There is a mask we put on everyday. Consciously or unconsciously we wear it with our loved ones, our friends, and those we engage with as we go about our day. Often, we may not even see an issue with wearing this mask. We may even convince ourselves, that it is a means to an end. A necessary tool to get what we want from life, which can take many forms.
In my case, it meant chasing validation from women, chasing a toxic sense of respect from other men, and above all a deep yearning to look at myself in the mirror and finally feel enough. I was building a house of cards, and I didn’t fully realize it.
What I would tell myself, may sound familiar to you. “When I get that girl I’ll be enough.” “When I put on just a few more pounds of muscle, I’ll feel enough.. etc. etc.
The problem was I was chasing phantoms. Everything I tried, led me back to a feeling of emptiness, frustration, or lack of in some sense. There is a deep rooted intelligence in every one of us that knows when we are lying to it, and it doesn’t like being lied to.
The price of disregarding it, is often frustration, energy drain, and a perpetual lack of belonging.
The mask that I wore with women, only made me feel alone and even less lovable because I believed I would never be truly “worthy of love” without it. The mask that I wore with other men only made me long for genuine friendship. Friendships without the foundation of bravado supporting it. Without the need for the “lay count” and bench press comparisons.
Time after time, I ran, and ran, from truly seeing myself. I ran from standing alone with myself in the silence, with my perceived flaws and choosing to see them.
I was running, but getting nowhere.
As men we are constantly bombarded with messages about what it means to be men. We are told we must be tough, successful, insensitive, and not display too much emotion. When we were children we were given toy guns to play with, told which colors to wear, and which shows to watch.
Slowly through the process of positive and negative reinforcement, we adopted a framework of behavior. A box that we use as a filter throughout our lives. The box is a catch-22. We feel uncomfortable and trapped within it, yet we fear being ostracized by other men for stepping outside of it.
It doesn’t have to be this way, there is a path forward, and it begins with a few steps.
We can foster friendships with other men based on authenticity. Friendships in which we feel safe to be vulnerable, accepted and supported.
We can ask ourselves the right questions. How would I be living my life if I felt free of the expectations of others? What career would I choose? what activities would I engage in?
Shine a light on all facets of your being, dark and light, masculine and feminine, soft and strong. It can be a truly freeing experience to integrate the parts of ourselves that we once deemed as unworthy of love.
The chase of something external, to validate those feelings of enough-ness can go on forever. Looking at ourselves, and owning who we are, can often be a scary, painful process. Yet what is scarier is to wake up one day, realizing we have spent most of our lives denying ourselves off authentic expression, and connection with others.
Each and every one of us have accumulated reasons why we are not enough, reasons why we must meet the world with our “masks on”. Yet at our core, each and every one of us, wants the same thing. To be loved, seen, and accepted for who we are beneath our mask.
Make the choice to hear your truth, in the hard moments. In the moments that you’re afraid you will lose the love of those around you for it, in the moments that you’re afraid you’ll be looked at differently. Through listening, you will only strengthen that which is yearning to be heard and accepted by you. You will build and strengthen a relationship with a part of you that is and always has been true. Go forth, and drop the mask.
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