a nice person. He’s trying his hardest. He’s owned his mistakes and he’s doing his best to make up for them. He loves his kids and his wife. He’s interesting and he’s intelligent. He deserves to be liked. He’s me.” Over the last 2 years in particular, I’ve come to learn that so much of the pain I’ve caused for myself has been because of crippling low self-esteem. “Love yourself,” says every feel-good meme on instagram and every tacky Ikea wall decoration. It’s actually not that easy. The world tells many people it should be more and I’ve made a life out of that fact. Watching the film and seeing me being me came with a warm feeling. It’s helped me to actually feel that I’m alright. That feels really good.
  • I care a lot less what people think now- Allowing myself to have been viewed in this way, especially that I use the film to talk truthfully about my breakdown and the negative relationship I had with certain substances has revealed to me that I’m more comfortable with the possibility that I could be judged or criticized. I have been open about it in my personal (and sometimes professional) life pretty much since it all happened but it’s a different thing to put it out to people I don’t know or who maybe haven’t seen me for a while. It’s not just the more troubling aspects of my story that I may want to have stayed hidden however. Along with my BIG and BRASH persona were a series of interests and behaviours that had been encrusted into my way of life that I believe were largely there because they were deemed somewhere within me as what a MAN would do- like rugby for instance, or spending endless nights in night clubs drinking. I was always happy to have it known that I was fitting the mould for what a real man likes to do. My biggest passion now is birdwatching. It is often met with a look of surprise or a chuckle that as a relatively young man, what I love to do is hide in the undergrowth with my binoculars looking for a bearded reedling or a cetti’s warbler, but that is the truth. If that’s not the cool thing to do, so be it! I’ll continue to do it, and to tell you about it so that you could perhaps benefit from the benefits to your mind, body and spirit that is available (for free) within the natural world.

I’m sure as I watch this film again and again, I’ll gain more insight into myself- there are always deeper depths that can be reached within our infinite selves. Santi has produced something that I’m incredibly proud to have go out into the world and that will add a small contribution to the already underway, ever-quickening and totally unstoppable awakening of humankind. You can watch it here.

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