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How to Kick Your Own Ass

“The Dark Side’s callin’
Now nothing is real.”
-John Cafferty and
The Beaver Brown Band
Eddie and the Cruisers 

I have Cerebral Palsy – I can’t balance well.
I have Asthma – I can’t run.
I have Diabetes – Exertion can give me low blood sugar and make me sick.
I’m Morbidly Obese.

This was my hateful inner mantra, my self-flagellation of my self esteem. This was my secret self.

The world sees a different man. The joking, jovial, hopeful Keith Karabin is often the one to offer some quasi-motivational quip or view from his constant bright side of things. I must add that this man is real. I do think that way, and do that stuff—much to the annoyance of those around me. I’ve always been proud of my personality, my outlook and my never-give-in style of living. But, my secret self is also just as real. Whereas my hopeful self lives in the ephemeral things of character, my negative secret self is solely grounded in my unhealthy body. Most of my life I’ve let those problems above control who I thought I could be; I let my body image become my self image.

No more. My secret self is a douche bag, and I’m bringing him into the daylight. C’mon with me, and bring your secret self. We all have them and they’re all douche bags. I’ve been kicking my negative self’s ass for months. It’s time to share my moves.

Your Enemy is You

The heat of the battle is as sweet as the victory.
-Bob Marley

I have Cerebral Palsy – I can’t balance well.
I have Asthma – I can’t run.
I have Diabetes – Exertion can give me low blood sugar and make me sick.
I’m Morbidly Obese.

That mantra ran through my head as I ran a 5 kilometer race on Saturday, October 27, 2012. It ran through my head when everyone left the finish line and most of them went ahead of me, but I was still exhilarated. It ran through my head as I passed the 2/3rds complete marker and I stumbled. The cold concrete lurched up at me and I could almost feel my palm-skin tearing, knee bones cracking. But I didn’t fall.

I think a big reason that I didn’t fall is because by then I knew the route, and my own body, much better than ever before. I had been training for three months on the exact route this 5K would run and every time I did, I had brought my own negative ass with me, purely for the kicking. I had to. Low body image can undermine you if you don’t find some way to beat down your negative self because “confidence to be physically active is a powerful predictor of engaging in physical activity. Compared to people with high body image, those with low body image have less confidence to be physically active.” (KSU, 2010)

Kansas State University’s Pr. Fallon and her partner in study, graduate in kinesiology Bryce Burton found that “emotional barriers like a negative body image prevent individuals from having an active lifestyle.” That was what I faced. That’s what we all face. Let’s use some italics and bold for clarity:


Do you see the trick we play on ourselves? We let the emotions surrounding our poor body image stop the physicality we need to solve the body image problem! See? Our secret self is a douche and Even Pr. Fallon had to learn that we all have them. “I didn’t think body image would matter for the men, because generally speaking our culture is more focused on modifying women’s bodies in some way,” she said. “But we found that low body image may deter men from physical activity, too.” I bet she didn’t really need to study that fact, only ask her partner, Mr. Burton.

I’m not going to belabor the “how to fix it” on this aspect because the key is to know your enemy. I’m always fond of putting it on paper so that you can dispute it, control it and/or destroy it. I’ve talked about using that mindful skill in present funks and in your own history, so click on them to learn more. In brief I shall say that the best disputation of my negative mantra above—the bully’s song that my secret self sings—was to get up, get out and get moving. Let him sing, he can’t stop me.

Another reason that I didn’t fall when I stumbled? By running with my inner enemy these last three months and sticking to my diet, I was no longer morbidly obese, my balance was better, my Asthma was trained to it and my blood sugars were stable.

So there, negative self. 

The Sound of No Foot Kicking

Once you know the ass of your enemy, the next step is both simpler and more difficult: You. Must. Kick.

Yes, in the The Less Funky You I detailed how to dispute your own negative cognition on paper and with words. I believe that works when we’re simply dealing with the forerunners of a funk, or worse yet, depression. That can be tackled first in the thought life, but even then there are some active, “doing” goals.

However, in terms of poor body image or low self esteem, I am a believer that positive affirmations alone can have negative effects. When Dr. Joanne Wood of University of Waterloo studied people with low esteem who tried just saying nice things about themselves to themselves she found “the low-esteem group felt worse afterwards compared with others who did not.” She said on her Psychology Today blog “that most self-help books advocating positive affirmations may be based on good intentions or personal experience, but they are rarely based on even one iota of scientific evidence.”

In fact Dr. Steven Hayes, psychotherapist, and author of Getting Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life has said that “trying to correct negative thoughts can paradoxically actually intensify them” because you focus so much on correcting the negative that you overlook the positive. (Williams, 2012)

There’s a divide between therapists who think you should “analyze and counter” your negative thinking (classic) or those who think you should “accept that you have negative beliefs, thinking and problems and focus on what you want.” (Third Wave) For the rest of us, I fall in the middle. This is supported in both camps who agree that “positive affirmations can help when they are part of a broader program of intervention.” (Williams, 2012) You should fight your negative, secret self in your mind, and your desires, and your actions.

Thus, acknowledging my secret self and his negative thinking was only step one. Step two was bringing the fight to him; getting out and starting to train for a 5K. 

1st Rule of Kick Ass Club: Talk about Kick Ass Club

 I’m on the Brute Squad.” -Fezzik (Andre the Giant)
You are the Brute Squad.” –Miracle Max (Billy Crystal)
The Princess Bride

Anyone who follows me on Twitter (it’s right there to your right if you want to) knows that I’ve been talking about my training back when I could barely do 1K without a coronary event. I’m a big believer in the support and accountability partners you gain when you bring your fight against your negative self to social media, friends or family. Your secret self and his negative jive need not be common knowledge, only the battle that you fight. But if you do tell someone about that deeper, negative aspect of yourself, please make sure of your trust of them first. Yes, I told all of you, but that’s for science, and another secret that I’ll get to shortly.

Know your enemy. Start your battle. Call your Brute Squad. Don’t fight this fight alone.

I only use a 5K as my example since my negative self is connected to my own false perceptions of my physical limitations.

Your fight may be in finding the “bright side” in something once a day if your negative self connects to depression.

It could be a battle for you to make healthy meals if you struggle with bulimia or anorexia and a cooking class or recipe forum could be your Brute Squad.

Your battle could be a knitting or quilting project if you use that to handle the anxiety with which your negative plagues you, and thus your Brute Squad could be a knitting forum or a quilting circle.

Here’s the other secret: You people are part of my Brute Squad. Even if you’ve never sent a word to me, I’ve noticed that I’ve written more about the connection between physical, emotional and mental health over the last year than ever before. Your eyes on those words have held me accountable and given me strength against my negative self. Thank you.

I have Cerebral Palsy – I can’t balance well. But I can train, run and succeed.
I have Asthma – I can’t run. I know now that this is a lie.
I have Diabetes – Exertion can give me low blood sugar and make me sick. And glucotabs fix it fast and fit in jogging pants pockets.
I’m Morbidly Obese. Not. Any. More.

Thanks again, Brute Squad.



Fallon, Elizabeth and Burton, Bryce. (2010) K-State Study Finds a Negative Self-Image Stops Men and Women From Exercising Long-Term; People Often Drop Out of Physical Activity Programs Within Six Months. Kansas State University. http://markets.financialcontent.com/stocks/news/read/12581624/K


Williams,Ray. (2012) Why Don’t My Positive Affirmations Work? Positive affirmations can actually be counterproductive. Wired for Success. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201210/why-dont-my-positive-affirmations-work

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