I’ve been struggling a lot lately with trying to figure myself out emotionally. As a man, I feel like I have a very unique and, sadly, widely stereotypically unacceptable personality type. I’m an emotionally expressive being. I get insecure, angry, hurt, heartbroken, joyful, excited, anxious, depressed, stressed, affectionate, and just about anything else you can imagine. And whatever emotion I’m feeling is expressed through my facial expressions, actions, and words.
I’m the type of person who loves to show the people I care about that I care about them. So, naturally, I do that in ways that I’m familiar with. For me, that’s straight up telling them or looking to spend time with them. (My love language is equal parts words of affirmation and quality time.)
But lately I’ve been feeling like I’m supposed to change myself. Like I’m too clingy or emotionally attached to the people I care about. So today I practiced being more withdrawn, distant, cold with my friends because I thought that’s what they wanted. You see, every morning I send my friends a message that reads exactly this: “good morning fam.” But yesterday morning I didn’t. Why? Because I was silencing myself. I thought, I’m too loud. I need to tone myself down a bit.
I wanted to be more like the other guys, like my best (guy) friend, more even-keeled, laid back, someone who couldn’t care one way or the other if his friends loved him or not. I thought that’s who I was supposed to be, who everyone wanted me to be. So I tried. And I failed.
Because one of my friends noticed when I didn’t send that good morning text. They noticed when I silenced myself. And we had a long conversation about it and at the end I just asked them straight up, “Do you think I’m too clingy? Does it bother you? Or do you just think that my personality is more emotionally expressive than most guys’ and, because you love me, it doesn’t bother you?” And their response was the latter.
This week I learned an important lesson, I think. One that’s been a long time coming. And that is that, yes, I have an atypical personality type. Yes, I’m a more emotionally expressive being. Yes, I have no problem and actually thrive on showing and receiving affection. No, I’m not less of a man. I am completely, wonderfully, irrevocably myself.
Guys, we have got to learn to be brave with ourselves. We have got to stop trying to please everyone because, in the end, that will please no one. If the people around you really love you then they’re not going to care if you’re clingy or if you’re laid back. All they’re going to care about is if you are completely and utterly the rawest, truest version of yourself that you could ever be.
That’s the you they fell in love with.
You know, when I tried to distance myself (which was, honestly, a defense mechanism; I was feeling insecure so I thought forcibly detaching myself would spare me the pain that comes from loving another person) I felt like I was dying. I felt so out of it all day. I felt like a part of me was missing, like I was suffocating the truth inside my soul. All because I thought that’s what the people who loved me wanted, all because I thought that I could force the insecurities to go away if I just stopped caring.
But you know what? I’m proud of the fact that I am emotionally expressive. Because, in my eyes, that means that the people I care the most about will never have to go a day thinking that I don’t love them. Because they’ve seen how I show love and they’ve seen who I am in soul.
Is love terrifying? Yes. Is it painful? Heck, yeah. Love is vulnerability. Love is attachment. Love is expression. Love is learning what ways those you love best receive the expression of your affection. Love is choosing to give your friends and family what they need to feel love, even if it’s different than what you need.
Love is real, and it is raw, and it is torn, and it is agonizing, and it is true, and it is brave.
So be brave with yourself. Because the people who deserve you aren’t looking for a cheap replica. They’re here for you – all of you; the good, the bad, and the ugly.