Confession Box: Richie Hardcore
Richie Hardcore is an anti-violence campaigner and personal trainer.
When you speak to young people about sexual violence and self-esteem, what do they want from you?
Young people want to know about good sex. They don't know where to go for the information they need. We see so much youth-on-youth sexual offending, teenagers raping each other. There is a lot of misogynistic messaging in mainstream music and some of the leading themes in pornography are stepmum or stepsister - that's messed up for young men to be masturbating to. We're teaching boys this is what to do and we're teaching girls this is what to expect. Don't get me wrong, I have been very promiscuous in my life and looking back, I did a lot of that for the wrong reasons. People use sex like drugs and alcohol, to feel good about themselves and to get away from themselves.
You don't drink or do drugs, you don't eat much meat, you are a clean-living person. What are your vices?
I work too much to avoid uncomfortable feelings I may not even realise I have until I pause. And then I'm like, "This feels horrible, I need to go and do some stuff." My relaxation is to go to the gym and do kickboxing. We're talking about going to Rarotonga next year, my girlfriend and my stepson and me - and I'm like, "Seven days is way too long! Rarotonga is tiny, let's go for four days." I don't want to lie on a beach that long, you know?
What are you trying to escape?
Right now, nothing in particular because I am really f***ing happy, like I haven't been this emotionally well for years. I had a real long patch of depression and anxiety and I had a lot of suicidal thoughts. I'd wake up at 2am, thinking about the same s*** over and over and over. I am a guy who didn't have any self-esteem and came from a dysfunctional family and I started to find validation through the things I achieved. People started liking me more when I was good at kickboxing or when I was doing a radio show. If your only pathway to happiness is through the things you achieve, that takes a toll on your wellbeing.
Besides injustice, what makes you angry?
I have a deep wellspring of anger in me because I didn't have the easiest of childhoods and my internal programming is that when I am threatened, anger can be the best defence. I literally built a life for myself around combat sports. When I retired from the ring I continued to fight against a system in which so many women are victims of sexual violence, so many people are struggling with mental health. I know what it's like to be scared and feel alone. I am just one little guy in one little country but I try to use my anger to make a difference where I can. There's a lot to be angry about.
Do you still get angry with individuals?
When you are a B-grade public person in New Zealand, people say mean s*** about you all the time. This is my inner monologue: there is 23-year-old me who is like, "F*** motherf***a, come to the gym" and then there's 39-year-old me who is like, "Oh they're just a person on their journey doing the best they can with what they have right now." I have to let my cognitive self override my emotional self.
Why not pull the plug on your social media?
When I was at the bottom of a social media pile-on, my inbox was flooded with messages from people I respect, saying, "Don't give up, you are doing good work, this is more reflective of the people who are attacking you." Maybe I have said the wrong thing but in this day and age it's not even doing the wrong thing but having the wrong worldview that can lead to a pile-on. If you bother to defend yourself, people assume you are guilty, so I don't bother. People don't actually want to know your reasons.
What makes you proud right now?
This is the first time in my life that I am comfortable with myself.
What do you put that down to?
My therapist. Shout-out to my therapist, I love my therapist. I am happy to be coming up to my 40s because I have had to learn about myself, I had to heal from a divorce and I had to deal with depression and mistakes and heartbreak and grief and anger. I am grateful for the relationship I have, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with young people and do the work I do. All of those things have allowed me to like myself.
- Eleanor Black