By Jaime Davila, MA, LPC, NCC
He stands surrounded by strangers, some are friends, some are colleagues, but all are strangers to some degree. What if they knew it all, that is, who he truly is? No, not the story that he has projected and skillfully displayed for his friends, but the story that runs only within him, a story he keeps secret.
“I fear that if I tell too much of my story … well, I am not exactly sure what I fear but I do know the hesitation quite well; it’s what keeps me from living a complete life.”
He continues to struggle but pushes ahead trying to rebuild himself. He seeks more education, novel experiences, new friends and connections, all feeding him with a new passion and purpose that at times runs so hot that the meaning of life is redefined. But on occasion this passion finds itself fighting against another force that can be all consuming in its darkness.
“I will beat this thing. I can be a man and control my drive and direction. I will march hard towards my next goal and prove to others, but mostly myself, that I am good enough.”
Surviving, But Not Thriving
Living with an internal dialogue driven by a narrative that is riddled with shame can lead us to experience persistent feelings of fear, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and depression. We are such experts at adapting ourselves to life that we eventually find ways of coping and getting on with it, despite our deep-seated conviction of “I’m not good enough.”
At times, however, the fragile internal structure that we have created to manage these old feelings and wounds can start to shake apart. This instability might be set in motion by challenges at work, our families, our friends, or our significant others. It can even be set off by something as simple as a birthday. As our internal safeguards are challenged and we struggle to maintain the coherence of our internal world, we may find ourselves being more irritable, emotionally distant, angry, and critical of others.
Why do we choose to go at it alone or with such a small network of support? What keeps us from being authentic and sharing … “This is who I am” “This is what I believe”? The voice of fear and shame can be very loud in our lives. “How do I find the strength to quiet this voice?” That’s the question that keeps us stuck. How do we dare to live boldly and tell our true story, share our thoughts, dreams, beliefs, and fears?
What Will Others Think?
Others will think, “Wow, who is this person? Something about him … I can’t put my finger on it … but I really like what he is doing. That takes courage.” Authenticity and courage can only emerge in a person who has made the commitment to forgive himself for his mistakes, to treat himself with loving kindness and compassion, and to continuously accept who he has been in the past, who he is now, and who he wants to become in the future.
And who are these others? Increasingly, as we allow our authentic selves to shine through, we attract our own tribe, those who share our values and with whom we are on a wavelength. Interacting with people who see and appreciate us for who we are enables us to further cultivate our true selves, perpetuating a nurturing circle of growth.
I am excited to meet people who are contemplating conversations such as this and are looking for a connection that will help spark change. If you resonate with this struggle, I welcome the opportunity to work with you.
Jaime Davila is a bilingual therapist specializing in men’s issues. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-340-2799.