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January 16, 2014     0

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Huff Post Article: Healing the Gay Community From the Inside Out

Friends,

I recently read an online blog article that shook me to the core. The writer was angry, hurt and frustrated with the gay community. He said our community had degenerated to a group of soulless, sex-crazed animals who had lost all that was good and loving about them. He pointed out sex sites, porn addiction and our treatment of each other as additional reasons why he now felt disdain for his own community. He’d given up on love. He also pointed to all of these things as reasons why he now hated himself and felt powerless to change his circumstances.

I truly empathized with how he was feeling, but couldn’t agree with what he was saying. Click HERE to read my Huffington Post article about how we need to find our validation and purpose within ourselves. And how our internal search for meaning can bring light to the darker parts of our community that so desperately need our compassion and understanding.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

November 10, 2013     0

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Overcoming Nasty Habits to Achieving Your Health and Hotness Goals!

For all you fitness buffs, this ones for you! This article is about why people go into an exercise and nutrition regime and fail time and time again, and how you can break the cycle. I have the pleasure of being an on-staff life coach at Mark Fisher Fitness, (MFF), an incredible gym in Hells Kitchen that I recommend to anybody who is interested in reaching their health and hotness goals. Mark Fisher asked me to write an article that would be impactful to the members of the gym and those brave souls (MFF calls them “ninjas”) going through the intensive exercise, nutrition and coaching program, Snatched in 6 Weeks! The topic I chose was GAILs (Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations and Limiting Beliefs), a nasty group of bad habits that, if left unchecked, can infect every area of our life. Whether you’re a fitness buff or not, read this informative article about how you can begin to recognize these bad habits in your life and begin to weaken their hold on you. Check my article out below:

Fellow Ninjas –

When we think about the time and commitment that goes into our exercise regime, falling victim to our own “head games” shouldn’t be one of the hurdles we have to clear. Alas, this isn’t always the case and it’s good to know what’s going on in these noggins of ours. As an on staff coach at MFF and fellow ninja (in week 4 of Snatched in 6 Weeks ), I want to make sure we all have our heads screwed on straight about a few of the more popular mental blocks that could keep so many of us from achieving our health and hotness success.

An unwanted party guest and all together vicious queen, GAIL shows up in our lives at the most inopportune times. So who is this mischievous maiden and how can she f*ck up our fitness goals? Let’s break her down!

G.A.I.L. is an acronym for four nasty buggers that can plague our lives if left unchecked, Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations and Limiting Beliefs. So let’s define each and discuss how they might show up in our ninja lives and how we can overcome them.

1. Gremlins - Some of you crazy kids, like me, are old enough to remember the 1984 movie starring those cute little fluffy critters that, when exposed to water, turn into monstrous saboteurs hell bent on destroying everything in their path. Well guess what? The gremlin in our heads operate in a similar fashion trying to sabotage us in our efforts to achieve our health and hotness goals. This “inner critic” plays on our insecurities and keeps us feeling small, fearful and unsatisfied by telling us we’re not strong enough, smart enough, deserving enough, etc. to achieve our goals and dreams. Gremlins vary from person to person and are based on individual life experiences. For the purposes of ninja training, a good example of a gremlin is one that tries to sabotage your nutrition and physical efforts by telling you that you’re going to fail because you lack the discipline or strength needed to succeed in Snatched.

So what can you do about keeping these little saboteurs in check? Bring them into the light. Just like the movie, our gremlins don’t like to be exposed. As long as they can keep you playing small, feeling insecure and afraid to move outside of your comfort zone (where all real growth takes place), they can continue to take up space in your head. But if you’re able to identify your gremlins (I’m fat, I’m unworthy, I’m weak, I’m a loser, etc.), recognize when they’re whispering in your ear and purposefully continue to move forward in the way of your goals, you can push through them and the headlock that they have on you!

2. Assumptions - Simply put, an assumption is an expectation that because something has happened before, it will happen again. These are especially dangerous for ninjas who have dealt with unsuccessful diets or exercise plans in the past. You can sign up for Snatched, or any fitness/nutrition program, with the best of intentions, but then quickly derail yourself with negative assumptions you’ve created around your ability to achieve your exercise and nutrition goals. A good example of an assumption is one in which you think you’re destined to fail at your nutrition goals because you were unsuccessful with diets you’ve tried in the past. Assumptions are dangerous because they allow us to rationalize self-sabotaging behavior. Two weeks into your fitness/nutrition program, after a particularly stressful day at the office, you might find yourself thinking, “F*ck it! I don’t need to try to keep to my nutrition plan because it won’t worry anyway.”

So here’s what you need to know about assumptions. They’re based on past events and stale circumstances that no longer play a relevant role in your life. By holding on to these assumptions, you keep yourself stuck in some past experience that never served you to begin with. Crazy, right?! When an assumption comes up for you, remind yourself that it serves no purpose in your present life and move past it with an open mind. By opening yourself up to all of the amazing possibilities of your training and nutrition program, you can reach your health and hotness goals (provided you’re willing to do the work)!

3. Interpretations - An interpretation is an opinion or judgment that you create about an event, situation, person or experience and believe to be true. As human beings we have a tendency to create interpretations in our lives based on our own individual experiences and personal bias. A great example of an interpretation is around trainer/instructor feedback. I remember a time when I used to interpret the critiques I received from my instructors as negative. Even if they were trying to help me with form, I would think there was something wrong with me for not “nailing it” (having perfect form) every time. For us ninjas, it’s easy for our personal interpretations of what’s going on at the gym to skew our perception of ourselves and others.

So the next time you make an interpretation about someone or something going on in your life, ask yourself if this is based on personal opinion or fact. You can also ask yourself if there is another way to look at it. In my example, instead of interpreting instructor feedback as something negative, I chose to see it as an added benefit to my training. This helped me shift my perspective and look at the feedback I get from Mark and all the other hot ass instructors as helpful and beneficial to my own Snatched success!

4. Limiting Beliefs - Last, but certainly not least in GAIL’s bag of dirty tricks are limiting beliefs. These are beliefs that you accept about life, about yourself, about your world, or about the people in it that limits you in some way. They cap your potential to succeed and prevent you from reaching your full potential. Examples of limiting beliefs include: “I am no good at sports.”, “I am too old to start a fitness program.” and “I’m not smart enough to get that job so I won’t even apply.”

Think about any limiting beliefs you may be holding on to (not smart enough, too old, not strong enough, etc.) and begin to rewrite them in a manner that serves you. If you have a limiting belief that says “I’m not smart enough to…” call yourself out on it, ask yourself if this belief is serving you and if not, kick its ass to the curb!

Just remember, GAIL is an all around b*tch, but she’s totally manageable, provided you are willing to do the work to reprogram your self-imposed barriers to success.

The only limitations we have in this world are the ones we place on ourselves. (That’s a TWEETable!)

The sky is the limit provided you give yourself the opportunity to fly!

Do you have a friend who is trying to reach a fitness goal, or any other type of goal in their life, and may be the victim of GAIL? I gave you some solid advice on identifying and overcoming them, so please share this article so they can overcome their GAILs and achieve their goals.

Can you identify where you are experiencing Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations or Limiting Beliefs in your life and how you can use the tips above to overcome them? Join in on the conversation by leaving your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

October 22, 2013     0

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Life Lessons from a 42 Year Old Wisdom Junkie

So I turn 42 on Sunday. Yep, I’m one of those crazy people who claim their age and feel no need to hide it. I subscribe to the philosophy that as I get older, I get better. Age and experience have offered me increased wisdom and a deeper understanding of who I am, why I’m here and how I can make a difference in the world. They also continue to impress upon me the fact that there is still so much more learning and growing to be done.

And it was during this birthday contemplation, I decided to share some of the life lessons I’ve learned along the way, and the impact they can have on your life. I’ve touched upon a few of these in previous articles, but they definitely bear repeating. Many of them will seem like such simple concepts, yet the majority of people in the world haven’t mastered them. You may recognize some, or maybe even all of these lessons. My goal here isn’t to stump my readers with obscure knowledge and B-side concepts, instead my hope is that the information provided is transparent, easily digestible and something that leads to reflection and growth. So without further adieu, here are 10 life lessons I’ve learned along the way and how they can impact your life.
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1. Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison leads to separation and judgment of yourself and others. Recognize you are enough just as you are and that we are all on our own unique and incomparable path.

2. Let go of the need to be perfect. This form of control keeps us constantly trying and constantly failing to live up to an unrealistic ideal of who we think we should be. If only I were thinner, prettier, stronger, smarter, etc. Let go of your need to be perfect and see just how much happier (and easier) life can be.

3. Own your vulnerabilities. We all have them. So why do most us look at them as some sort of shortcoming and weakness and pretend they don’t exist? The fact of the matter is, it’s only when you’re able to own, accept and learn from your vulnerabilities that you’re able to treat yourself, and others, with the compassion, understanding and forgiveness we all richly deserve.

4. Learn to say no in your life. In order to be there for the people in your life, you need to be there for yourself first. So learn to be okay with saying no to others so you make the time for those things that add meaning and enrichment to your life. You’re not a bad person for making yourself a priority.

5. Don’t keep company with the wrong people. You’ve heard it said time and time again, including by yours truly. You are the company you keep. So why not surround yourself with people who let you be the real you, support your dreams and foster an atmosphere of acceptance and love.

6. Stop trying to be someone else. Trying to live in the mold of others people’s expectations is a fool’s errand. It’s an exhaustive effort that takes us farther away from who we really are. Impress others by following your own path and find your acceptance by leading a fully realized and uncompromised existence. Check out my blog, Are You Keeping It Real.

7. Stop trying to control every aspect of your life. A kissing cousin of perfectionism, control is another enemy of peace of mind and happiness. You can have a beautiful, meaningful and fulfilled life without micromanaging every aspect of it. You just need to have faith, accept that things won’t always go as planned and not be afraid to ask for help, either from your higher power or from your loved ones.

8. Learn to move past fear. Fear is without a doubt the greatest paralyzer in the world today. Fear of failure, fear of success and fear of judgment by others debilitate people and keep them from pursuing their dreams. Recognize that you only have one life to live and that you don’t want to be on your deathbed filled with regret over what could have been. Identify what it is that makes you afraid, ask yourself if it is rational (or even real) and move past it in pursuit of your dreams. Check out my blog, Letting Fear Be Your Guide.

9. Live in the now. We spend too much time regretting the past and dreaming of the future. We trap ourselves into feelings of guilt and embarrassment by holding on to shameful or humiliating memories and putting them on perpetual playback in our heads. Conversely, we propel ourselves into the future by dreaming of the day when we will have everything we think we need to have a perfect life. But it’s only when we stay present minded, grateful for everything we have and dedicated to our life’s journey (not the destination) that we learn, grow and become the people we’re meant to be.

10. Stop gossiping. I’ll let you in on a secret. People only gossip for one reason, insecurity, plain and simple. They figure if they’re pointing the finger at someone else, no one will be able to see what they’re trying to hide about themselves. This nasty little habit does nothing but create separation and judgment in the world. So the next time you’re thinking about joining in on a gossip session, remind yourself of your own inner work, learn to practice compassion and end the conversation before it has a chance to begin.

Did any of the above life lessons strike a chord with you? Learn anything new about yourself from reading this article? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

October 12, 2013     2

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Understanding the Distinction between Belonging and Fitting In

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.
-Brene Brown

I’ve been a bit obsessed with Brene Brown lately. If you don’t know her work, you’re missing out. She has a Ph.D. in Social Work and has been studying shame and vulnerability since 2001. Her “claim to fame” came in 2007 when she did a TEDx talk titled, The Power of Vulnerability, which has been viewed by over 11.4 million people worldwide. Recently, Brene appeared on Oprah’s Lifeclass and Super Soul Sunday. In addition, she’s a NY Times best-selling author and has written 3 books. I just finished reading one of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

One of the major themes in Brene’s work revolves around the difference between “Belonging” versus “Fitting In”. Often mistaken as synonyms, these two terms have very different meanings, as well as very different impacts on your life. Let me explain.

In the preface section of her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene provides two lists of attributes (or patterns) shared by the thousands of people she collected stories from as part of her research. The first list, she labeled “Do”, and it characterized people who enjoyed a strong sense of love, community and connection. These people were able to embrace their imperfections and vulnerabilities and share them with others. Their shared attributes included worthiness, faith, hope, authenticity, love, belonging, joy, gratitude and creativity. Good stuff, right? When I think of the “Do” category, I envision people who are loving and accepting of themselves and others, grateful for what they have, plugged into their purpose and not afraid to make mistakes.

The second list, she labeled “Don’t”, and it characterized people who denied their imperfections and vulnerabilities and tried to hide them from others for fear of judgment and rejection. Their shared attributes included perfection, exhaustion, self-sufficiency, being cool, fitting in, judgment and scarcity. When I think of the “Don’t” category, I envision people who put up airs to seek approval and acceptance, operate with a lack mentality and judge both themselves and others.

Brene then goes on to define each one of these terms and describes how fitting in gets in the way of belonging:

“Fitting in” is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted.

“Belonging”, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are. Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Translation: In order for us to truly feel like we belong in this world, we need to love and accept ourselves. Human beings are hard wired for connection. There’s no escaping the fact that it’s in our emotional connections and our relationships that we find belonging, purpose and happiness. But there’s also no escaping the fact that our ability to make those connections is severely hindered if we can’t connect with ourselves, first and foremost.

I spent so many years seeking my “belonging” by trying to “fit in”. I tried to be cool, fiercely independent, and impervious to others opinions and judgments. I failed miserably. And for all of my attempts to “fit in”, I only created more separation and judgment in my life. (If you want to hear a little more about my story, click here.) .

The path to shifting your mindset from one of “fitting in” to one of “belonging” isn’t an easy one, especially if you’ve been conditioned to seek external approval and acceptance by others. With that said, I think it starts with being mindful of your behavior and ensuring your actions are coming from a place of authenticity and self-respect. Ask yourself what the motivations are behind your actions and if they’re aligned with who you really are. Lastly, you need to identify and open up to those trusted individuals you can share your whole self with, imperfections and all. The fact of the matter is, it’s only when we present our true selves to the world that we tap into real “belonging” and the worthiness, creativity and love that accompany it.

Can you identify ways in which you’ve been trying to “fit in” versus “belong” in any area of your life? Have you successfully shifted your life from trying to be perfect and self-sufficient to accepting and sharing your imperfections and vulnerabilities? Have any advice to share with other readers? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time. If you don’t like something you read here, leave it and only take away what resonates with you.

October 4, 2013     0

Say-NO

Learning to Say No

Self-care is a concept that has become increasingly elusive in our society. It sounds so simple, yet most of us spend our lives over worked, run down and stressed out. We’ve lost sight of the fact that self-care, which includes putting ourselves first and learning to say no, should be one of our top priorities.

So why are so many of us uncomfortable with the idea of saying no?

Let’s take a look at some of the more common reasons.

You want to help. Of course you do. You’re a good person with a big heart and a kind soul. You certainly don’t want to turn someone away who is asking for your assistance, even if you don’t have any time to give.

You’re afraid of being rude. Many of us were brought up to believe it was rude to say no, especially to our elders. In fact, if I would have said no to a request by an adult when I was growing up, I probably would have got my ass beat with a belt. (Insert gay joke here) .

You’re afraid of conflict. You don’t want to piss somebody off or make them feel rejected by saying no. You avoid confrontation by becoming a “yes man”.

You don’t want to burn a bridge. You’re worried about missing out on an opportunity, favor or “perk” if you say no. You’re worried about rattling the boss’ cage or getting on your boyfriend’s bad side.

You’re afraid of feeling less than. Some people fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others. They see friends and coworkers juggling multiple volunteer activities, work projects and personal favors daily, so they think they should too.

So where does this behavior come from?

As always, Psych 101 rears its ugly head. Your ability to say no is directly related to your self-confidence and self-esteem. People with low self-confidence or low self-esteem get very nervous at the idea of saying no to someone and pissing them off. They also have a tendency to put other people’s needs ahead of their own. This “people-pleasing” mentality is based on the notion that your self-worth is derived from the things you do for other people. This gets ugly fast when people recognize this trait in you and begin to take advantage of it.

So what happens if we don’t learn to say no and set appropriate boundaries with the people in our lives?

When you don’t take proper care of yourself and ensure enough “me time”, you open yourself up to heightened stress, resentment, exhaustion and eventually burnout. You also rob yourself of time spent enjoying things you’re passionate about. This could include spending time with loved ones, building a business, pursuing hobbies or simply having some alone time. From a professional standpoint, if you take on too any projects at work, the quality of your deliverables could suffer. Trying to impress your boss by never saying no can have larger, negative long term ramifications on your career if your overpromise and under deliver.

Now let’s take a look at some ways you can say no when being asked for your time.

Keep your response simple. If you want to say no, you can be polite, firm and direct. Don’t over-apologize for wanting to take care of yourself. Remember, you’re not asking permission to say no.

Be respectful. Many good causes land at your feet and it can be tough to turn them down. Being complimentary of the group’s effort, while saying no, shows that you respect what they’re doing.

Be true to yourself. Be completely honest with yourself and the other person about what you truly want and let that guide your response.

Don’t compromise. Avoid compromising if you really want or need to say no.

Don’t feel guilty for saying no. Whether it be a friend, coworker, spouse or partner, it’s important for them to hear you say no from time to time so they recognize your boundaries.

Be ready to repeat. You may need to refuse a request several times before the other person accepts your response.

Explore other options. You can always negotiate the size of the request, take time to think about it, postpone the request or refer the requestor to someone who can help them right away.

Remember, you can’t be there for the people in your life if you’re not there for yourself first. Saying no won’t be easy, especially at the beginning, but with practice, it gets easier. Saying no is your prerogative. It’s about ensuring you don’t overextend yourself and become resentful of the people in your life. Most importantly, it’s about respecting and valuing your time and space. And now I’m going to leave you with a quote that wraps this article up nicely (and it’s tweetable too!):

Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out. -Thema Davis

In what areas of your life do you need to say no? What are some friendly “no responses” you’ve used when declining a request? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time. If you don’t like something you read here, leave it and only take away what resonates with you.

September 26, 2013     6

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How to Avoid Common Impediments to a Happy Life

A happy life is becoming ever more elusive these days. Our society conditions us to believe that happiness is only achieved by looking outside ourselves for guidance on who to be, what to do and how to act. Truth be told, this lifestyle ignores the one surefire way you can achieve happiness in your life, by looking inward for your guidance and answers. Here are some common, externally focused roadblocks to being happy and how to overcome them.

Wearing masks - Trying to live in the mold of others people’s expectations can be exhausting and take us farther away from who we really are. If we wear these masks long enough, we run the risk of losing sight of who we really are all together. Gay men are especially susceptible to this type of negative behavior due to the unaccepting environments we grew up in. Impress others by following your own path and find your acceptance by leading a fully realized and uncompromised life. Check out my blog, Are You Keeping It Real.

Judging Others - Truth be told, people love to judge. We like to judge others who share our same insecurities. If we’re pointing the finger at someone else, we’re keeping the spotlight off of us. Judgment takes on many forms, but one of the most prevalent is gossip. Gay men love to judge, and we certainly love to gossip. How many times have you watched a group of gay men shred another gay man for how his hair is styled, what he’s wearing or how he’s acting? I’m certainly guilty of judging others and participating in gossip. I recognize now it was simply my desperate attempt to mask my own insecurities. When we recognize our judgment of others comes from a place of fear and insecurity, we’re able to shift our perception to one of empathy, compassion and understanding. Shifting from a fear based perspective to one of love is the key to living an authentic and happy life.

Looking to others for your life purpose - Much like wearing masks, this form of external living keeps your life in the control of others. A great example is letting others choose your career for you. I can’t tell you how many times I hear stories about people who went into a specific line of work because their parents wanted them to or because people told them they wouldn’t make any money pursuing their real passion. If this hits home with you, you’re in good company. Many people let outside influences guide their life trajectory. Designate yourself the #1 expert on what’s best for your life and don’t let others steer you down the wrong path.

Procrastinating - We’ve all experienced the negative outcomes associated with putting off important things in life, so why do we continue to do it? When you procrastinate on those things that are important to you like pursuing your dream job, mending broken relationships or spending time with loved ones, feelings of guilt, sadness and shame can surface. Procrastination can start small, but end big. Time moves quickly and if you’re not careful, days, months and years can go flying by. You certainly don’t want to be on your deathbed with a laundry list of excuses for not being the person you wanted to be and not leading the life you envisioned for yourself. The time we have on this planet is uncertain, so don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Check out my blog, Regrets of the Dying.

Living in the grip of fear - The number one reason people fail to make positive change in their life and realize their full potential is fear. In our society, people are under the misguided notion that fear equates to weakness, so we pretend we’re indestructible and nothing gets to us. Of course, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. When you acknowledge your fear and identify what exactly you’re afraid of, you weaken its hold on you. Oftentimes, you realize the real truth about fear; it’s not real or rational. My favorite way of explaining fear is with a well-known acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real. Check out my blog, Letting Fear Be Your Guide.

Seeking perfection - Want to know one of the quickest paths to experiencing failure and shame? It’s trying to be a perfectionist. Society (via loved ones, advertisements, TV, etc.) sends us an inaccurate and all together unfair messages that if we can’t brilliantly execute on all aspects of our lives, that we’re not enough, that we have somehow failed. We hold ourselves to this unrealistic ideal, hide our perceived weakness and shame ourselves for not being perfect. The fact of the matter is, you are enough just the way you are. It’s okay to not be able to do everything. It’s okay to talk about your feelings of weakness and inadequacy. And it’s definitely okay to ask for help.

Trying to control - A kissing cousin of perfection, control is another enemy of peace of mind and happiness. When you spend all of your time trying to control every inch of your life, you burn through a ton of positive energy and burden yourself with worry. So do yourself a favor, ease up on the reigns, and trust everything in life is happening exactly as it’s supposed to be. You can have a beautiful, meaningful and fulfilled life without micromanaging every aspect of it. You just need to have faith, accept that things won’t always go as planned and not be afraid to ask for help, either from your higher power or from your loved ones.

Keeping company with the wrong people - You’ve heard it time and time again. You are the company you keep. So why not surround yourself with people who let you be the real you, support your dreams and foster an atmosphere of acceptance and love. Enough said.

Feeling a sense of entitlement - Many people have the misguided notion that the things they want for their lives can and should be handed to them with no effort on their part. The reason why they have this mindset can be attributed to any number of things, but the outcome is almost always the same. They make no progress towards achieving their dreams. Remember,

Awareness is powerful, but it can be rendered useless without action!

Knowing what you want for your life gets you nowhere if you don’t take action to obtain it. Don’t wait around for others to give you what you want or you may never achieve the goals and dreams you have for your life.

So are you dealing with any of the above impediments to a happy life? Have you overcame any of the above happiness barriers and have wisdom to impart on other readers? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time. If you don’t like something you read here, leave it and only take away what resonates with you.

August 20, 2013     0

KeepItReal

ARE YOU KEEPING IT REAL?

A topic that keeps getting brought up by my clients is authenticity and learning how to show up as the real you in all areas of your life. Authenticity has been a buzz word for years and I think many people are tired of seeing it. But I think the reason it keeps coming up is because we live in a society that tells us we’re not good enough just being ourselves….that we need to be more, have more and do more in order to be happy and whole. A few weeks back, on my Blog Talk Radio Show, we dove into the topic of authenticity and the masks people wear in different areas of their lives.

First, let’s break down what I mean by a mask. Masks are pre-meditated, fear based misrepresentations of who we really are. We wear masks in many areas of our lives for fear of rejection, judgment or ridicule. Masks differ from person to person and are based on individual life experiences. In the context of this topic, life experiences make up who we are and what we’re AFRAID of. As a result, masks vary from person to person and impact different areas of our lives (work, home, gym, social settings, etc.)

Gay men, in particular, are no strangers to masks. As children, we wear masks because we sense we’re different than other children and so desperately want to be accepted. In order to get the approval of our parents and teachers, we may put on a “good son” mask at home and a “teacher’s pet” mask at school. If we’re trying to be accepted by our peers, we may put on the “class clown” or “jock” mask. Pretending to be straight is a far too familiar mask many of us have worn for fear of rejection, or worse. I remember juggling all of these masks at different points of my childhood. No wonder I entered my 20’s with only a glimpse of who I really was.

As we grow into adulthood, our masks grow up right along with us. In our gay adult lives, we may want to impress our boss, so we put on the “professional overachiever” mask. If we’re afraid to assert ourselves or show our boyfriend who we really are for fear of rejection, we might wear the “perfect boyfriend” mask and always be on our best behavior. If we’re trying to get the attention of a hot guy at the gym, we may wear a “cool guy” mask and strut around and pose in front of the mirrors.

Gay, straight, man, woman, child…it really doesn’t matter. This impacts everybody. Why? Because as a society, we spend way too much time externally focused, looking for societal cues on how to behave and seeking advice from others in order to make decisions about what’s best for us. As a result of this overdependence on external sources, we move farther and farther away from our TRUE selves.

So what can you do if you’re ready to keep it real in all areas of your life and you’ve lost sight of who you really are under the many masks you wear? Turn on your “internal guidance system”. Much like the GPS in a car, your internal guidance system, or intuition, can lead you back to who you really are and what you really want in your life. I’m a firm believer in looking inward for answers to your life’s questions and learning to hear and trust your intuition is the first step in getting back to YOU in all areas of your life.

A simple way you can turn on your internal guidance system and begin peeling away the masks you’re wearing is to start asking yourself questions when interacting with others in all areas of your life. Some examples of truth seeking/mask crushing questions include:

  • Is the person I’m being in this moment afraid of something? (judgment, ridicule, rejection)
  • In this moment, am I behaving a certain way to seek validation or gain acceptance?
  • Am I acting or putting on a show?

There are also some “red flags” you can be aware of when interacting with others that will help you realize you’re wearing a mask:

  • Agreeing with others to gain their acceptance…even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying
  • Bragging about anything in your life/showing off
  • Embellishing your life situation (inflating your income level, lying about your title at work, spending beyond your means in order to keep up with the lavish lifestyle of your friends)

Next, start tracking your mask wearing and interactions with others for the next week. My clients can attest to the fact that I’m a huge proponent of writing things down. My suggestion is for you to keep track of the answers to the above questions or the “red flags” you notice when interacting with others. Write about the masks you were wearing. Get to know them and give them names like I did above. Maybe you can even figure out why you created them to begin with? Also, make sure you write down any interactions where you were completely comfortable and at ease. Maybe it was with a good friend or a sibling? These interactions are authentic and provide guidance on how to show up as the real you in all areas of your life. And if you identify an area of your life where you really feel you can’t be yourself, question how healthy it is and start to focus on ways to change or improve it.

Remember that when we look for approval, acceptance or validation externally (friends, boss, that hot guy at the gym, etc.), we move farther away from our own self-love and self-acceptance. Wearing masks and misrepresenting ourselves keeps us in a state of unrest and keeps you at odds with yourself. And even when we get the external validation we so desperately want, it’s fleeting at best. Only by looking inward, through our own acceptance and love, can we come fully realize who we are, what we want and what we’re capable of.

Awareness is powerful but it can be rendered useless without action. Knowing you’re wearing masks is only part of the solution. Patiently taking action is the other part. In other words, you’ve been wearing these masks for a long time, possibly your whole life. Understand that you have been conditioned to behave this way and it will take some time to recondition yourself to put the real you forward in all situations. It took me some time, but I stuck to my guns and was able to make that change. If I can do it, YOU can do it!

So what kind of masks do you wear? Can you think of ways you might be able to take one or all of those masks off to show up as the REAL you in all areas of your life? Join in on the conversation by leaving your comments below.

KEEP IT REAL!

Joel

My goal is always to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time. If you don’t like something you read here, toss it out and only take away what resonates with you.