I would like to introduce you to Alex Siegling, the man in my life. He is a 30 year old paramedic in the American city of Buffalo, and in the last ten years he has been a ballet dancer, a power lifter, a bartender, a personal trainer and a gym owner. He plays saxophone and guitar, makes his own mead, practises ju-jitsu and is an avid reader of philosophy, having studied the Classics at university. One of the things that first attracted me to this Renaissance man is his self assurance and sense of self worth. As I am enormously interested in how people tell their stories to themselves, I interviewed Alex to get a better sense of his story and how he found self-confidence at a young age.
The bad news for those of us who struggle with self worth is that Alex seems to have been born with a sense of his. The good news though is that he does have some insights into the things that make the difference…
What is it that you value, in yourself and other people?
Competence, strength, wisdom and a sense of humour
What impact would you like to have on the world?
I’d like to beat some sense into it!
Ha! When did you first realise that you had more sense than most of the world?
When I was about 6 years old, learning to read, I wanted to check out a book from the library that was aimed at children a couple of years older than me. The old lady librarian said “I think that’s a little too much for you, have this picture book instead.” The book I wanted was just a Doug cartoon book, nothing crazy. I thought to myself, “you’re a teacher, aren’t you supposed to encourage learning?” The book looked interesting to me and I hated that there was someone telling me no for no reason. It was just her opinion. What did her opinion mean to me?
Whose opinions did mean something to you?
I think the opinion of our parents always means something to us to some degree. And my grandparents on my father’s side, as they looked after my brother and I a lot when we were young. My mom was very proud of us and was very invested in us being intelligent (as probably some boost to her own self esteem) but my grandparents were practically hippies. They helped us with whatever we were interested in, they let us be who we were.
These days, from whom do you feel comfortable taking constructive criticism?
Competent people at work, anyone who is teaching me something new…and I think you and I helpfully prod each other on occasion.
The people I get along with at work are competent misfits.
Is that how you would describe yourself?
I feel like an outsider in general. Me and my friends were misfits, certainly in high school. I’m pretty comfortable with that at this point. It may not have been the case so much if my family hadn’t moved around a lot when I was young.
But I definitely want to avoid being a “normie”.
Tell me about “normies”.
They are people who accept the value judgements and expectations of others. They follow the “graduate high school, get married, have kids, work for 30 years, retire…” story.
I just want to do things that interest me and learn as much as possible.
What would you say to people who find it hard to break out of the value judgements and expectations of others?
You have to live every minute of your life. Yet a lot of people pick up expectations from other people or society who occupy zero minutes of your life, or from friends who maybe occupy 60 of the tens of thousands of minutes that you have in a week.
How can people begin to find more confidence in themselves and their own values and expectations?
Start by performing for yourself. If you fix your posture, it will improve the way your feel, and the way you feel about yourself. Ballet made a big difference to my posture for sure, but I think I’ve always had that. I remember someone in high school doing an impression of me and puffing their chest out.
The performative aspect is kinda interesting. For example, rams have horns, but it probably wasn’t that one ram grew horns and then decided to bash things with its head. They’ll have been bashing things with their heads first, and then they will have grown their horns. There were plenty of times in high school that I didn’t feel confident, and that’s an uncomfortable feeling. But you improve your posture, you find things you can be confident in…
It’s also important to remember that it’s all a lot easier if you don’t worry about things as much. Worrying about something will make a fear more real and your confidence less.
How did you learn that at such a young age, because I feel like that is a lesson many people take years to learn?
I credit reading Alan Watts. He’s an interesting philosopher guy who bridges east and west mysticism and wrote about Buddhism. I read him a year or two after high school.
How on earth did you come across him?
I think he was mentioned on an anarcho-primitivist blog post.
What led you to that blog?
My generally rebellious attitude. Most people seem miserable. So you look for why are most people miserable? I could tell that most of my teachers were miserable, and my family are not a particularly happy bunch.
If you could give people one bit of advice for a happier life, what would it be?
Seek freedom and responsibility.
And avoid overcooked eggs.
Coach and Director of Clear Day
Find out here how to work with me 1-2-1.