By the time I was 16 I had witnessed 100's of street fights. 2 fights were so brutal, the victors went to jail.
Street fighting was how kids made names for themselves where I grew up (a blue collar town 10 miles south of Boston called Quincy).
Being “tough” in Quincy was like being a “made man” in the Mafia... tough guys were respected and feared.
I considered myself a tough guy simply because my friends were, but in reality I was just a sarcastic video game nerd.
When some kid made fun of me for being “soft" (not tough), I started looking for opportunities to prove my toughness.
Lucky for me, there was this guy named Paul (tough) who wanted to fight me (for reasons unknown), and I happily agreed to it.
My famous last words that I yelled at Paul before he knocked me out in front of a large crowd were, “while we’re young!” (suggesting he was stalling)
The defeat was mortifying, but not having to pretend to be a tough guy anymore was liberating.
I developed more self confidence from getting my a$$ kicked (which forced me to be myself), then if I had won that fight and continued masquerading around like a tough guy.
Ironically it was this self confidence that led me to the SEAL Teams, one of the "toughest" military units in the world.
Takeaway: Follow the right herd.