I was swearing by the age of three.
Modeling the behavior of my dad, I would pick up my plastic toy hammer and hit the drywall saying “Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t.” I must have been so proud.
At the age of three we’re still unencumbered in our self-expression. Right and Wrong haven’t set in yet and cultural agreements about what’s expected won’t be encountered for at least another ten years (though that number is getting smaller).
However, as I grew older, I began to care what people thought of me. This evolved into a masterful ability to fit in with broad strokes of positivity and uber friendliness so that I could be accepted by seemingly everyone.
And while fitting in or charming people with my overbearing approach seems innocent enough, under the surface was fear.
I was so afraid to let people in or be true to myself. What if I was a dork? A nerd? These words, especially as an adolescent and teenage boy were wounding words.
And so began the slow emotional emasculation that beats the spirit out of men from an early age. It’s not that this emasculation gets in our way or prevents us from being successful.
By the time I was 22, I had found myself in leadership positions. Attracting these opportunities mostly from my ridiculous energy, teamwork and people skills. But I still had the fear of people not liking me or not fitting it. And while my energy and passion were self-expressions for me, I wasn’t truly self-expressed.
By 31, I was the CEO of a company. With my can-do attitude and team spirit, we turned the company around and took market share over the next five years. But it was toward the end of those five years that I began to feel the disconnect from what I was doing and who I am.
There was a moment of clarity toward the end of my role as CEO that began my journey back to authenticity. It started with acknowledging my passions and talents and deciding to put all my energies into those by starting my own consulting business.
Within six months, I and stepped down as CEO and opened the doors to my consulting firm. I was reconnecting with who I was, what I loved, how I wanted to impact the world.
Life was good. I built my client list. Developed courses. And began speaking with more of an edge. I was finding my voice again. I started caring less about what others thought and more about the difference I was making.
But if I’m honest, there was a rawness I felt missing. The kind of aggressive masculine energy I missed as a kid. I was too nice, avoiding fights and trying to please everyone.
And rather than buying loud muscle cars or starting bar fights, swearing seemed to hold an energy all it’s own with me.
There’s a very specific feeling in my body when I hear people swear. It’s reflexive and subconscious. It’s a nervous energy. Like they’re going to get caught and through association I will be guilty, too.
It’s interesting to unpack this feeling because I don’t have a problem swearing when I’m alone or with my immediate family. And I don’t have that feeling when people swear in movies or tv shows. So it’s not about saying the words. The feeling is directly tied to saying the words in front of others who could judge me. And this is where my manhood comes into question.
To be “a man” or to be “my own man” is to have a sense of inner authority. To know myself and to live my life in it’s fullest self-expression. That I would not shrink. That I would stand in the face of anything in pursuit of my dreams and fear no one.
Swearing, then, has become a right of passage. It’s a defiant act in the face of all those rule makers and cultural agreements that caused me to shrink over the years. It’s a way to reconnect with my aggressive energy and step into my power. And to say to the world, this is who I am, and I will not conform.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t use swear words in every sentence. And it’s not about being crude or disrespectful.
It’s simply a way of taking off the oppression that suffocates self-expression and letting my inner man step up to the plate with the same bravado my 3-year-old self had so many years before.
Photo: Flickr/ ViktorDobai