Exposing the Soft Underbelly
Here it goes. Very recently I started my own coaching business. The bulk of my work is helping men identify and lean into our emotional bodies, for in that emotional space lies magic waiting to be set free.
As part of my own personal Men's work, I've identified a huge block within myself. Setting myself free to be seen as I truly am - imperfections and all - has felt like my biggest battle. For most of my life I’ve been the young kid and young adult whose presence is enjoyed by all. The one who never gets out of line or cause a scene. I always make sure to keep my shit in check when I walk through any door, especially if it's a social setting in which I’m meeting new people.
I remember the comments my mother used to get from teachers, and other parents, about what a well behaved young man I was, and how I manage to keep it all together. This is something I have always prided myself on. I’m a lovable dude with a big heart, but I so often hold space for everyone else around me and I don’t give myself that same spotlight.
But now, my desire to keep it all in, and hold it all together is holding me back. I’ve created my business, released some content, hopped on a couple podcast interviews, and I’m still having a hard time letting myself be seen. I’m still working to keep that story alive. The story that I am a well put together young man who's got his shit in check. But this story is holding me back from releasing content and letting myself be seen by the masses. Because I like to play the role of “I have it all figured out” when the reality is, I don’t have it all figured out, and there is a very real chance I could make a mistake in front of everyone. That scares me.
I’m hiding behind the comfort of this story in hopes no one will judge me for my sensitivities and “weaknesses”. But I can no longer hide these parts of myself. The truth is, I am a highly sensitive person. I always have been and always will be. I feel my emotions with such depth that it scares me at times. It scares me because I’ve been fed a lie of what it means to be a man. That if I am truly a man, I wouldn’t let myself feel those emotions so deeply because that's not “manly” enough.
For so long I worked to embody the myth of “Super-Man”: the man who can do it all on his own, the lone wolf that needs no one else. I did just that for most of my twenties and deep inside I was screaming. I would not let my problems be problems because I saw how much worse other people in the world had it. Around every corner I was invalidating my emotional experience, and I still have a habit of doing this because it’s so deeply ingrained within me. This experience of invalidating myself creates a pressure cooker inside of me, and when I’m in that space I project it onto the world outside of me. My partner, friends, family, really anyone around me so that I can make this not be my problem but everyone else's. If it’s not mine then I don’t have to be mad at myself: I can be mad at the world around me. Because, yeah that's really going to make me feel better. It never does, and it never will.
I’ve been doing a lot of work around this story, and I know that it exists because at some point in my life, it was serving me. But for the stage of life I am in now, it is time for me to complete this story. With the help of a few personal mantras, I am navigating how to lean into my growth edge within vulnerability. The first mantra is, “expand, don’t contract.” When it comes to emotional discomfort it feels difficult to hold. This is because I often battle with myself around emotional discomfort. When discomfort is present I instantly reject that it's there and contract because as a deep feeler I trained myself to try to not feel. Ouch. My practice in expansion has been to breathe into the discomfort and this helps me lean more boldly into my emotions while trusting that I can exist in this pain and be ok.
I’m utilizing this practice as I write this. This blog post feels like me showing my soft underbelly to the world, so I breathe and channel my inner warrior knowing that it’s powerful and necessary to do difficult things in life. Especially when it comes to shedding old layers of myself as I step deeper into my authenticity.
My second mantra is, “I forgive you”. To top it all off, I am super hard on myself. There was a time in my life when I would lie in bed and scan through every conversation I had that day analyzing every word I said to make sure I did not do any harm to anyone or make a “fool” out of myself. That was exhausting! I have such a tendency to criticize myself if I don’t do something perfectly the first time. So naturally setting out on this journey of mens work is by no means immune to my inner critic. But I am learning to forgive myself and let go. As I stumble and fall on this journey, I am often muttering to myself “I forgive you” while simultaneously taking a deep breath to let that shit go. Being a human is messy and I’m giving myself permission to show up in this mess more.
Brothers, if any of this resonates with you, I invite you to expand and not to contract, and to practice forgiveness of the self when you find yourself being your own worst critic. The path to embracing a whole hearted masculinity requires hard work and lots of unlearning. It’s ok to fall, and it’s important to fall. But it’s important to be gentle with yourself every step of the way.
I am continuing to practice expanding into my authenticity, so I’ll be showing my soft underbelly to the masses more frequently while breathing deeply and surrendering to the emotions that flow within this process. This is not easy work, but it's the most fulfilling and rewarding work I’ve ever experienced. Let's work together to show up as whole hearted masculine men, live more authentically, and experience the freedom that comes with it all.