Inferiority

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Some people are really weird about handshakes. Like, obviously it isn’t polite to be limp-wristed, but some people seem to think “firm handshake” means “I’m going to try to crush your hand.” It’s almost like a power move, a display of dominance. I don’t see the point in it.

Whenever I meet a new client, I shake their hands firmly, but not forcefully at all. I’m intimidating enough; I don’t need any help on that frontier.

That’s what I had in mind when I shook Martin’s hand.

“Great to finally meet you, Martin. I’m Jackson Powers. I’ll be your personal trainer.”

Martin smiled shyly. “It’s great to meet you, too. I’m Martin Levesque, but you already knew that.”

I chuckled and told him to sit down. He fidgeted slightly in his chair.

“So, you go by any nicknames? Marty, maybe?”

“No, Martin is fine.”

“Awesome. You can call me Jax.”

I began interviewing him so I could get a clear idea of what he was after and what we should try for. Throughout the process, he seemed to loosen up, but not much.

Martin told me that he’d been losing weight for a couple months, but wanted to get serious about it. In all fairness, he wasn’t fat at all, just a little flabby in a few areas. He fell into the “skinny fat” category, so he wanted to burn body fat and build muscle.

He seemed to have a very negative view of his appearance, but I thought he was kind of cute. He had dark hair that fell over his face in a nice way. I liked his skin tone (half white, half Sri Lankan, as he later told me), and even glasses and some acne couldn’t hide a pretty face. His body wasn’t bad, either. His legs were nice and his belly wasn’t as big as he made it out to be during our phone conversations.

I knew better than to say those things out loud. I’m not in the closet or anything, but it’s for the best if my male clients didn’t know I was gay. It’s not any of their business and it wouldn’t be helpful to them. If anything it would make them uncomfortable, even if they don’t want it to.

I looked at Martin. He was timid and not confident at all. If he knew that his new trainer, a big buff black guy, found him attractive, he’d probably be afraid and want to run away.

I took his measurements, which he was most certainly not comfortable with.

“I don’t like getting on the scale,” he admitted. “It usually just makes me sad.”

I jotted down the numbers: 6 feet, 235 pounds. Not too bad for a 23 year old.

“This is just a baseline,” I told him. “People take their numbers way too seriously, even though they don’t tell the whole story.”

He nodded. I told him what I had planned and he raised his eyebrows.

“Really? I was expecting…I don’t know…more?”

“It doesn’t do your body any good to overwork it. You need to lose weight slowly if you want to be healthy. You think I got this in a week?” I joked, flexing my bicep.

“I don’t think I could get a body like yours if I work out for the rest of my life,” he said wistfully.

I know I have a good body. 6 foot 3, toned, muscled without being bulky, good cardio, and a nice bubble butt. But I’m a personal trainer. Being athletic is part of my job. He was just a normal guy.

“We all start somewhere, Martin. You shouldn’t value yourself according to how you compare to others. There’s always somebody better, so you should just focus on improving.”

Martin looked down.

“Anyway,” I said, eager to change the subject, “You have any more questions?”

He shook his head.

I smiled. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow at 7.”

My new client forced a smile of his own. “Okay, Jax.”

*****

Our contract meant that we’d meet three mornings a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) and train. Still he went to the gym every day, and I worked there, so we ended up seeing each other daily.

I’ve been a personal trainer for four years, so I’ve encountered the different types of trainees. There’s the complainers, the keeners, the half-assers, etc. Like all clients, Martin had his own little quirks.

He never verbally complained, even if he was tired or straining himself. I’m pretty sure he thought complaining would annoy me, but I need feedback. He ended up pulling a muscle and I had to give him a lecture.

“Martin, if I’m pushing you too far, you have to tell me! I’m not going to be able to read you mind and just know if you’re past your limit. You could seriously hurt yourself!”

His face was red and he probably apologized about fifty times.

That was another thing, the apologies. If I critiqued his form, or even made a comment, he’d apologize like he was scared that I was offended. That was something that actually did annoy me a little. I had to tell him that it’s my job to help him and he didn’t need to apologize for making me do what he was paying me for.

Despite his flaws, Martin was still a great client, one of my favorites. He’s kind, receptive, and when he got more comfortable around me I found out he had a witty sense of humor, too. He casino şirketleri had this crooked little grin and eyes that would shine when he was excited. Apparently he had a job as a restaurant host, but was hoping to get career in economics. He lived with his parents at that point and was saving up for an apartment of his own.

He asked me questions about myself, too. I was a college basketball player with a sociology degree. I told him that I got recommended for my current job through a friend and had been working as a personal trainer since. I said that I lived in the same neighborhood I grew up in, one of the suburbs around Kansas City.

“Really? Which one?”

I told him the name of the neighborhood.

“Wow, that’s not far from where I live.”

As we continued working together, as well as getting closer as friends, I started to notice a few things different with Martin. He’d started looking at me in a new way. It wasn’t like he was checking me out or anything, but on multiple occasions I’d catch him with his gaze on my body. He’d always look away when I caught him, but the glances kept getting more frequent.

I’m sure some people think gay guys have an innate gaydar, a way to just know whether any other man is gay or not, but that’s not the case with me at all. I can’t pick up on clues and don’t even know what signs I’m supposed to look for. I couldn’t tell if he was into me or just looking at my body. He’s told me before that I have the body he wants one day, and was shocked to hear I was 28 (he thought I was his age), so maybe he was just looking at me for inspiration or something.

I tried dropping a hint of my own one day.

“Hey, Martin, can I ask you something?”

He put down the kettlebell he was holding.

“Sure, Jax.”

“Unless I’m mistaken, you’re looking at me a lot more lately. Am I mistaken?”

His red cheeks answered my question before he did. “Yeah, I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize, Martin. You can look all you want, I don’t care.”

He got back to swinging the kettlebell and we changed the subject.

*****

The two of us kept working together, and I could see gradual results. His face and body slimmed down a little and he got a bit more muscle tone. They weren’t drastic changes, but they were definitely noticeable if you knew what to look for. When I told him about it he said he couldn’t see any difference. I would point him to specific places and he said it looked exactly the same.

There was a point about six weeks in when he hit a weight-loss plateau. For three weeks he hovered in a range of a pound or two when he had previously been losing about a pound a week or more. He looked so discouraged when he stepped on the scale and there wasn’t any change. His face was so sad I just wanted to hug him.

“What am I doing wrong?!” he asked, more to himself than to me.

“Sometimes these things just happen. Your body gets used to the workouts and your results slow down. Just keep working at it. Have you kept up with your diet?”

He looked down and shifted his weight from foot to foot.

“What aren’t you telling me, Martin?”

He wouldn’t look me in the eye.

“I…uh…I had some ice cream the other day. I was just craving it so badly. I’m sorry.”

“Did you have a lot of it?”

“No, a normal amount, I guess.”

“Then that’s fine. You’re allowed an occasional moment of weakness, as long as it’s only on occasion and just for a moment. That wouldn’t throw things off.”

The next week he tried working even harder, asking if we could do another set or a few more minutes. I liked his drive, but was worried he was beating himself up over this.

At the next weigh-in he had actually lost half a pound since his last, but looked completely devastated.

“Martin, it’s fine, look, you’ve lost weight!”

“No, I haven’t! That’s just the normal fluctuation. How much more can I do!?”

“There’s nothing else you could be doing. Plateaus aren’t forever.”

To my surprise, his eyes started getting shiny. He looked like he was about to cry.

“Jax, right now I’m feeling like I’ll never be able to lose another ounce again.”

I couldn’t take it anymore. I stepped forward and hugged him.

He stiffened up initially, enough that I almost pulled away, but a second later he leaned into the hug. I gently rubbed his back with my hand. He sniffled against my shoulder.

“Please don’t get discouraged, Martin. You’re making progress. It just takes time.”

After a minute I ended the hug and looked at his gorgeous face.

“It’s going to be okay.”

He nodded, tears still in his eyes. Thankfully he seemed in higher spirits before he left.

That was a Saturday. Our gym closed on Sundays, and that Monday was a holiday, so we next saw each other three days later. I told him that we were going to increase the intensity a bit that session.

“Awesome!”

He was eager to start, but that enthusiasm died out completely in a few casino firmaları minutes. He was struggling a lot, which was odd considering that he was doing exercises he had already been proficient at. His arms trembled as he lifted the weights and he had to take more breaks than usual.

“Are you alright, Martin? You’re not at you’re A game today.”

“I’m fine, Jax. Just a little tired.”

Things came to a head when he got to the treadmill. I could see the strain and exhaustion on his face as he plodded through a workout he could normally do with his eyes closed. Over and over I asked him if he needed to take a break and he kept saying he didn’t.

Then it happened.

In the middle of a step his body became limp and he crumpled down. Instinctively I reached out, but I wasn’t close enough. Luckily he had the emergency stop trigger clipped to his shorts, so the mill cut out, but he still made an impressive racket and everybody else in the gym turned to look.

I cursed and went up to him. After I picked him up and laid him down on the ground, I put my ear to his chest and could hear his heart thrashing around in his rib cage.

Now I was really concerned. Just being a little tired was not something that would make someone pass out on a treadmill. There had to be something serious he wasn’t telling me.

A minute later he woke up. He started to apologize but I cut him off.

“Martin. You just fainted in the middle of a workout. You’re either really sick or running on fumes right now. What happened?”

He turned his gaze.

“Look at me.” My voice was so stern even I was surprised.

His hazel eyes met my dark ones.

“What’s wrong?” I asked again.

“I…I tried fasting. I read online that it could help break through a plateau.”

“How long have you been starving yourself?”

“Since the workout on Saturday, I’ve just had three protein shakes a day.”

Now I was pissed. “And you thought it would be fine to just do that without asking me about it? Without even telling me?” I was raising my voice.

“I…I thought—” he squeaked.

“You scared the shit out of me! I thought you knew better than that, Martin!”

He hung his head. “I’m so sorry.”

I glanced around at the other patrons who were staring at us. I took a deep breath in and out before helping him up.

“Come with me,” I told him.

He followed me out to the parking lot and to my car.

“Get in.”

Submissively he got in the passenger’s seat and I drove us to the Wendy’s down the street.

“Why are we here?” He asked meekly.

“Consider this your punishment.”

I ordered a Baconator, a large fry, and a large Frosty. His eyes widened in realization.

Once the order was placed I sat us down and looked at him with my arms folded.

“You can’t do that shit, Martin. You’re lucky you were hooked up to the emergency stop. Otherwise you would have had your legs swept out from under you and face-planted.”

His cheeks turned even redder.

“But let’s just say you had made it through that workout. You would have left being completely wiped out. Then you would have driven home. You could very well have fallen asleep at the wheel. What do you think would have happened then?”

I saw a tear leak out and realized I was being harsh. I leaned forward and grabbed his hand.

“I don’t want to be cruel, Martin. But starving your body isn’t helping you in any way. If your car is low on gas, you don’t just add enough to turn off the gas light. You fill the tank, or else you’re going to run out of fuel and get stuck in a mess.”

He nodded. I heard my name called and got the order. I put the 2000 calories of fast food in front of him.

“You’re eating all of this right now.”

“Jax, I’m sorry. I promise I’ll—”

“You’re not doing anything until that’s all gone.”

He looked at me and realized I was serious.

I knew I was going outside my job description. I wasn’t his Dad; he had no obligation to follow my orders. But I wanted to show him how much he made me worry, as his personal trainer as well as his friend.

“Do I really have to do this?”

“This will do more to convince me you’re sorry and won’t do it again than any apology,” I offered.

He looked down at all the food and grabbed the Baconator.

Martin began eating tentatively, but within a minute his hunger took over and he sped up. It really didn’t take long at all for him to finish.

“You feel better?”

“Yes, Jax,” he admitted.

“Good.”

I drove us back to the gym again.

“Go home and rest. If you get hungry again, eat. Make sure to drink plenty of water. Get back to working out as usual tomorrow.”

He nodded. I hesitated a moment, but hugged him goodbye.

Martin smiled that crooked little smile of his.

“Thanks for looking out for me, Jax. You’re a good friend.”

I grinned. “Any time.”

He nodded and left for his car.

*****

Thankfully güvenilir casino Martin broke through the plateau and was back to losing weight steadily not long after. Both of us were relieved.

It actually got to the point where our eight-week contract ran out, and he renewed without a second thought.

“You’ve helped me so much, Jax. I couldn’t imagine training with anyone else.”

He kept working hard as ever, and the results were starting to show. One morning he walked in and it sort of hit me all at once how much he had improved.

I whistled. “Damn, Martin. You’ve come a long way.”

He pursed his lips. “It doesn’t feel like it.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “You’ve seen the results. You’re losing weight.”

“Yeah, but I still look fat.”

“No you do not,” I said firmly. “Don’t say that.”

He suddenly got embarrassed and walked over to the first machine.

During our session that day, I realized that Martin had always been really weird with compliments. It’s part of my job to keep up the positivity, so I made sure to point out his improvements. But he wouldn’t absorb them. Sometimes he’d flat-out reject the compliments, but most of the time I just got the impression that they went in one ear and out the other.

I thought about it more. As far as I could tell, he didn’t have depression. He didn’t have an eating disorder, either. In fact, by all standards he seemed like an average person. But there was this strange disconnect with him when it came to him recognizing his own accomplishments. The results he had he treated more like a miracle than the obvious product of his hard work. He kept getting frustrated and blaming himself for every little hiccup.

He also had a serious problem with comparing himself with other men. Whether it was an actor, an athlete, or me, he kept acting like he was the exception, not the rule. He was average, and improving every day, but he never seemed happy with where he was going.

I mulled these things over throughout the morning, and when it was time for him to leave I had to talk to him about it.

“Dude, it makes me sad to hear you call yourself fat or ugly, because it’s not true. You need to be more positive about yourself.”

He looked down. “I know, but I can’t help it.”

I was about to say, “of course you can!” but his tone made it sound like it was more than just an excuse.

“Is something wrong?”

He sighed. “Do you know what an inferiority complex is?”

I had heard the term, but didn’t fully know what it meant. I shook my head.

He glanced at a wall clock. “Look it up. I have to go. See you tomorrow.”

Martin walked out, leaving me curious.

*****

When I got home that day I Googled “inferiority complex” and looked up the symptoms. It was like reading a profile of Martin. It was all there: the lack of confidence, the sensitivity, overall feelings of inadequacy, and a constant need for validation. Everything lined up perfectly. Now the way that Martin acted was starting to make more sense.

Martin was not the best at handling compliments, but he was even worse at taking criticism. Whenever I corrected something, or pointed out something he could improve, he would get legitimately sad about it, like he thought he let me down.

One of the symptoms was social withdrawal, and that matched up as well. Martin didn’t really talk about friends or girlfriends. He seemed to like to spend most of his time alone. Apparently an inferiority complex makes somebody afraid to go out and was often linked to social anxiety.

After reading articles online for almost an hour, I sat back in my chair, my mind buzzing.

Okay, so Martin has a severe inferiority complex, I thought. What do I do?

I’m not a therapist. It’s not like I would know what to do to fix it. But on the other hand just saying “go to therapy” seemed like a cold, impersonal response. We had been friends for months now, and Martin trusted me enough to tell me about a darker aspect of his life. But what was I supposed to say?

I’ve had experience with people that had depression, and it seems like there’s no right thing to say to them, just various different wrong things. I thought about it some more and something from my past came to mind. Maybe I did have something I could talk to him about.

The next day I waited in the lobby for Martin to finish his workout so I meet with him. I was rehearsing what I would say in my head when he walked up.

“Hey, Jax.”

“Hi, Martin. Doing good?”

“I’m not doing bad.”

I got up and asked him if he had anywhere to be at the moment. He said he didn’t, so I told him to follow me.

The gym I work at also serves as a community center, and there was a playground right outside the building. Once we both sat on a bench I turned to him.

“I did a little research last night, and yeah, you definitely seem to have an inferiority complex.”

He nodded, looking more numb than sad.

“If you don’t mind me asking, how long have you been like this?”

“Years. I’ve had an inferiority complex before I even knew that what that was. I just thought I was introverted or had anxiety, but about a year ago I found out that the beast has a name.”

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