Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Here it is: the secret to beating loneliness.
If we’re lonely and want to connect with other people, we simply need to do one thing: be ourselves.
Simple, right? Nope. Being our authentic selves is hard work.
Authenticity is having a moment. I’m eager to explore it further in the context of my work here at The Loneliness Guy.
Authenticity is vital to my work. It’s a core theme. After all, my tagline is: De-stigmatising loneliness and promoting authentic connection for men globally.
I’ve covered loneliness and connection in previous blog posts, so now it’s authenticity’s turn.
What does 'authenticity' mean?
I could provide a dictionary definition of the word, but I prefer to define my themes in my own way. Simply, authenticity requires me to be myself. It requires you to be yourself. It requires us men to be ourselves.
It sounds simple and noble, doesn’t it? In reality, it’s terrifying. It’s the mental and emotional equivalent of walking out of your house naked and saying to the world: ‘Here I am. Judge me.’
Of course, we don’t do that as adults. We wear masks like we wear clothes to protect those sensitive parts of us. It’s easier that way, right?
While easier in the immediate term, in masking ourselves we’ve further disconnected from our authentic selves.
Living authentically is both the easiest and the hardest way to live. It simply requires us to show up in the world as ourselves. What’s the catch? Authenticity requires us to know – really know – who we are and then show up in the world.
Living authentically as who I am required me to find who I am, sit with aspects of myself that I had denied for years out of feelings of shame, inadequacy or embarrassment, be okay with it and then put these quirks into the world. This wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
More about that later. For now, know that we all have aspects of ourselves that we hide from the world out of feelings of shame, inadequacy or embarrassment.
As we reach middle age, when can begin to feel like life’s not quite what we imagined it to be. We find ourselves in jobs that crush our souls, but we stay because the pay and conditions are good, and we must provide for those who depend on us. We’re living in a world we created when we were younger based on what we thought we wanted – or what others wanted for us – and we feel that we’re not living our lives but living someone else’s. We can feel trapped in a corner into which we’ve painted ourselves. We know that we need to make changes, but change can be terrifying as it feels like so much is riding on it. It can be especially terrifying if we don’t know who we are or feel that we have no-one in our lives with whom we can talk. At this point, living authentically can feel like an unrealistic fantasy.
There’ll be a dedicated post on mid-life crises soon, I promise.
Authenticity and living life as our authentic selves is done despite society and, often, despite ourselves and the voices in our heads that want us to not stand out, to not make a fuss, to not ask for help. We’ve internalised society’s messages that part of being a man is handling our problems alone. I am a rock. I am an island.
I subscribed to this thought (and still do sometimes). I thought that I needed to be a self-sustaining entity. To ask for help was an admission of failure. To admit fault or to make a mistake was to invite judgement from others, or worse, myself. I played it safe. I continued to make decisions based on what I thought I should be doing – especially regarding my career. On reflection, this was a leading cause of my loneliness. Being all things to everyone except myself lead me down the path of disconnection with myself.
Here’s the thing about authenticity and living an authentic life: It’s not the exclusive domain of any sector of the community. Living authentically and continuously showing up in the world as our selves looks different for every man, and this is the point. For gay men, the dilemma is frequently whether it's okay to be out (more on coming out in another post). It can also be the belief that we must uphold a certain type of masculinity (again, more on that soon).
We all admire authenticity because it requires courage. It takes great courage to be ourselves in a world that feels like it wants us to be a certain way. We see it as a strength in others, but as a weakness in ourselves. While we admire others, we can deny ourselves: We slowly wither behind our masks and deny the world – and ourselves – our authentic selves.
For me, being authentically me is exhilarating (a word I use to describe feeling both terrified and excited). I feel like I’m living. But it’s not been as easy process. It’s taken a long time to reach the point where I am now and to share my thoughts with you. It’s been a real process, and it’s not over yet.
You may be thinking ‘Well, good on you! This living authentically thing sounds awesome, but it’ll never work for me.’ I hear you.
I feared – and still do – that by removing my masks and keeping them off and showing up in the world as myself that the people in my life will leave me. Experience has shown that this has been FAR from the case. I’ve been embraced by those who love me for putting myself into the world. They love me, not the mask-wearing me pretending to have all my shit together.
While not being accepted for parts of me always hurts, I have a process that I use for those who don’t accept me. First, I struggle to not put my mask back on where I would readily change myself, my thoughts and opinions to fit in and be accepted. I then remind myself that I belong to me and that I’m enough and that the hustle to accept myself has been worth it without hustling for everyone else’s approval. I then speak with someone who's in my corner. I then realise that those who don't accept me have kindly outed themselves as not being worthy of me and I wish them well.
The best thing is that every connection I make as being authentically myself feels real, but not everyone has earned the right to hear my story. That’s a privilege reserved for very few people in my life, but they’re there. Not everyone has earned the right to hear your story, either. But someone has. Can you be your authentic self with anyone in your life?
All sound too hard?
Yes, it is. Living authentically IS hard. But it’s the only way I know to make connection we need as men – as humans – real.
If you’re a gay man who’s feeling lonely and socially isolated from yourself, those around you or where you are in the world, the path to connection requires you to be authentically yourself. It requires you to make conscious decisions consistently to show up as yourself.
Do you keep wearing the mask you’ve created for yourself? Do you dare to remove the mask in that situation and show your doubts, uncertainties and those things that you’re scared for others to see and judge?
I firmly believe that the world needs us all to show up as who we are, not clones of one another or pretending to live up to ever-changing and mercurial societal expectations.
How exactly do you do this?
Let’s build our awareness of how we show up in the world.
Ask yourself this question as you enter a room, go to work, return home or generally go about your day: Who am I showing up as in this situation?
If you're showing up as something other than yourself, you may have some work to do. If this is the case, that's okay. That's what I'm here for!
Where to now?
Stick around as there’s so much to explore. I’ll share more thoughts with you in coming posts and in my work with those whom I’ve partnered to support you (check out the ‘Services’ page).
Connection is the antidote to loneliness. Stay connected with me and my work by subscribing to my site. Together, we'll build a community of gay men who want to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection within themselves, with others and their communities.
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promote authentic connection for gay men globally.
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