Shane is a 29 year-old Kiwi of NZ European/Maori descent from the Coromandel Peninsula. A two-time national award-winning personal trainer, Shane runs his own business, Your Way Wellbeing. He is also a representative for Waikato Queer Youth, where he now volunteers as a mentor. Shane lectures tertiary courses in Exercise Science and works as a personal trainer in Hamilton. He lives in Ngaruawahia.

A huge tool for me is loving myself. To me, ‘loving myself’ means self-acceptance. It’s also how I would define happiness. For a long time I didn’t understand the concept, and would yearn for acceptance from others. I disliked the facts that I was gay and feminine, the way I sounded, and the fact I wasn’t typical and ‘blokey’. I’m now of the mind that other people’s opinions of me just do not matter. If people don’t like the way I am, that’s their issue.

I’ll be able to live with happiness so long as I live according to values and morals I believe in. If somebody else has a problem with my sexuality and gender, I take the attitude that it’s a “you problem”, not a “me problem”.

Nowadays, I’m always 100% open about all parts of who I am, including my sexuality, gender and past battle with mental health issues. The things I was put down or bullied for in the past are now the things I celebrate. Being able to accept these things, and seeing them as strengths instead of weaknesses, makes it a lot easier to be happy. The fact that I am different means I’m special and unique – it’s a good thing. I’m feminine, I’m gay, I dance, I sing and I don’t abide to the gender binary. That inspires people and makes me who I am. 

Growing up I got told, “You’re a boy, you shouldn’t do [singing, acting, dance] because it’s feminine,” and that gets stuck in your head. Thankfully, I’ve managed to unpick all of that rubbish, and nowadays I’m completely happy with the fact that I am a feminine person. If others don’t like or understand me, it’s my opinion they should broaden their horizons and attempt to better understand the world they live in. In my view ignorance is not bliss, ignorance is ignorance.

Exercise is a big factor in my life and part of my overall wellbeing. I know hands down that if I go a day without exercise, I’m not going to be 100% authentically myself. It really is like a medicine and a drug for me. When I’m active, I get this feeling of achievement and self-worth which I find incredible. Physical health helps me to manage my mental health, and both are extremely important to me.

Another very important aspect of wellbeing for me is building meaningful relationships. I have spent a lot of time thinking about who I am as a person and, consequently, the type of people I’d like to be around. I believe the people in my life should be those who want to help celebrate my wins, and for whom I can do the same thing. I like to build relationships where I am able to give love and support and get the same in return.

I’ve been lucky to have some amazing people in my life, including my parents, and a few close friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin. I’ve also built some awesome relationships in the last few years that have been really important in helping me find happiness. Two of my closest friends, who I refer to as my sisters, have been my rocks. Being adopted, I’ve learnt “blood isn’t thicker than water” and to make my own whanau. I can lean on them for support any time, for a laugh, a cry, a sounding board. They are people I can share my feelings and emotions with, knowing there is no judgement.

In the past I’ve tried far too hard to be Mr Popularity. This meant I’d do anything to please anyone. The relationships this approach produced weren’t healthy. I was constantly used, abused and left feeling unlovable and not good enough. I’m delighted to now have a tight-knit group of close friends who bring a positivity and vibrance to my life. It’s great that I can offer the same support and good feelings in return. Simply having people I know I can go to if shit does hit the fan is really calming and strengthening. It could be 2am and they’d still make time for me. It’s pretty amazing.

Over the last few years, while trying to build happiness into my life again, I have learnt to look after my spirituality. Back when I was studying and still going through my low period, a classmate, who I didn’t know at all, approached me and asked to meet privately as there were people trying to contact me. I wasn’t much into spirituality back then, but agreed to meet her anyway. She ended up telling me things about myself that no-one could have known.

She mentioned an image of an elderly man and a young boy together, catching monarch butterflies in a garden. The elderly man she was referring to was my Gramps, Leo, who has now passed on. My Gramps was my best friend when I was a child, and we would catch monarch butterflies in a net then release them. I understand it might not be for everybody, but since that experience, spirituality is something I’ve made sure not to neglect any longer. Nowadays, everywhere I go, I feel my grandfather with me for friendship, guidance and protection. I feel like I have a spiritual connection with him, alongside the rest of my spirit team.

Another big thing for me was what I call ‘finding myself.’ I use this term to describe the realisation that it’s OK to be in solitude for a time. I really enjoy other people’s company and always will, but for a large part of my life I couldn’t bare to be alone for even a short period. Nowadays, some of my favourite times are when I’m home alone. These times allow me to process all my emotions, to stop, think and be able to deal with things and move on, or get help.

Something that really feeds my soul is talking about mental health, my experiences and what I’ve learnt. I think discussion around mental health needs to be normalised, so that it’s a standard topic of conversation, and so that people know it’s okay to talk. I’ve found that open, honest and transparent conversations about my mental health have massively changed my life and are so therapeutic.

If it was possible to send a note back to yourself when you needed the most help, what would it look like?

Shane experienced depression & anxiety between the ages of 14 and 24. He was coming to terms with his sexuality and gender identity, faced bullying and was in an unhealthy relationship.

How did it make you feel?
Unmotivated, exhausted, no will to even try.
Couldn’t stand being alone, couldn’t stand being with people.

Did you take prescribed medication?
Yes. I was trialled on every pill under the sun and nothing seemed to help.
Thanks to meeting a life changing doctor, I now have the right diagnosis and treatment for me.
Exercise became my medication – it was the only thing that picked me back up.

Were there any triggers that exacerbated your feelings?
Alcohol and drug abuse 
Associating myself with the wrong  people 
Not looking after myself and my health and well-being

Was there a turning point when things started to get better?
Yes. After being admitted to a mental health facility and having time to think, I realised I had two options; let depression control me, or control it. It was then that I decided to spend the rest of my life being the best version of myself.

With thanks to


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