Boxing Doesn't Define Me

Individuals define themselves by one thing or another. Most people define themselves by way of external factors...that is to say, factors that exist outside of themselves rather than inside of themselves. When I was a teenager, I defined myself by being an athlete, as I grew a little bit older a surfer, as I grew a little older a teacher and most importantly, as a I grew older and had children, a father.

In the James Toback's superb documentary "Tyson," there is footage of Mike Tyson's June 11, 2005 fight against a third tier heavyweight, Kevin McBride. Tyson was at the end of his career but needed a payday to take care of his bills. The footage depicts the fight of a man who was out of shape and appeared to care very little about the outcome of the fight. The vicious tiger he had once been was out of gas.

Following his loss against McBride, he was being interviewed in the middle of the ring and revealed that he no longer loved the sport of boxing, that boxing wasn't in his heart anymore. Unrehearsed and unscripted, he suddenly says in the middle of the interview, "Boxing doesn't define me." I was watching the dvd in the living room and when I heard those words, I paused it and called out to Terry, "You need to come in here and see this."

Who says things like that? Who, unprepared and uncoached, on the spur of the moment, says things like that? I'll tell you who: conscious people...people who are coming into their awareness and consequently, their power. "Boxing doesn't define me." I couldn't believe he was saying that for boxing had been his entire life. I was floored and I realized that Mike Tyson was not the Mike Tyson I thought he was.

I felt inspired and moved. In spite of the past, in spite of the damage for which his life had been known, here was a man rising above his past and defining himself anew...in the middle of an embarrassing loss. And if you think it stopped there, it didn't. He congratulated McBride and wished him luck in his career. What? Who is this guy? Because it's not Mike Tyson.

I remember when I lost the first of two custody suits for my two children and suddenly, in the blink of an eye, my entire identity was wiped away. It was unfathomable and unacceptable that a judge would tell me that I could visit my children. Visit? I sank into the darkness and despair from which I thought I would never make it out. I just wanted to die. I have often referred to it as the dark three years of my soul.

But it turned out to be one of the greatest learning experiences of my entire life and as a result of those events, I saw with absolute clarity that the event did not define me...that the definition I had formed of myself was incorrect and untrue...that my well-being did not depend on anything outside of me, including being a father. As I consolidated my learning, I learned that when the tension and the pain of the experience is so great...when all outside resources have been exhausted...when the outer world has been destroyed, the individual will turn inside because there is no where else to turn. Self-identity is an inside job.

As you move through life, your inner power and union with the forces of life  is replaced by a belief in your own individual skills, on possessions and all the false security that they offer. Your inner knowing with which you are endowed gives way to keeping up the ego ideal...keeping up with the image of what and who you think you should be. The eternal safety and balance in which you are constantly held is supplanted by depending on the love and acceptance of others. But is only a matter of time. And when that time comes, you, too, will have an opportunity to announce what does and does not define you.

So, if you haven't figured out what comes next, I'll tell you: you define you. Not them, not the world, not your job, not how much money you have, not the car you drive, not the stuff you own, not what they think about you, not your parents and not your children. You define you.

"Boxing doesn't define me." Wow. Maybe he won that fight after all

Self-AwarenessAshleigh Stoia