I’ve been “doing my work” for over 10 years now. In this time I have grown in many areas–developing, expressing, and living as the man I was destined to be. It has been an exciting time in my life without a doubt.

What’s also true is that my work is far from over. Even those things in myself that I have spent so much time looking at, examining, processing…literally bleeding, puking, and shiting myself as I confronted the dragons living inside me…there is still more for me to do. Holy crap!

At first glance one might say, “Geez…after 10 years give it up dude!” What is interesting about that statement is this: give what up?

Give up working and succeeding on becoming a better man? Seems obvious to me that is something I am unwilling to give up.

What isn’t as obvious to me all the time is this: “giving up” that story that at some basic root level, I am bad. I am so flawed and damaged that I could never be truly worthy of love, joy, success, and happiness. Basically I don’t count.

The message of toxic shame. image

Wow, now that is a belief and a message that begs to be given up! Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of it and I believe I have given it up. Yet…in subtle ways it can still show up. Not as loud and as big of a-pain-in-the-ass like in the old days, but it still whispers. Like a phantom limb with an itch…there is no limb, so that itch does not need to be scratched.

Again, I recognize this untrue message of “I don’t count” because I have spent years confronting it. In that sense, nothing new here. I know it’s false.

And this is the new piece for me.

That nagging, annoying, whisper  that “I don’t count” is a gift for me… if I pay attention. It helps me course correct and gives me the opportunity to refine, and continue to define the man I am. Which makes this piece of my work more about micro, rather than macro, development.

Here is a situation I’m talking about.

I’m in leadership in an organization that is filled with men who understand their own power, abilities, and expertise to get things accomplished. So on the macro level…I’m in this group of men. Hence, I’m living the result of 10 years slaying the “I don’t count” dragon inside me. Me sitting in a room with these men is a macro result of the internal work I’ve accomplished.

And here is the micro perspective.

I can be in conversations, situations, and other opportunities where I may not say something that would be beneficial, needed, or useful in some way. On the surface I tell myself I don’t need to say it; I just have a responsibility to make sure it does get said.

Because I sit in circles with other leaders, other internally powerful men, it usually will get said without me saying a word. I honestly don’t believe this in itself is a “bad” thing. Much of this approach is part of my style of leadership…creating space for others to grow.

And here is me telling on myself: If I dig deeper, I don’t say it because in that moment I am being run by a message of “I don’t count”. If I don’t count… then how could anything I say count? And down the rabbit hole that conversation heads.

I recognize that the “I don’t count” message is untrue, and because I can recognize it, I can choose how I respond to it.  I know this message comes from some pretty fucked up experiences I had and how I internalized them.  Knowing this, when I hear “I don’t count” in my head I can choose to free myself of its hold through action.

The “I don’t count” whisper is a gift, a reminder, for me to step up, step in, and know in that moment I can speak, be heard, and express the gifts I have been blessed with. I do count, I matter, and I have many helpful things to offer those around me.

I’m not unique either. If you are a man who experiences toxic shame, you can can be rid of it like me, and use any remaining whispers as reminders to step into your full potential in any given moment…real time, thus living and being the man you were destined to be.

Helpful tips to move forward:

1. Acknowledge what you are feeling in the moment without attaching judgment of it being right or wrong. It just is.

2. Own that you as a grown man have resources and strengths now that you may not have had when the message of toxic shame was created. You can create different outcomes for yourself.

3.  Ask for help. Find an ally who will provide honest feedback about you on the thing you are working on. See yourself as a trusted person sees you and be willing to course correct to get to where you want to be.