Dropping the F-Bomb: Fear

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By Mark E. Smith

Have you ever thought about the power that fear has in your life? No, I don’t mean a fear such as that of public speaking or bugs or heights – those are all trivial. I’m speaking of fears that truly impact us: the fear to express ourselves to our partners; the fear of expressing vulnerabilities; the fear to truly just be who we are; and other such fears that emotionally stifle us.

And, it’s painful and debilitating, isn’t it? How many of us have been in a marriage or relationship, and have an inexplicable – or, sometimes, rightful – fear of expressing our needs or desires to our partners? We lay in bed at night, feeling alone, and our hearts just ache, don’t they?

Or, how many of us are living with trauma in our past of some kind, and we fear sharing it with anyone? The result is we feel isolated, needing to keep people at arm’s length, don’t we?

Or, how many of us are dissatisfied with our life paths overall, but we fear telling anyone because we don’t want to rock the boat or upset those around us? It leaves us trapped, doesn’t it?

I’ve faced many challenges in my life, but the absolute most difficult has been conquering such deep emotional fears of expression. And, it remains an ongoing process, where bursts of courage have been allowing me to slowly become more and more open over the years – read that, more honest with myself and those around me. I’ve been on a deliberate and liberating path from emotionally fearful to fearless.

In knowing my struggles and progress in this very personal emotional battle, I recently had the privilege of having a friend confide his fear to me. He was diagnosed two years ago with ALS, which has progressed very rapidly, his now using a power wheelchair and losing physical abilities day-by-day till he passes away. However, he’s been the picture of strength, not only for his wife and children, but for his whole community.

Despite his outward portrayal, he shared with me that he’s been keeping a secret, one he fears telling anyone. As I listened, he paused and said just two words: I’m scared.

Everyone handles adversity in his or her own way. However, any reasonable person who’s slowly dying, leaving behind a spouse and children has every reason to be scared. Yet, out of fear of not being “the strong one” that all labeled him as, he was terrified to express his real emotion, not wanting to let others down, as he put it. Meanwhile, he was struggling on this frightening journey internally alone – fear had him trapped within himself.

I asked, if he was to put his fear aside and share those two words – I’m scared – with his wife, how would she react? His answer was breathtaking: I know she’d reply, “I’m scared, too….”

I haven’t learned if he was able to ever have that conversation with his wife, but I hope he did because I trust it would bring them closer together and allow them to be more open in supporting each other in this process. You can’t have genuinely heartfelt conversations as long as you have fear.

See, that’s what overcoming such fear does – it opens us up. Sometimes we receive a positive response to releasing our deepest fears into the world, while other times a disappointing response. However, the reward of expressing ourselves, despite our fears, is in our actions, not the result. The power, for example, in coming out as gay isn’t in seeking approval; rather, it’s about not living in fear of being oneself. This equally applies to no matter what we’re keeping inside. Expression over fear liberates.

What I’ve learned in my own process – from my relationships to my career – is that life is more authentic when I choose to live openly as myself rather than stifled by fear.

Winds of Life

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By Mark E. Smith

If you’ve ever sailed a boat, you know it’s a combination of skill, faith and patience. Life, I’ve learned, is a lot like that, too. Many times, I’ve set a course in my life, where my abilities were only part of the equation, and having faith that it would all work out in the end – like counting on an unpredictable wind, far from landfall – was all I had to trust.

What might surprise you is that trusting in the wind of life has never failed me. As long as I’ve applied myself – like a sailor heading to sea at the helm – the winds of life have always come to carry me on my course. In the process, I’ve learned to be vigilant and have faith and patience – sometimes maintaining seemingly irrational faith and indomitable patience. But, the wind – that wind! – has always ultimately filled my sails.

Sure, I’ve found myself adrift at points in my life. As Coleridge put it in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner,”Water, water, every where / And all the boards did shrink / Water, water, every where / Nor any drop to drink.” We’ve all found ourselves adrift at points in our lives, waiting, wanting, needing a metaphorical wind to fill our sails and set our lives back on course. Maybe it was after a break-up or when we were broke or while looking for a job or, or, or…. When is my life going to get back on track?!

I’ve been there. And, what I’ve learned is that as long as we stay the helm – holding the course with faith and patience – we are never let down. The wind always comes, always fills our sails, and we always reach our destination, our purpose. We may encounter lulls and rough seas, adrift for weeks, months or years; but, eventually – hands blistered from grasping the helm – the wind comes.

For some in life, they never leave port, not wanting any risk. But, they never reach their intended destination, their potential. For others, they lose hope, giving up the ship, likewise never reaching their destination, their life’s purpose. However, for those among us who have vigilance, faith and patience to stay the course, the winds of life will take us to destinations beyond our dreams. All life asks of each of us is to take the helm and trust that the wind – although often unpredictable – will lead us through whatever journey we are meant for….

The Wet Pants Approach to Life

humility word in mixed vintage metal type printing blocks over grunge wood
humility word in mixed vintage metal type printing blocks over grunge wood

By Mark E. Smith

A friend told me how she knew her fiancé was originally the right guy for her. They pulled up to a grocery store in his car, and she insisted that he go in alone. He never shopped without her and found her insistence odd. Upon his wondering what was going on, she burst into tears, explaining that due to her paralysis and related bladder control issues, she’d wet her pants.

She shared with me that, in the moment, she felt so embarrassed and humiliated, and didn’t know how he’d respond? After all, they’d only been dating a short time.

He hugged her, told her it was alright, then leaned back in his seat, closed his eyes and hummed. She asked what he was doing, and he explained that he was wetting his pants, too, so they could be together in the moment. They both burst out laughing.

What my friend’s story illustrates is what we all need in our lives and relationships, regardless of disability: humility and humor. Truly, if you can live just in that space – with humility and humor – you can gracefully move through even the most awkward of life’s moments.

So often we fall into modes of pride, perfectionism and self-consciousness, and everyone is defeated by it. Perfection in life is a myth, and when we fight against that reality – clinging to false senses of Pride – we and those around us lose. The destructive emotions range from feeling shame to pushing others away.

Yet, when we’re humble and acknowledge that we all have vulnerabilities, and have the capacity to laugh at ourselves in the most trying times, that’s when we’re most receptive and endearing to others. After all, empathy binds two people, and when you can build that connection with humility and humor, in life’s awkward moments, it’s arguably the healthiest approach to such circumstances.

Now, I’m not saying that wetting your pants will lead to true love – although apparently it can. What I’m saying is that living our lives with humility and humor, in spite of adversity, opens us up to others, and them to us. So, let us pass on pride and portrayals of perfection, and find humility and humor in who we are – wet pants and all.

Meals or Feasts?

Gratitude rock

By Mark E. Smith

My life has been somewhat extraordinary in that I’ve known both sides of human experience – that is, what it’s like to live with exceptional adversity versus what it’s like to experience great fortune.

However, while my own life has made me acutely aware of extremes, it’s the individuals I encounter that have raised a profound question for me. In parts of my life, I interact with those facing tremendous adversity, while in others, I interact with those of great fortune. Overall, I’ve witnessed that people are people, and no matter how different two individuals’ life paths are, there’s a uniting humanity – people are people.

Yet, I’ve also witnessed a juxtaposition that’s intrigued me. If I shared that I knew a 40-year-old mother with progressing ALS who was bitter at the world because she would not live to see her children graduate high school, we all could empathize with her. On the other hand, if I shared that I knew a 40-year-old mother of great health and wealth who was dedicated to serving her community, we could empathize with her, as well. In both these scenarios, we could say that both women are doing the best that they can. And, indeed, in some form, I’ve known these women – and likewise men in the same situations – many times over.

But, here’s where the intriguing juxtaposition comes in. I similarly meet those facing tremendous adversity – literally that 40-year-old mother dying of ALS – who approaches every day with grace and joy, appreciative regardless of the devastating blow life has dealt. Meanwhile, I encounter those who are extremely fortunate – with health and wealth and thriving lives – who are bitter, jaded, living with a miserable sense of entitlement, as if the world owes them. How is it, then, that someone facing unimaginable adversity in life can live with such grace, while by contrast, I’ve more than once witnessed someone of great health and wealth throw a tantrum over the smallest, most trivial circumstance? How can this juxtaposition logically occur?

The answer is, gratitude. See, gratitude is the great equalizer – and you have it or you don’t. If you have it, it’s irrelevant what your situation is in life, as you’re grateful regardless of any circumstance. However, if you don’t have gratitude, you’ll conversely be bitter and jaded no matter how fortunate your plight. In this way, what life deals us has no bearing on our outlook – unimaginable adversity or great fortune are of no matter. What dictates our perspectives is whether we have… gratitude.

Author Melody Beattie writes, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend….”

Therefore, if we are to understand the true origins of fulfillment in our lives and whether we find true contentment, we don’t need to weigh the scales of adversity versus good fortune. Rather, to understand fulfillment and contentment in our lives, we merely need to consider the levels of sincere gratitude we possess.

The Solemnity of Serving

washing

By Mark E. Smith

A presidential candidate was asked if it was difficult to balance service to others with self-gratuity – that is, serving others simply to serve others versus serving others to benefit oneself in return?

The candidate’s answer was honest, but unimpressive: “I’ve always struggled with that balance.”

Ultimately, by nature, we can’t fault any politician for being self-serving. After all, politicians need the support of others to achieve their goals – they must, even with the best of intentions, give in order to get, as well as vice-versa.

In our personal lives, we’re far more fortunate. We can serve others simply to serve – among the truest liberties in life. See, when we give of ourselves, there’s no catch, no other concern, just the opportunity to serve another, and that’s the ultimate freedom – no strings attached.

Now, some might argue that the personal satisfaction of serving is self-gratuitous. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. I assert that in the truest sense, serving is an action made, then released. It doesn’t change how we feel about ourselves or effect our lives – we just carry on.

Interestingly, religions differ on this topic. Under Buddhism, the Law of Cause and Effect says, “The kind of seed sewn will produce that kind of fruit,” so simply doing right by others is doing right by ourselves – that is, we can’t escape karma. Serving others is to serve ourselves in the end.

Christianity, however, has another take on how we should handle serving others. In a translation of Matthew 6:3, it’s said, “But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does,” meaning that good deeds should be kept secret, not done for praise.

In the end, serving others has a very simple universal truth: Whether you’re a politician, altruist, Buddhist, Christian or one of a million persuasions in-between, serve others because it’s the most sincere act we can extend to other human beings.

Projecting Oneself

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By Mark E. Smith

My friend texts me from a restaurant on New York City’s Upper East Side. He explains that it’s full of those who are ultra-wealthy, and they’re acting awkwardly toward him, as if they’ve never seen a person using a power wheelchair. He further texts that there’s an attractive, older women next to him who seems possibly approachable.

“Say to her casually, ‘I’m just back from London, and I’m amazed at how warm the weather is here,’ and see where the conversation leads,” I text back.

Of course, my buddy has never been to London and, yes, my reply was sarcastic.

We live in a culture where people may make totally uninformed, ignorant presumptions of us – and we can feel it sometimes, can’t we, like my friend in that restaurant. They perceive us as they wish. I mean, think about all of the stereotypes people can make about a gentleman using a wheelchair in public. And, it’s so easy for those of us who use wheelchairs to absorb those. It would be understandable for my friend to want to avoid that restaurant scene and high-tail it out of there. But, there’s every reason to stay.

No matter who you are – disability or not – you have far more control over such situations than you likely know. The fact is, just as others attempt to perceive us, we can completely project who we are, totally reversing the process. My text to my friend wasn’t meant for him to literally lie, but rather to imply gaining comfort in his skin. There was no reason for him not to fit in. It wasn’t up to those in the restaurant to tell him who he was; rather, he had the power to project who he was.

Being humble is among the most admirable traits. However, feeling as though you need to apologize for who you are should never be in our emotions. I use a power wheelchair, with severe cerebral palsy, right down to muscle spasms and labored speech. At 44 – and it took me a long time to get here – I don’t feel awkward in who I am, and I certainly would never apologize for who I am. As I go through the entirety of my daily life, I am who I am, and I’m not making an issue of it, and neither is anyone else, per me. Here I am, as I am, period.

And, that’s what I’ve learned: We teach people how to treat us by both how we view ourselves and what we project. If I’m in a conversation and I spasm, I correct my posture and keep with the conversation. If I don’t make it an issue, typically neither does anyone else. It’s amazing how our reactions and projections can completely dictate how others react to us. Just be you, and you’ll be impressed at how others recognize you as just that.

As for that awkward restaurant scene, how would I handle it? …I would just be myself.

Graduations

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By Mark E. Smith

At this writing, my daughter graduates high school this eve. She’s the second to do so in our family’s history. I was the first. Great grandparents, grandparents, my parents, aunts, uncles, no one on any limb of my family tree graduated high school.

However, it’s not like everyone doesn’t try. You start out with all of the hope in the world as a child , but in a realm where we know that cycles of dysfunction are so complex – right down to aspects like addiction having a genetic component – it just gets a grip on you, tough to escape as you hit your teens, your adulthood. I know – I’ve been there.

My daughter’s mother came from a family history of addiction, as well, and not with bitterness or anger or resentment, but with sadness, I watched her fall into the grips of addiction. They say that if you come from a family of dysfunction, you’ll either become it or marry it. Ironically, as 27-year-olds, with our daughter born, my ex-wife and I thought that we’d broken the cycle – we didn’t drink, both went to college, and life was on track.

However, as my daughter hit her toddler years, life went off of the tracks, and my ex feel into a life of mental illness and addiction compelled by her troubled upbringing – while I don’t believe in excuses, I do have empathy for reasons. Again, you can’t fault trying.

As the vortex swirled in our family, I consciously chose to swoop my daughter out. We all were in the generational cycle of dysfunction – my ex-wife became it, I was married to it, and, most disturbing of all, my daughter was growing up in it.

Soon enough, my daughter and I were on our own, my sister a major source of support. And, as my daughter grew, thriving year after year, I was both inspired and scared to death. After all, I was the only person I knew in my family tree to stay on the track during high school, and my worst fear was that my past, her mother’s past would become my daughter’s. Yet, as she grew into a young lady, like watching a thoroughbred round the bend, she never skipped a beat. I can’t count how many of her plays, band concerts, honors clubs, and so many other functions I went to. By 2013, she was named among the top 250 youth scholars in the country, and simultaneously was awarded a scholarship to a summer performing arts program for the top youth musicians in the world – literally. And, all the while, I watched not just with a father’s pride, but awe-inspired by what a person can accomplish with dedication, ambition and passion.

Tonight, my daughter will be among the most honored graduates in her class, her gown decorated with more honors – a stole, multiple awarded cords, so many award pins that my sister had to strategically align them – than I ever knew existed. And, as she walks across the stage, she won’t be the second to change our family tree, after all. No, she will be the first.

See, what I’ve witnessed through my own plight, and now my daughter’s, is that it’s irrelevant where we come from. From a lineage of addiction, poverty, incarceration, illiteracy, and mental illness, none of that crosses the stage with my daughter tonight. My daughter, it proves, will cross that stage as each of us can, where the only legacy her life carries is that of her own – and it’s amazing.

Changing Channels

tvBy Mark E. Smith

Happiness amidst adversity has always fascinated me. Yet, so has misery among fortune. Both are totally counterintuitive – that is, people facing life’s toughest adversities logically shouldn’t be genuinely happy, just as among the most fortunate shouldn’t be miserable. But, we constantly see this occur with such frequency that it’s almost a norm rather than an isolated phenomenon. We see individuals facing challenges that, logically, should defeat the soul, but instead there’s a contentment and joy. Then, we see individuals with every advantage in life who are miserable. How is it that a 23-year-old with muscular dystrophy from which he or she will eventually die by age 30 is intrinsically happier than a 40-something multi-millionaire, recreational triathlete? I witness this all of the time among people I know and acquaintances – and, as one with a severe physical disability, I’ve experienced it myself.

Psychologists, sociologists and philosophers have been studying this exact subject, trying to crack this code of human nature: how does suffering allow for happiness while good fortune allows for misery? The recent consensus is intriguing.

See, what’s been discovered is that while happiness should logically come from good fortune, good fortune unto itself doesn’t evoke happiness. You can have all of the success in the world, and it doesn’t inherently induce happiness. Of course, many of us have known this, but, here’s the intriguing part. What does inherently induce happiness is gratitude. In fact, it turns out that they’re inseparable. If you have gratitude, you inherently possess happiness. But, that leads to yet another question in this equation: where does gratitude originate?

It turns out that opportunity is the root of gratitude – both in recognizing it and in appreciating it. I know where researchers are coming from because I live it. My independent living skills, such as bathing, are extremely difficult for me, sometimes having to endure a level of literal pain, if not suffering, in the process. When you lack coordination and balance, aspects like showering aren’t just difficult but often borderline dangerous, where falls and rebounds are just part of the nightly ritual. Yet, even in the midst of tremendous struggles, I’m genuinely happy. Heck, I even catch myself singing in the shower among the controlled chaos. How can I remain truly happy during such seemingly difficult times? Well, I know a lot of individuals who aren’t able to bathe themselves, and so I’m grateful for the opportunity simply to be able to do so, no matter how trying it can be. Opportunity creates gratitude, and gratitude creates happiness.

A childhood friend of mine, John, has had a slowly-progressing form of muscular dystrophy. He’s always used a power chair, but has slowly lost more and more muscle tone to where, now in his 40s, he doesn’t have the strength to use a television remote. But, John, as a super successful guy who knows the power of opportunity, gratitude and happiness, shared a story that made me smile. He found out that by getting a different cable box, he could use his smartphone’s touch screen to change channels. And, here’s what he said in his exuberance: “I’m quite overjoyed, and delighted even, to discover the new X1 system comes with an app on which I can completely operate the cable box from my iPhone. Losing strength and losing that ability killed me (metaphorically)… But now, I again have full control of my cable box!”

No, operating a cable box doesn’t in itself make John happy; however, the gratitude that he recognizes from the opportunity does.

Of course, this isn’t to say that we don’t all experience real human emotions like sadness and frustration, nor can gratitude overcome mental health conditions like clinical depression or chemical imbalances. However, when we’re emotionally and mentally healthy, gratitude can help us move toward positive states amidst difficult times. I recently lost Rosie the English Bulldog, my companion of 10 years – a very sad loss. But, amidst my understandable sadness, I found tremendous gratitude in her companionship, where reflecting on her hilarious absurdities – her tongue always protruding from her mouth, making her constant comic relief – filled my heart with joy despite the sad loss. In this way, finding gratitude in the toughest of situations can elevate our spirits. I’m not happy that Rosie the English Bulldog passed, but I’m grateful and happy for the 10 comical, adoring years we shared.

When the everyday aspects of life aren’t seen as doom or gloom, but as amazing opportunities, it creates gratitude, and with that we’re intrinsically filled with happiness. One doesn’t need to struggle or face challenges to find gratitude in one’s life – everyone can embrace it because where there’s life, there’s opportunity and gratitude. However, one does need to have gratitude to truly have happiness. Maybe we all need to take a lesson from John and recognize that the surest path to happiness is found in simply switching the channel – to gratitude.

Let Dreams Go

Dreams-Quote

By Mark E. Smith

Walt Disney said, “All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

He was right, but only partially. See, his understanding of how dreams truly become reality was incomplete – that is, there’s an addition to his eloquent words that must be added to shift them from inspirational to achievable: “All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them, and as long as we are flexible, willing to adapt our vision as circumstances dictate.”

I know a lot of people – me included – who’ve lived their dreams, but none have achieved them by adhering to a single, fixed, idealistic vision. Life and success simply doesn’t allow for an easy Point A to Point Z dream-come-true path – there are a lot of twist and turns along the way. And, dreamers who succeed know the importance of remaining flexible and adapting along the way.

A dream begins as a wish, a want, a desire or a need, and always has a specific outcome – very specific. A high-school student dreams of being a professional football player in the NFL. Newlyweds dream of buying the perfect house. A CEO dreams of having the top company in his industry. A woman in her 30s dreams of meeting Mr. Right.

Now, by nature, such dreams are rigid. That high-school student’s only foreseeable result is playing in the NFL. The newlyweds know exactly what their dream house looks like. That CEO has an exact dollar figure in his head. That woman in her 30s has a list of all of the characteristics that her Mr. Right possesses. They’re all linear, inflexible, singular outcomes. However, again, although we cement such rigid dreams in our minds, it’s a contradiction to how life plays out for even the most focused, fortunate people.

Therefore, if dreams set in stone are unrealistic to begin with, why have them, and isn’t any dream then a set-up for failure?

Not at all. In fact, with flexibility and adaptations, the core aspects of our dreams are always achievable, ultimately resulting in at least some form of what we wished – and sometimes even more. I personally know each person in the examples I’ve given and they exemplify how flexibility and adaptation has allowed them to live the core values of their dreams – and achieve them.

The star high-school football player was paralyzed from the chest, down, six years ago. The injury, of course, could have destroyed his dream of playing in the NFL. Yet, it didn’t. No, he won’t be suited up on the field, but he’s now in law school becoming a sports agent.

The newlyweds couldn’t afford the new custom home they wished, but bought a fixer-upper. With a little paint, handywork and sweat, they’ve created a home they absolutely love.

The CEO’s industry went through a 5-year downturn, but he reorganized and refocused, and he’s arguably now at the top of his competition.

And, the 30-something woman is madly in love and engaged to a man who’s three inches shorter than her – a trait that her tall, handsome Mr. Right was never supposed to have.

When it comes to my friends’ original, rigidly envisioned dreams, you could argue that, per Walt Disney’s outlook, they failed, never achieving the exact dream. Yet, their plights prove that with flexibility and adaptation, the core values of their dreams were totally achieved.

Let us not be boxed in by our dreams but inspired by them. If you hold on to a single vision too strongly, your dream will be destroyed by the first twist life introduces. Instead, let a dream be the inspiration to seek what you wish, and loosen its reigns to shift as needed. Dreams are like seeds planted – as they germinate and grow, follow them with flexibility and adaptation, where the ultimate dream realized is almost never quite what you envisioned, but often proves more successful than you ever …well …dreamed.

Coming Out of the Closet – With Everything

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By Mark E. Smith

Isn’t it amazing how incongruent we can be within ourselves and in our lives? When I say incongruent, what I mean is that the three levels of our behavior don’t align – that is, what we think and feel is different than what we do, and that’s different than how we portray ourselves to the world. It’s like splitting ourselves in three directions where our lives – let’s be blunt – can become hidden and fragmented at best or torturous lies at worst.

Here’s a great example we can all relate to…. We all have that close friend or family member who confides in us that he or she resents his or her spouse with a passion, wanting out of the relationship. However, while he or she may have a combative or distant relationship with the spouse, true feelings are never expressed and the person stays with the spouse. Then, you log on to Facebook and see him or her posting the most happy couple photos ever! It drives you crazy because you know the person is living an incongruent life – read that, a facade – doesn’t it? Again, if we are to live a congruent life, our feelings, actions and portrayals must all align.

As if our incongruent friends and family don’t drive us crazy enough, when we live with incongruence in our own lives, it’s torturous. So much of our incongruence comes from fear of being judged or rejected, and that’s a valid fear that we all struggle with at points in our lives. However, in that process, we risk our own emotional health and happiness by being incongruent. I go back to my couples example. If I tell my spouse I’m unhappy for reasons X, Y and Z, and I’m not going to keep living in limbo by acting like this relationship is somehow working, and I’m not going to present an unrealistic image to the world, what’s the result? I’m honest with my feelings, so that’s a release. I’m honest in my relationship, so it’s either going to improve or we go our separate ways. And, I’m honest with everyone around me, so they can truly know and support me.

Now, of course discretion should be used when transitioning from incongruent to congruent behavior. We want to minimize hurting others in the process of living congruent lives – although, sometimes it can’t be helped. I mean, Grandma might be mortified to know you’re gay, but she’ll get over it – you owe it to yourself to be congruent in who you are. In fact, regardless of your particular circumstance, most will embrace you more for living a congruent life because it’s rooted in authenticity and honesty.

In my own life, I’ve lived both ways, and incongruent behavior never worked. I may have thought I was presenting myself in the best light by not expressing who I truly was in one way or another, but it always failed me in the end – it harmed relationships and proved me as lacking authenticity. In later years, I just put it all out there, and if others accept me for me, great; and, if they don’t, I’m fine with that – at least I’m me. Two years ago when I first got together with my fiancée, I took it slow in healthy form, but I disclosed every aspect of my life, from the realities of my disability to my views on intimacy to the fact that my dog liked to poop in the hallway when no one was watching. I may not have been the prize she was looking for, but at least she knew I was authentic – and no trait holds more weight in a relationship than demonstrating trustworthiness through congruent behavior.

All of us have little areas in our lives that are fine to keep to ourselves (your mom doesn’t need to know specifics on your intimate life!). However, in the larger spectrum of our lives and identities, congruent behavior is vital to living a healthy, happy life. After all, the only way to be yourself is to truly be yourself.