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MY GREATEST FEAR HAS ME CRIPPLED

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It’s been so long since my last post. 92 days to be exact and the longest time since I first started this site. While I wish I could blame it on writer’s block, this is certainly not the case – I’ve had so much that I’ve wanted to share with you. On the surface I blame my job for my lack of writing as it consumes so much of my time and energy but this isn’t the cause either. What I’ve come to realise is much deeper than effort or inspiration, it is something that has affected me throughout my life and permeates all facets of my being. What I’m referring to is vulnerability and the repercussions of not giving into it.

Vulnerability is the ability to put yourself out there, wholeheartedly, in the scary big world, for all to see, and without control of the outcome. It’s the strength to forfeit expectations and honestly live in the moment. I’m certainly not the first to discuss this topic, researcher Brené Brown does a far more eloquent job at explaining the concept in this widely watched Ted Talk, but this is the first time that I’ve realised how debilitating the fear of vulnerability can be.

But first, how does this impact on writing? Well, my writing can almost be seen as a metaphor for my life. When I write I ruminate over every word and every sentence, making sure the end product is perfect. If I don’t think that the final product is perfect, particularly in the eyes of others, then I won’t push publish on WordPress. If only you could see the unfinished posts that are sitting in my drafts. This translates into the real world too. I can’t start a project or move towards a goal until I know that everything is in faultless alignment. Such obsession with perfection is evident in my personality traits whereby I do my best to portray the well put together image of someone who has their life together, who is successful, confident, unfazed by other’s opinions and certain of his future. How far from the truth the reality. Like a vicious circle this in turn influences my writing because a post about how I’m afraid of vulnerability will shatter the illusion that I’ve worked so hard to create. Herein lies the power of this particular article.

I work in the communications industry, a profession where my day-to-day task is to control ‘messages’ that brands want their customers to receive. I’m great at my job and skilled at creating the right perception for my clients amongst the public, probably because I’m so good at doing it for myself. Using these same skills, I have crafted a life that avoids vulnerability at all costs. I’ll dismiss people before I’ve had a chance to properly meet them to avoid them doing the same to me first. I’ll do the same to guys I find attractive. I’ll create stories about how I shouldn’t approach them because they’re probably stupid or an asshole and I’m better than that anyway when in actuality it’s fear of rejection which in turn is avoidance of vulnerability. I’l be loud and boisterous amongst people who I don’t find intimidating but when I’m in a crowd of people I deem ‘superior’ in popularity or status I’ll purposely ostracise myself. As I’ve become more aware of this concept of vulnerability I’ve also become more aware of how it affects others, particularly gay guys. Have you ever noticed how some gay men love to tear each other down? How they’ll look at someone else’s success or someone else’s relationship and pick at all the flaws? “Oh he makes a lot of money but I bet his boyfriend is cheating on him”. Why do we do this? Because we’re jealous and too afraid to admit that we feel less successful in comparison or worse, that we fee we are not worthy of being loved.

This particular post is a personal first step towards vulnerability, a step closer to honesty and wholehearted living. I want to share more with you, dear reader, in the hope that we can overcome our shame together. You see, shame is a component of vulnerability. Avoiding vulnerability is a protective mechanism against exposing one’s shame. If I’m not open then you can’t see the darkness inside of me. Both Brown and Alan Downs, author of The Velvet Rage have explored this concept of shame. Downs looks at shame particularly in the gay context and how it affects ours lives. Personally I think you need not even open a book to understand the by-product of shame in the gay community. In my opinion, many mainstream gay mega parties are a perfect example of shame avoidance. These gatherings are a coming together of men who are hiding from their shame (either consciously or subconsciously). They mask their vulnerability behind hard bodies of muscle and supress their emotions through excessive drug taking and sex. In my eyes, the act of taking off of one’s shirt in this environment or similarly in a gay club is an overt expression of vulnerability avoidance. The act says, ‘don’t try know me for me but judge me only on what you can see of me on the surface’. Of course I am generalising and I’m sure I’ll be accused of stereotyping or internalised homophobia but I only offer these observations and musings as my own opinion. Whether or not you agree with me or Downs or Brown is not the point, the point is that we are open enough with ourselves and each other to discuss our shortcomings. That is what vulnerability is truly about.

I hope that I can continue to write stories and post articles that you find thought provoking. Perhaps some will be inspiring, while others purely entertaining. You may agree with what I say or my words may have no resonance. Either way my intention is to be more open so that you and I can share strength and embrace vulnerability together.

Image by Giuseppe Attanasio 

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MODERN GAY PERSPECTIVE: LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF (AGAIN)

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We are told that in order to be happy we need to “love ourselves”, to discover the joy within and to build our self-esteem but nobody really tells us how. In this personal post, guest writer Joshua Vaughn shares his story about depression, losing his self-love while in a relationship and then the five steps he took to find that love again. 

Life as a gay guy can often be a battle, we don’t have it easy. Let’s admit it. I mean, lets really admit it. You can say that us gays have the same opportunity as our straight counterparts – and yes that is true, we do, possibly even more. But do you think many straight guys have ever had to reveal news about themselves that could potentially result in exclusion from social circles, family or their community? Have straight guys ever had to cover up who they really were in fear of punishment, abuse and rejection?

Moving beyond coming out and self-discovery, let’s look at the gay dating world. How many times has your attention been driven to the topless six pack Grindr profiles? Or how many times have you had to describe yourself as ‘masc’ in order to be accepted by another?

Yes, life for everyone is tough, but as gays, it is a little more complex.

For a large chunk of our lives we have had to cover up who we are.  Once we come out, we go on to label ourselves to fit in, to impress others and to feel loved, but really all we truly need to do is to love ourselves a little bit more.

Loving yourself is a constant habit, it takes work. I have recently come out of a relationship where by the end, I was a completely different person. Walking into the relationship I was confident, I knew who I was, I was witty, charming and an all-round social butterfly. Towards the end of the relationship, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and constantly in fear of losing my significant other. I was a hermit who lacked energy and on some afternoons I was completely bed ridden. It is safe to say I was a completely different person. People would automatically assume that it was my significant other’s influence that made me become a total different person, but it wasn’t him at all. It was me.

I accept full responsibility. Why? Because I forgot to love myself. I was so invested in the relationship, I put him before me. My needs and wants fell by the wayside. I became secondary and as a result I suffered immensely. Slowly but surely my mental illness got the best of me. I let the relationship dictate my happiness (relationships are add-on’s, not a core feature in life!) I needed to learn how to love myself again, and I needed to do it fast!

After hundreds of Google searches, kindle downloads, self-help blogs, talks with good friends and professionals, I came up with a plan to become the best version of me. I won’t go into the importance of loving yourself, there are plenty of articles on Google that cater to that, but what many articles don’t address is the actual practice of loving yourself. And that’s what it is. It is a practice that needs to be included into your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.

Now this may not apply to everyone, however I would recommend that you simply try it out for a week or so, you really have nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain.

  1. Firstly, know the person you want to be. Create a wish list. Let’s be realistic here. You don’t want to totally transform yourself into someone else. I’m talking about creating a list of qualities about yourself that you want to shine more, to develop. Think back to a situation where you thought you handled it well. Or even think back to a better time. Mine was to be more positive, charming, energetic and adventurous.
  1. Come up with a motto. Like an affirmation, decide on a piece of text that you can always refer to. It can be a goal of some sort. A reminder of why you are doing this. Mine is ‘ Be the best person I can be, and everything else will fall into place’. I wrote this down along with the qualities I want to shine listed in the previous step, stuck it on my bedroom wall and referred to it daily.
  1. Strengths! Everyone has them. And write them down! Keep a strength journal. Every day I would write down my ‘wins’ for the day. They could be as little as having a good hair day, or as big as doing well in a presentation. Focusing on my positives and telling myself that I am amazing made a heap of difference.
  1. Fake it till you make it. Embody the person you want to become in step 1. Think like that person, walk like them, talk like them. I embodied the version of ‘me’ that was confident with who he is. I walked tall, spoke with certainty and charm, I oozed positivity. And after a while it worked, I slowly became that person.It takes 30 days for something to become a habit. This is going to be hard, but trust me it will pay off. Some people may disagree with this step, but hey, sometimes we get to such a dark place that taking a break from the person we are and focusing on the person we can become is the only option.
  1. Treat yourself like a child. Speak to yourself as you would a 5 year old child. Be kind to yourself. If you screw up or make a bad decision, think about what you would say to a five year old, and say it to yourself. Admit that you were wrong, but be kind and gentle so you can move forward.

At this point, I can say confidently that I am better than my old self, I am now the best version of myself. People have noticed and commented. I am excited about life again. I am excited to explore and roam. Sure I have off days when I feel like I have lost my footing. When this happens, I acknowledge that I feel this way and am mindful of my thoughts but I use the steps above to get back on that path.

Remember, only you can make yourself feel loved and happy, it’s no one else’s job.

Have you had a similar experience? Have you had to learn how to love yourself again? Comment below!

Image by Sylvain Norget

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