Reading time: 7 minutes
He looked me straight in the eyes.
Gently put his hand on my heart.
And whispered, “all of you is welcome here”.
His words were like a balm to my soul.
It was 2012, and I was attending my first Men’s Group.
Little did I know, I was about to reveal parts of me I’d been hiding for years.
And I would finally experience the freedom I’d been seeking all my life…
Around that time, I realized something critical:
What we keep in the dark destroys us.
The things we’re most ashamed to express, the fears we’re afraid to talk about…
They fester in our hearts.
They erode our self-esteem.
They suck the joy out of our lives.
That’s why 5 years ago, I decided to start practicing “Radical Honesty”.
At first, I felt exposed, weak, and terrified of being judged.
But again and again, my vulnerability was met with love and acceptance.
It helped me become more confident than ever.
It gave me access to greater inner peace (I have nothing to hide!)
And made me much less concerned about what others think of me.
That’s why today I want to share with you how keeping “secrets” is silently destroying you… and offer you a better way to navigate life without needing to hide your true self.
The Taboo Society
Let’s face it: we live in a society that’s deeply emotionally repressed.
How many people around you regularly share their most vulnerable truth?
It’s extremely rare. And for good reason…
Early on in life, we’re told that some topics are off-limits.
As a boy, I learned to talk about sports, girls and cars.
My deepest emotions?
My biggest fears?
My wildest dreams?
Not so much.
How about you? What did you learn to hide?
As we become teenagers, we start facing complex issues.
High school social dynamics.
Our first sexual experiences.
Choosing our career path.
By that point, many of us have become emotionally constipated.
We felt a deep need to share what was inside us.
But it just won’t come out.
We’re afraid of being judged.
We’re terrified of being ridiculed.
We don’t want to be perceived as weak.
So we stuff it down. We show only a sliver of our true self.
The Numbing Lifestyle
As we hit our late teens, we finally find solace: Alcohol.
At long last, something to make us feel confident and at ease.
A temporary remedy for the existential angst that lives inside us.
Why do you think so many young people get blackout drunk every weekend?
It’s a symptom of a profoundly sick society.
Drugs, porn, social media, fast food, etc.
The ways to numb ourselves are endless (and the largest industries in the US).
Because doing deep inner work is difficult.
Because speaking up about our pain is uncomfortable.
But the truth it, avoiding it is the worst thing we can do.
The Destructive Effects
We know speaking up about vulnerable issues is difficult.
Part of us wants to avoid it at all cost (I get it, I did that for years).
But what happens if we don’t?
In my experience, the effects of “hiding” are destructive and far-reaching:
Add all this up, and it dramatically increases your odds of psychosis, depression and/or burnout.
The crazy thing, all of these negative consequence can be avoided. And it starts right here, right now.
What Are You Hiding?
I kept some secrets bottled up inside for years.
Chances are, you’re doing the same right now.
The “shameful” thing you did years ago… that you haven’t told anyone about.
The financial challenge you’re having… that you’re afraid to talk about.
The professional difficulties you’re facing… that you’re trying to resolve all by yourself.
What’s lurking in the dark corners of your consciousness? What are you afraid to tell others?
Remember, what you keep in the dark destroys you.
You don’t need to fight that battle alone.
The moment you open up, everything changes.
Finally Breaking the Silence
When I walked into that Men’s Group in 2012, I didn’t know what to expect.
Within minutes, I was shocked.
Here were seemingly normal, grown men….
Willing to share exactly how they felt in the moment.
Mad, sad, scared, ashamed, etc. Nothing was off limits.
And even more surprising, no one was judging them.
All of us were truly welcome there!
I finally had a space to share my insecurities. The pain in my heart. The things that were driving me crazy.
Not from a place of self-pity but rather to own all parts of myself, and humbly ask for support.
Every week, I showed up at these meetings.
I always walked in feeling nervous, and walked out feeling 100x better.
Soon enough, the deep transformation started happening.
My authenticity amplified, my character deepened, and I discovered what it means to be truly free.
How To Liberate Yourself
If you’ve read this far, your soul is probably craving the freedom that comes from opening up.
It’s going to be scary at first, and it’s going to be an immense relief when you do it.
Here are 5 strategies to break the silence:
1) Realize that everyone has challenges
If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past 5 years of sitting in Men’s Groups and working with high-level clients, it’s that we all have challenges.
Often the more successful a person is, the more challenges they have (the bigger the game you play, the more you have to overcome).
We’re all human. We all get overwhelmed, scared, and confused at times. And when we allow ourselves to get vulnerable, we realize how similar we all are.
2) Experiment by leaning in
As you start on this journey towards greater openness, you don’t need to go all-out and spill your guts on day one (although, you can if you want to!).
If it’s easier for you, try this: challenge yourself to be 10% more honest in your conversations this week. When someone asks you how you’re doing, go a little deeper than usual. Lean in.
And then notice what happens: Are you fears materializing? Or do you feel more authentic and connected?
At first, you might experience what Brene Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover”. The next day you might think “OMG, I can’t believe I shared that…”. It’s normal, and a good sign that you’re tearing down your old walls.
3) Find online communities
A great way to practice leaning in is through online communities. While it may not have the same magic as in-person connection, it’s more accessible.
I recommend checking out Good Men Project. They’re re-inventing media and facilitating “the conversation no one else is having”.
They’re working on an amazing program called “Social Interest Groups” that allows people from around the world to have live phone conversations about important and vulnerable topics. I’m excited to be part of it, and invite you to check out their IndieGogo campaign.
Note: Another highly open and supportive online community can be found on HighExistence’s Forum.
4) Seek a Safe Space
The truth is, it’s not appropriate to share your deepest truth in every situation. That’s why it’s invaluable to have a safe space to do so.
Find (or create) a Men/Women’s Group in your city.
Hire a coach.
Work with a therapist.
Go to a retreat.
Whatever it is, it should make you feel supported, and like “all of you is welcome here”.
5) Commit to becoming a role model
Imagine the world where all humans support each other.
Where empathy, compassion, and deep listening are the norm.
Where no one feels alone or ashamed of who they are.
The only way to create that world is to start with ourselves.
I challenge you to be a role model of vulnerability and radical honesty.
The moment you lean in, you’ll give others permission to do the same.
And just like that, the world will change for the better.
Living life open-hearted is not easy, and requires uncommon character and faith.
But the rewards are incomparable.
As Brene Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
PS. Please share this post because that’s how more men can come out of hiding.