“I no longer look for the good in people, I search for the real…Because while good is often dressed in fake clothing, real is naked and proud no matter the scars.” — Chrishala Lishomwa
At the age of ten, I was a chubby, prepubescent blob of nerves. You can imagine just how horrified I was when my Grandpa took me to the YMCA one terrible Saturday morning. We walked into the locker room, and these naked old men initiated a shock and awe campaign on my eyes.
In the South, we say nek-kid. And just the thought of it makes my stomach hurt.
It must have been Senior Citizen Saturday at the YMCA. Everything had lost its elasticity. There were body parts sagging below other body parts and I wanted to claw out my eyeballs. The room was filled with white-haired old men that looked sort of like a whole chicken, vacuum-sealed in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
I have never fully recovered.
I was petrified at the thought of being naked around anyone. This is due to my childhood sexual abuse, coupled with the “bonus” of growing up in the purity culture of the Evangelical church. I was the kid who found comfort in hiding beneath a hoodie, even on particularly warm days in Alabama. I was the preteen, wearing a t-shirt to the swimming pool, because I didn’t have the muscle tone of other, more athletic boys my age.
Even though I became hooked on pornography at the age of twelve, the truth is: I still don’t like to be naked. In my practice as a life coach, and thanks to my own personal recovery from a suicide attempt, I’ve learned I’m not alone. Most guys are really uncomfortable taking it all off.
The truth is, everyone needs to get naked. Here’s why…
- You’re too busy. I know because I’m a human, too. Being a self-care expert and a life coach doesn’t make me immune to the chronic busyness that plagues our culture. If you’re anything like me, you are probably married to the calendar on your smartphone. (And those are just the work appointments.) Add in social engagements, household chores, and parenting, and suddenly our list of supposed responsibility gets out of hand in a hurry. When is the last time you disconnected and put yourself first for half an hour?
- You lack boundaries. In nearly every coaching session I have, people lack boundaries. Whether it’s a co-worker, a boss, or an issue with the in-laws, most people seriously struggle with the basics of self-respect and direct communication. What self-care tools do you have that empower you to set clear boundaries, even when it’s uncomfortable?
- Shame is eating you alive. Guys are the worst at admitting our struggle with shame, but most of us lack community and shame thrives in isolation. (So does depression, by the way.)
Our culture that tells men lies like:
- Don’t stop for directions! Just keep driving.
- Vulnerability is weakness.
- Get it together, bro.
- Don’t cry! Dry it up.
- Stop whining! Don’t be a little bitch.
- External toughness equals manliness.
- Your worth is found in what you do, not who you are.
But again – those are lies. My goal as a life coach is to combat the lies of shame, silence, and isolation with truth.
So what is the truth about men and self-care? Plain and simple: we need each other. We find healing and wholeness through the power of safe community. When get naked and allow others to see us – our dreams, fears, joys, disappointments, and the things that royally piss us off – we grow stronger together.
Nothing happens in a vacuum.
Just like the pebble that’s dropped in a pond, everything we do (good or bad) ripples out and impacts those around us. Even if there is no direct impact on the ones you love, the silence and secrecy around the issues that hurt and haunt you allows your shame to grow at an exponential rate. Eventually, you become toxic, slowly poisoning the relationships you care about most.
The crippling reality is this: most guys suck at self-care. I know, because I lived it for 30 years. I don’t know about other countries and cultures, but the lie of the straight, white, American male is this: don’t get naked. Have sex. Watch porn. Let your freak flag fly. But don’t get naked.
Here’s a challenge to any man who truly gives a damn: try self-care. Do the most courageous thing possible – take it all off. Not sure where to start? Join my free self-care challenge. You can join today at jointheselfcarechallenge.com. In addition, I’ve created a brand-new Facebook community just for men just like you who are ready to work together to create a lifestyle of focused emotional health and purpose.
The world is crying, “let us see you!” Chances are, your wife and kids are desperate to truly know you. I know you’re scared to let your guard down. I’ve been there. We were raised in a culture that taught us we must always have our shit together. But the strongest men I know are the ones who are willing to admit they don’t have it all figured out, and embrace their humanity – all of it.
Photo by Rob and Stephanie Levy