• Phil McAuliffe

What are you holding on to?

Updated: Feb 25

How does your emotional baggage stop you connecting?

Do you need to be like Elsa and just let it go?



Hello!


Very few gay men seek out and then read articles about loneliness unless they’ve come to the realisation that they’re lonely. The stigma and shame we feel is real, and it takes a lot of courage to even engage with the subject.


I’m proud of you for opening this article. I recognise and admire your courage. Now that you’re here, let’s start getting you connected to yourself, those most important to you and to your community.


I wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land this article was written and published on, the Ngunnawal people. I wish to acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of Canberra and the surrounding region. I would also like to acknowledge and welcome other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may be reading this article.


~ Phil


* * * * *


If 2022 is the year we’re letting it happen here at The Loneliness Guy, we need to reflect on what we’re holding on to that’s possibly getting in the way of feeling authentically connected to our selves, those most important to us and to our communities.


To start this reflection, I’ve got a few questions for you:


  • Do you find that there’s part of you that really wants to engage with the world as your beautiful, authentic self?


  • Do you sometimes feel that there’s something within you that’s holding you back from doing connection?


  • What is that?


Hello, fear


Connection – real, honest, soul-nourishing and life-sustaining connection – requires us to be vulnerable. It requires us to put ourselves out there and be seen and to be heard for us to feel that we belong.


Putting ourselves out there to be seen and heard is up to us. However, getting the feeling that we belong in a space with other people often comes back to us from how other people respond to us.


This is scary: We fear judgement. We fear failure. We fear ridicule.


I’m sure that we can all point to multiple experiences in life when we put ourselves out there and were judged, ridiculed or were laughed at when we fell flat on our figurative - or literal - ass.

Maybe the event we experienced was a horrible event. Something traumatic that happened to us when we were younger.


If that’s the case, I’m truly sorry.


Maybe it’s not only what is holding you back; maybe it’s who is holding you back from connecting with the world around you: someone who wants you to stay small and doesn’t want to see you grow.


Staying small and safe


To me, the thoughts and feelings of loneliness often come down to wanting to stay safe and small to avoid making a fool of ourselves or to avoid getting hurt.


Perhaps staying safe and small worked for us to get us through a traumatic event. It worked, so we kept doing it whenever we were further threatened.

Our loneliness could come from stories that we’ve been telling ourselves for years that have calcified into beliefs about our worthiness for love and belonging. Stories could be like how if we show our true selves in a particular circumstance, all those in our lives won’t love us anymore and will leave us. This is abhorrent to us as humans, so it seems better to stay safe, small and quiet.

These stories become like ever-growing backpacks that we’re always carrying through life and we feel like we can’t put them down. These stories at once weigh us down and provide a place for us to hide to keep us safe and small.


Small and safe means avoidance. Avoidance can lead to isolation.


How is avoidance showing up for you in your life, right now? (continued below)



 
 

Connection requires being seen and being vulnerable


Friend, there’s no way around this fact: the connection you need as a gay man experiencing loneliness comes when you decide to allow your beautiful self to be seen – physically, mentally and emotionally.

The connection you need as a gay man experiencing loneliness comes when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with yourself and then others.


You are allowed to take up space.


Make no mistake: this is hard


Oh, yeah. Being vulnerable and putting our selves into the world is hard. Like really bloody hard.


But we don’t do it alone. Indeed, we can’t do it alone, even though we try really hard to fix ourselves.


The answer


You would not be served at all well if I was to write something like: ‘Just take off your backpack full of emotional baggage and let yourself be seen...’ or ‘Be like Elsa and just let it go!’



If only it was so easy, Elsa.


The word ‘just’ in these statements drips with judgement. If only it was so easy to ‘just’ remove our mental and emotional backpack and walk away from it. If only it was so easy to ‘just’ let it go and then pirouette our way to soul-nourishing, authentic connection.


What may be ‘just’ a tiny step over a crack in the pavement for me, may be like trying to jump across a canyon for you.


Remember that while our loneliness can sometimes come from wanting to stay small and safe, the path to connection requires both ourselves and other people to step up to help us along the way.

We all need help, including you. You need someone to help you take steps towards learning what fear you’re holding on to and then work through it so you can move forward.


That could be a therapist or a counsellor. That could be a coach. That could be someone in your orbit who you know is trying to put themselves into the world just like you are. It could be a combination of all.


What are you waiting for? Let’s work out what you’re holding on to, put it down and see if you really need to carry it anymore and then let’s move forward together.


* * * * *


If reading this post has made you uncomfortable or made you think and you need some help, remember that I’m here to help. I have resources on my page if you need crisis help right now. I’ve also built a team of amazing coaches and human connection experts to help you make sense of your loneliness and to help you towards connection. These coaches and connection experts can be found here and can help you learn from your loneliness and help you towards feeling connected.

You can also join the growing community of other gay men in the exclusive Premium Connection Lounge on Facebook. It's a space for gay men prioritising their connection according to the three pillars of connection. I help the group to set weekly connection intentions, share my own and then help to keep them accountable in a supportive way.

Want to chat more about what we're holding on to? Join me for a coffee and a chat in the upcoming episode of my podcast for gay men ‘Connection over Coffee with The Loneliness Guy’ from Thursday 3 March 2022.

Where to now?


Connection is the antidote to loneliness. Join the mailing list (free) or join the premium connection lounge on Facebook (free) and let’s stay connected as we work to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for gay men.

The exclusive group on Facebook is a place where we have regular video chats and help and support each other as we put our real, authentic selves into the world to get the connection we need. We’d love for you to join us!

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Thank you for reading this post. I hope that you’ve found it helpful.

I’m now asking for YOUR help.

Sharing my work really helps it reach more gay men and helps us all to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for gay men globally.


You may not feel lonely and have just the right amount of authentic connection in your life but sharing this article could really help a friend or relative who may be quietly struggling with the thoughts and feelings of loneliness and disconnection.

Indeed, I'm looking to build an evidence base to test the hypothesis that people who share content that de-stigmatises loneliness and promotes authentic connection for gay men globally make better lovers.


Please share this post by email, a message in a chat app or by sharing my post on social media (hit a social media icon below to share) and let me know if the hypothesis is true.

~ Thank you ~

Important notice: All views expressed above are my own/the authors and are intended to support, challenge and inspire gay men to consider the issue of loneliness and increase awareness of the need for authentic connection with themselves, with others and their communities as an antidote to chronic loneliness. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional. Please consult the Resources page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.



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