I’ve often heard that the toughest part of the mentoring process is the initial reaching out and asking.
Oh how I can relate!
I can still remember as a newlywed cautiously approaching some older men to ask them if it was normal to not feel very satisfied after getting married. I was hoping they’d be helpful but they looked at me like I had two heads while they said “Um no… not really. Not sure what you mean”.
I felt stupid and sheepish and even more disappointed. That was on top of the shame I was already carrying for not feeling blissful as a newlywed.
Rob to the rescue
It was several years before I would meet “Rob” – the first man older than myself who was open-hearted and vulnerable and affirmed so many of my experiences as common. He’d had them too! The words “me too!” are indeed a powerful balm to the soul.
Approaching that encounter was like driving through a ten-mile long train tunnel uncertain if I’d be meeting a train before coming out of the other side. At some point there isn’t a turning back.
The tension was palpable for me as I tried to determine if it was safe to be vulnerable with Rob. It was, and I recall talking in the dark hallways of our school until the wee morning hours. I’m forever grateful for that moment as it released me from the shame and guilt I’d been carrying and propelled me upward.
To receive that from Rob, I had to walk on what felt like some delicate ground. If I showed him my underbelly, he’d know my secrets – that I didn’t feel very good at this married man stuff. What would be his response? Would I feel stupid like I had before?
But Rob didn’t make me feel stupid, he made me feel human and distinctly male in my humanity and struggles.
I was scared!
Showing my underbelly to another man felt risky because it seemed that doing so might give him the opportunity to form a a negative opinion of me. What if he agreed with my own feelings of insecurity as a man? What is he didn’t feel I was a good man at all?
See – for my whole life, I’d already felt like a loser – like I wasn’t showing up as much of a boy, let alone a man. I felt like I chronically fell short of every masculine ideal I witnessed. I was well-accustomed to the deep feelings of shame for all the ways I wasn’t scoring well on the man card.
The thought of reaching out to another man from that kind of life? Holy shit was that a scary thought! No thanks – I don’t need to live all those feelings of shame and emasculating again.
The thing is… those feelings don’t go away on their own. They must be address. Only men can do so.
What kind of mentors do you need?
So what kind of men? Men like Rob, and as a result of men like Rob, men like me.
Men that know deeply what it feels like to be uncertain, afraid, and disappointed. It takes men who’ve felt themselves inadequate, little, weak little losers and had plenty of comments from others to prove it. Men who know what it was like to not feel like a man but overcame all of those feelings and doubts to live rich, deep, masculine lives.
If you’ve been playing small and feeling like this – I get it and I know how to help. I’ll meet you in that shame, help you overcome it, and help you permanently put those days behind you.