You can create a self that doesn’t care that much about what people think. You can motivate yourself by leaving the painful self-consciousness of high school behind.Because our tendency is to go so far in the timid, non assertive direction, it might be a profitable over-correction to adopt these internal commands: Look bad. Take a risk. Lose face. Be yourself. Share yourself with someone. Open up. Be vulnerable. Be human. Leave your comfort zone. Get honest. Experience the fear. Do it anyway.“Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad,” said actor Rene Auberjonois,“and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.”
The first time that I ever spoke to author and psychotherapist Devers Branden it was over the telephone, and she agreed to work with me on building my own self-confidence and personal growth. It wasn’t long into the phone conversation before she asked me about my voice.“I am very interested in your voice,” she said, with a tone of curiosity. Hoping she might be ready to give me a compliment I asked her to explain.
“Well,” she said. "It’s so lifeless. A real monotone. I wonder why that is."Embarrassed, I had no explanation. This conversation took place long before I had become a professional speaker, and it was also long beforeI ever took any acting lessons. It was long before I learned to sing in my car, too. Yet I was completely unaware and very surprised that it seemed to her that I was coming across with a voice like someone out ofNight of the Living Dead.
The truth was that during that period in my life, I was living scared.Things weren’t going well for me financially, I had serious health problems in my family, and I had that mildly suicidal feeling that accompanies an increasing sense of powerlessness over one’s problems.(I now think one way a lot of men hide their fears is by assuming a macho kind of dull indifference. I know now that’s what I had done.That a psychotherapist could hear it immediately in my voice was unnerving, though.)
Trying to understand why I covered fear with indifference, I remembered that back in my high school the “cool” guys were always the least enthusiastic guys. They spoke in monotones, emulating their heroes James Dean and Marlon Brando. Brando was the coolest of all.He was so indifferent and unenthusiastic you couldn’t even understand him when he spoke.
One of the first homework assignments Devers Branden gave me was torrent the video Gone with the Wind and study how fearlessly ClarkGable revealed his female side. This sounded weird to me. Gable a female? I knew Gable was always considered a true “man’s man” in all those old movies, so I couldn’t understand what Devers was talking about, or how it would help me.
But when I watched the movie, it became strangely clear. Clark Gable allowed himself such a huge emotional range of expression, that I could actually identify scenes where he was revealing a distinctly female side to his character’s personality. Did it make him less manly? No.Curiously, it made him more real, and more compelling.
From that time on, I lost my desire to hide myself behind an in different monotonous person. I committed myself to get on the road to creating a self that included a wider range of expression, without a nervous preoccupation with coming off like a man’s man.I also started noticing how much we seem to love vulnerability in others but don’t trust it in ourselves. But we can learn to trust it!Just a little at first. Then we can build that vulnerability until we’re not afraid to open up into an ever-widening spectrum of self-revelation. By losing face, we connect to the real excitement of life. And what if I don’t always come off as an indifferent man’s man? Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.