There’s a lot of gay shame that runs as an undercurrent in my life.
This morning I watched a video by coach Dax Moy. He was talking about the difference between guilt and shame.
- Guilt is how you feel about what you did or didn’t do.
- Shame is how you feel about who you are or who you are not.
A light clicked on, illuminating something that’s been a challenge for me all my life.
I have shame around becoming successful.
What? But the success I envision for myself hasn’t happened yet.
That does seem stupid, doesn’t it. But I get it now. I understand how I’ve been blocking myself. I see how I’ve boxed myself in from experiencing and sharing what makes me fucking awesome and unique.
My shame is that I’m not good enough.
It seems simple enough. A random person on the street might say, “Dude, get over it.”
It is and it isn’t that simple, and here’s why.
Sure, I can analyze my shame and talk about it intellectually. I can tell myself that I shouldn’t be ashamed of what I know, my skills, gifts, knowledge, ability, empathy, love, etc.
I can look at my mindset and agree that, yes, I do have a growth mindset. Nothing fixed and blocked in my brain about success. My pre-frontal cortex is onboard and ready to rock success!
But shame is a feeling. And shame runs deep like a water table under the surface of the ground. It’s always been there, untapped and undrained.
Shame sleeps in the unconscious. When woken, the more ancient, mammalian brain does whatever it can to make me feel comfortable, secure, and safe from not feeling good enough.
My shame of not feeling good enough comes from being gay.
As early as five I knew I was different. Something told me I was looking through the eyes of an outsider, an observer of life, and the conditions I’d have to bear witness to in silence.
In grade two I had a crush on Ted, but I didn’t know what that meant. I wanted to be near him, unable to control the magnetic attraction that made me do things that set me apart in the eyes of my peers.
In every gym class, either being last or next to last picked for the team. Or last in centre court on a rainy day, viscously picked off by a dodge ball.
In nearly every recess to be somewhere off on my own, and when with others, either with one or a few, but never the group.
Suffering through the first four of five years of high school mostly alone and labeled.
Sitting at the edge of the cafeteria table eating in silence.
Not good enough.
Not one of the boys.
Not part of the team.
Not fitting in.
Faggot. Queer. Sissy. Loser. What are you, gay?
If shame is how you feel about who you are, how do years of not feeling good enough during adolescence affect your mind?
It affected me in many ways.
I went inward. I became an avid reader, going into a world of fantasy or thought.
I walked with my eyes cast down to avoid eye contact or to arouse suspicion.
I become angry and resentful, feeling like the world was against me.
I sat at the back of the room. I stood in the corner of the bar.
I started working out at 19 because I though a better body would make other men want me. I didn’t realize I needed to want me, for me, first.
I couldn’t orgasm during sex with another man. Not until my first boyfriend, who was patient and loving enough to never make me feel ashamed.
I questioned my manhood, because while I was a man, I didn’t have a gay male role model.
I came out and started having sex with men at the time of GRID, a few months before HIV and AIDS became the acronyms of the gay apocalypse.
Every time I has set with a man I didn’t know if that would be my mortal undoing.
I didn’t start dating until I was 21.
Fuck this is depressing, isn’t it?
But it’s also not depressing.
Depressing would be if I was still that unhappy, isolated, angry person.
I’m not that person anymore!
Over the years I’ve done the work to understand who I am now as a result of my path in life. This process of personal growth is what has lead me into coaching work.
I’ve used therapy when I needed it to better understand my past. But coaching allows me to understand who I am in this moment.
With the knowledge I gain from being coached, or coaching myself, I can make changes. I can break down the fucking box that’s blocking me from feeling like a huge, awesome, fucking fantastic, and successful gay man!
This is me. This is who I am, transparent and vulnerable.
I’ve been through my own shit and I own it. I don’t presume it’s better or worse shit than anyone else’s. It’s my shit and I can pick it up on my own, thank you very fucking much!
Who I am is a story.
A story is something that you write. It’s a tale you can weave. Don’t like what you wrote? Delete or edit it.
By recognizing my unconscious shame, my history of not feeling good enough, and hiding in the closet, is NOW my greatest strength.
It’s with this strength I hold the pen to write a better, happier, and successful story of me.
Knowing how shame has and still affects me is the core of my talent.
It’s from this place that I view the world.
It’s from this place that I listen to what people say. I listen what’s not said, the silence between the lines, and to the broader semantic meaning of words used.
From this place of what’s not expressed, I seek to help others explore their authenticity and write a new story.