What You Hold Back Holds You Back

The personal idiom “open book” is leveraged less and less these days. Desperate to fly under the radar, I would toss the terminology around when describing myself, hoping to throw the scent off the trail. I — like many other people dishing out red herrings — was hiding something, praying that no one would come and seek.

Comparison had become a survival mechanism and an automatic of my mind. Suppressed emotions, unshared feelings, and damaged relationships — most notably, with myself — were all products of my defensive nature.

With expectations for what a good life looked like drilled into my head from a young age, my creativity was stifled. Life became a structure I had to fit inside rather than a playground I was able to explore.

The cards I was dealt weren’t a playable hand and rather than leave the table to play a different game, I persisted through awkward and unconvincing poker faces that left me more and more deterred from who I really was.

You can tell yourself it’s insignificant. You can tell yourself it’s unrelated. Rest assured, what you hold back from the world will always airbrush your experience of life.

Your life can be a canvas or the edges that confine it. If you don’t free yourself from the thing you’re trying to hide, you’re curbed, limited, and imprisoned. At a certain point, you’ll need absolute freedom to fully express and communicate who you are when the stakes reach the apex.

What you’re embarrased or ashamed of is your ticket to relating with other people who also struggle with feeling imperfect. It’s a gateway for people to feel less alone — one of the fundamental desires of humanity. You can provide that gift, or you can withhold it to no one’s benefit.

Whatever it is you’re not proud of, you can grow through it. It all starts with saying,

“This is me. This is my struggle. This is what I’m going through. And this is what I’m doing to make it better.”

This is a universal invitation for everyone who hears it to show greater compassion for themselves — something we all can stand to exercise more of.

Stepping up and taking ownership of what owns you has another underlying benefit: the courage your forced to summon multiplies. The initial confrontation with your self-acceptance requires all the bravery you possess and as a result, a new standard is set for yourself. You’re able to be courageous in so many other situations where being brave would help you. Bold acts you always wanted to take at work but never could are suddenly viable options. Talking to strangers (or even looking them in the eye) may have crippled you before, but it’s now something that excites and fulfills you.

Peak levels of momentum are created the moment you make a decision to step out from the darkness and into the light.

For me, I wasn’t necessarily inspired to own my shit — I had to get desperate. I finally had to come to terms that life as I knew it wasn’t changing unless I changed. Until I let go of the fear that created the facade in the first place, the cowardice and erosion of self-respect would continue to perpetuate.

My desire to change finally surmounted my desire to stay the same.

I started treading lightly, extending subliminal olive branches to test the depths of the waters. Much like eating chocolate, the fringe of diminishing returns wasn’t far from the start. After playing it safe and sharing with people I know wouldn’t care, the impact lessened to a degree of white noise.

I had to step directly into the fear. I needed to channel the very tool that so often pushed me to compare my blooper reel to everyone else’s highlight reel. I needed to cast a wide net and deal with the unnerving emotions of people potentially not liking me.

Sure enough, I turned to Instagram (obviously the best platform to pen a memoir), deliberated the draft for three hours, and as a whirlwind of the past collided with the present and future, I calmed the maelstrom long enough to press “Post”.

I spent much of the past decade suppressing who I am, venturing into the very depths of my soul, rattling off feeble attempt after feeble attempt at convincing myself I was someone else. Someone more conventional. Someone more customary. Someone more...normal. This battle raged within my mind, scattering the ashes inside my heart. People suffered because I suffered. I projected it onto them. My self-imposed pain kept me from truly loving anything - most notably, myself. You can set yourself on cruise control as often as you like; but if you fail to glance up at the road, you're bound to crash and burn. * * * I reached that point approximately nine months ago, when I was forced to confront the decisions I made over the years that impacted so many people. Flying under the radar and fitting in wasn't worth being a coward. All the greatness available inside me would never see the light of day, nor would anyone I cared about ever know how I truly felt. * * * Since then, the line has been drawn in the sand. I'll never keep myself from myself. Whatever defensive reaction that shows up on a dime, I'll carefully step around. Whatever my ego wants to protect me from, I'll be precise in pressing the eject button. Whatever the hell I'm so fearful of, I'll look straight in the eye and offer a handshake. I need to make peace with these fears, for they are the gatekeeper to my dreams. * * * I don't intend to define myself in any way with this post, as I'm through with the limits of my own making. I'm simply me - as open as I can possibly be. Little acts of courage that interrupt my old way of being feed my spirit. And as far as the "old me" was concerned, this picture was going to the grave with me. But I had to break the pattern, for doing so breeds hope for the future. That I'm not stuck as a fixed personality type or an anchored level of confidence. For anyone struggling with similar internal battles, just be you - however that shows up. I'd love to meet who you really are. Swimsuit: @skinzformen

·     ·     ·

This is me. A twenty-eight year old bisexual man with an affinity for hi-cut swimwear and a long-standing battle with insecurity. I’ve been attempting to conceal it from the general public for over a decade and I’m now moving on to fight more pertinent and necessary crusades — for kindness, empathy, leadership, self-acceptance, and collective growth. This chapter — which clearly lacks a compelling story arc — is closed.

I understand that what you’re holding back probably has nothing to do with sexuality (but hey, if it does, welcome to the club!). It may be a childhood trauma, family addiction, financial hardship, lack of formal education, personal insecurity or something else entirely. Whatever it is, go easy on yourself — how you treat yourself is a mirror image of how you treat others — and take the necessary steps to get in front of it. Rather than spend your life having to work around a limitation, allow yourself the freedom to roam in the here and now by acknowledging what’s been stopping you all this time. You don’t have to broadcast your dirty laundry on Main Street, but if your method for taking back inner peace doesn’t put ice in your veins, you’re not playing a big enough game.

Attachment doesn’t exist during self-improvement, for anything you attempt to hold onto impedes your progress. You cannot have your cake and eat it, too. Trying to look good as you grow is a fool’s errand. Growth is wildly uncomfortable, awkward, and messy — it’s designed this way to humble you.

Beyond our right to live our lives free from constriction or roadblocks, the true silver lining is the impact your vulnerability has on others. The essence of vulnerability — beyond all the fluff you see amongst the inspirational memes — is it lowers people’s walls and connects us. When you’re not in defense mode, you’re actually being yourself. We look to others for permission to do so and a person’s vulnerability is an overt cue.

Energy is limitless when you’re free. Creativity is unbound and opportunities are ubiquitous. However fulfilling or successful your life is right now, anything unwanted you’re harboring should be under review.

Put your stamp on what you’re dealing with and see what kind of masterpiece you can create with that blank canvas.

The world is a starving artist.