Mind the Gap - It's OK to be me
"We can either be the person filled with fear and unwanted emotion, or the version we were put on this earth to be."
Dear Little Owl,
There’s a large gap in the road ahead? As I approach it, it seems to grow wider, deeper and darker. I can’t go back, I feel a strong pull towards it, there’s no turning back now, I can see over the edge, it’s very dark, I can’t see the bottom. There are only 2 options, fall into it or find a way over it, all roads have led me to here. I’m 27 I can’t avoid it anymore.
Someone asked me the other day, “do people really change?”. It was strange timing and unexpectedly gave me some of the insights to a question I’d been wrestling with for a long time.
Growing up, I never felt happy in my own skin. I was a sensitive boy, and although I had lots of friends, I never lived up to my own expectations so struggled to understand where I fit in. On the outside, you probably wouldn’t have guessed, but as often happens, internally something very different was going on. I know now that’s this all part of growing up and finding yourself but at the time …
I’d been trying to run away from the real me, for as long as I can remember. I felt like the real me never gave me the things I wanted most, the girlfriends the recognition, the success and reward. It’s said that two of the biggest fears we have in life are:
I’m not enough, so ...
I won’t be loved
And I felt being me was playing into both these fears. When we are children we are given these unconditionally and we learn how to get both of these from the people around you. Then one day what we once took for granted is no longer given freely, the string breaks and you wrestle with yourself, wondering why struggling if you will ever get it back. Then every time you don’t get it, it feeds the fear and unknown to us makes it bigger.
My memories of my teenage years are filled with Lionel Richie and love albums, who sung me through my lonely nights. I was always “the friend guy”, you know the one, the one that the girls said, “ahhh Tim you like a brother”. Not what a 16-year-old wants to hear. It was as if you had to be the funny, tough guy to get the girl, not the sensitive, dependable guy. The fears are being fed!
The acting years at the end of my teenage years again didn’t fill me with any confidence. I’d been acting since I was a boy and had agents along the way, everything was geared for major screen success. Yet I kept getting knock back after knockback. Constantly told, “it’s not personal”, but what could be more personable, “you don’t want me”. I now think part of the pull of acting was the recognition you got at the end of a performance, I didn’t know then, but it was a false kind of acceptance, being accepted not for you as such, but for playing someone else. The fears are growing!
The Twenties Experiment. These are the years when people expected me to be a certain version of me. They expect you to always turn up as this person. If you’re the funny guy that means you need to be always funny, if you are the crazy guy keep doing crazy stuff, if you’re the happy guy don’t you dare have an off day! They were filled with partying and drinking as I tried to be a version of me that I felt was acceptable. I can laugh now as I look back at the haircuts, the fashion choices, the music tastes, they had all been trials and experiments to help me be a version that I thought others would want to see. The fears are established!
The blame years were in there too, as I was searching for me it was easy to blame my parents for who I wasn’t, little did I know at the time that the young boy they brought up was ok. If you are going to blame someone for the bad bits you better blame them for the good bits too. How dare they love me so much? How dare they allow me to pursue my passions, and provide a home for me?
Then the gap year at 27. What helped me make it across the gap? I began to accept that I didn’t have to be a version of someone else. I could be me; I could have different values and beliefs to my friends and family, I didn’t have to try and be someone or something others expected me to be, in fact, I just needed the confidence to embrace the part of me I was holding back. I found love. I found I can be enough.
“If you numb the dark you numb the light”
Brene Brown has a lovely quote, “if you numb the dark you numb the light”. At times I feel the side of me I’ve been trying to numb since I was young had suppressed the good stuff, which I’m slowly unpicking again.
As I head into my 40’s a strange thing has happened. I now feel closer to the little boy I was hiding from than I have ever been. And you know what it’s ok, because being closer to that person and loving the qualities of that person is quite possibly the very best version of me. It’s given me the most amazing children, the most loving wife, the most exciting life, my most authentic voice. In fact, everything I have and everything I want in the future hangs on me understanding that version of me.
If I look at my younger self as a boy what advice would I give him, well I’d start by saying, “you’ve done alright, we made it, thank you”. Then I’d say:
Be careful of how we store those setbacks as they can make the biggest fears we have in life bigger and bigger. Remember we are enough, we have enough, and we are loved
Find out who you are at your best, how do you want to be? Then decide what you believe for this to be true, oh, and surround yourself with people that accept you for being that way. Don’t fall into playing up to a role or label that isn’t you
There are two types of stories we can tell ourselves in life, the story the feeds our fears or the story that tells us who we really are which fills us with joy. Pick wisely
Finally, be grateful for everything you have, and everything you were given. Every moment, every person, every setback, and every triumph. Stack them up high because it’s the juice to having a beautiful life
So, do people change? At this stage in my life yes I think we do. We can either be the person filled with fear and unwanted emotion, or the version we were put on this earth to be. Our best version of our self. I now know who I’m picking! Until next time ...