We all want acknowledgement for what we can do. This is really obvious in our workplaces. We do our work we want to be acknowledged by our co-workers, by our bosses, in our paychecks, the size of our office etc. Also, we parade this acknowledgement in our personal lives with the car we drive, the size of our house, the clothes we wear. We have a desire to be good at something, to be the best at anything. Either we tell the best stories or we are the funniest or the best at a video game or a sport… whatever our thing is, we want to be known.
Well that’s not so bad, is it? All we want is recognition for the things we do well and for the contribution we make to society. It is a natural desire we have. The question it leaves us with, however, is why do we need to be acknowledged? Do we really need recognition for the things that we do? The answer is a very clear and resounding NO! We don’t need it, we want it.
It goes deeper than that though. It is not just that we are whiny children who want someone to notice them. What we really want is not just recognition for what we do, but for who we are. That is something very different. The truth is when my Dad does acknowledge me for my skills on the baseball diamond, it feels empty. When he wrote me a letter for a retreat and he talked so much about how proud he was when he watches me hit a baseball, all I could think was “So what? What if I lost my arm in an accident and could never swing a bat again? Would you be proud then?”
At the root of it is an insecurity that eats away at us from the inside out. Thinking about all this I realized that I have this deep, dark voice that repeats the same thing… “If they only knew who you really are deep down, they wouldn’t love you.” It gives me chills to put that voice in writing. I don’t know if I believe in a personified Satan, maybe Satan is just that thought lurking in the shadows of my unconscious. If you read that line and it did not strike a chord with you, then I am seriously scared for your humanity! That line is fundamental to who I am. I’ve been running away from that very sentence my entire life.
The solution is always the trickiest part, isn’t it? This is why I think vulnerability is the key to happiness. I spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect, especially in a moral sense. I was so hard on myself and I used every ounce of energy I had to do the right thing. I didn’t swear, I never did drugs, I never smoked, I didn’t even drink alcohol until I was 24. I tried to be a kind, sincere, compassionate person to everyone and I always felt like I was a step behind because of it. The truth though was that I was hiding from that voice. If I did everything right, no one would find out who I really was. No one would know the dark thoughts I had, that we all have. When you are sitting in a quiet place and a baby starts crying. All you can think is “Why isn’t someone making that stop!” even though we might not say it, or at least not like that!
Vulnerability is admitting our flaws. It is saying to the world, look at me, this is who I really am! That is the most terrifying thing in the world to do. It’s like walking down the street naked, completely stripped of all the things that we are ashamed of. It is difficult to do that for all of us. For men I know, it means crying in front of people. It means admitting that you don’t know the answer, or you don’t understand. Maybe it just means asking questions. There is no one more courageous than someone who asks a “dumb” question. It means being goofy, embarrassing yourself, sometimes maybe even on purpose. It means stop pretending like you actually enjoy the stupid crap that other people say they enjoy (even though they don’t) just to fit in. All of this is much easier said than done of course. It starts small though and then it grows. God knows I am not practising what I preach, in fact, I think I have further to go than most people. I suppose recognizing it is only the first step, living it is the challenge.
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