“Praying” was written about that moment when the sun starts peeking through the darkest storm clouds, creating the most beautiful rainbow. Once you realize that you will in fact be OK, you want to spread love and healing. If you feel like someone has wronged you, get rid of that hate, because it will just create more negativity. One thing that has brought me great relief is praying for those people. Being angry and resentful will do nothing but increase your own stress and anxiety — and hate is the fuel that grows the viruses. Don’t let anyone steal your happiness! — Kesha, Lenny
“Sean, it’s always so good running into you,” said an acquaintance. He had to shout so that I could hear him over the music in the nightclub. “You always have the biggest smile on your face. It’s refreshing.”
“Oh my God! Thank you!” I responded, as we moved closer to the bar with our mutual friends to order a drink. “That literally made my day!”
And it really did.
We all have our own demons, and for all the demons that manifest themselves in a gay nightclub, one was put on a momentary pause in this glimpse of unexpected validation.
Coming out in 2011, I overcame one of my biggest obstacles. I was on an all-time high. But as I left college and entered the real world, I’ve been discovering what that really means within my own life, especially as it related to the gay community. Go-go boys, chiseled bodies plastered all over posters, shirtless men in nightclubs. Nitpicking and catty-ness when all I want is to meet people who had to overcome the same things I had to and dance like a buffoon with my friends.
This environment of comparison created an overbearing dark presence in my life, and right when I felt things were on the up, early last summer, a relationship with someone really close to me went far south.
He encouraged me in my new business endeavors and helped me through my ongoing processing of my brother’s death. He was one of those that made you want to be the best person that you could be. But we would have completely different social experiences, and it made for the worst.
When we were out at social events, he would get hit on often. Sometimes strangers would even grab his butt. To be completely honest, I didn’t realize how often those things happened until I was around him more. Then all of a sudden, I started becoming more insecure.
Am I too small? Am I too brown? Am I putting off a really negative energy? Maybe I should just smile more. Cool. Now, I’m just the weird guy smiling for no reason.
Sometimes these differences in experiences would come up which led to differences in opinions about attractiveness and racism. Then a day came with a fair amount of alcohol, and these differences revealed themselves in a new form.
“Seriously, that’s all you can get?” He ridiculed as I came back over to our circle of friends. I had just gotten done singing one of my favorite songs from my favorite musical, and he had some commentary on the random guy that started singing along with me. From his statement, I deducted:
- He found the man awfully unattractive.
- I’m pathetic and also unattractive because “that’s all that I could get.”
I shrugged it off, told myself not to take it personally because it was coming from a place of his own insecurity, and then I asked for an apology. I got it, but that didn’t really diffuse anything, and later in the night he told me I’m “ugly as f*ck.”
First, it cultivated internal insecurities. Then as time passed, it developed into more self-loathing and inadequacy because now my insecurities are associated with a human outside of myself, a human that was incredibly close to me. Somehow I tricked myself into believing this was okay because you shouldn’t toss out all the good with the bad. There, I created a home for peace amongst darkness because it felt safe enough and better to have someone I could talk to about certain things rather than not at all. But I constantly had to belittle myself because keeping someone who was once impactful in your life is more important than feeling adequate.
I could not have been more wrong.
So what now?
1) Remove this person.
A friend and I were heading back to Denver from an afternoon in Fort Collins, and I had just gotten done explaining these countless negative aspects of this relationship. I was explaining my new anger and frustration that I ignored so much bad for the bit of good.
“No one should have that much control over you.” he responded.
As much as your friendship started out on good terms, it may have developed into something else. You’ve grown apart, or you connected at one point but don’t connect in the same way anymore. Good friends can become enemies and it’s okay to let it go. It may be better for both of you to be in this way.
At first it will really suck, whether they were a best friend or a family member who you have long history with, your relationship has changed drastically when it’s become terribly toxic. It may take weeks, months, or years, but one day it’ll click where you ask yourself why you kept this person in your life so long, and if it doesn’t, maybe you were wrong about your relationship, and that’s okay too.
If someone makes you feel that way. You don’t need them in your life.
2) Forgive always and always, always forgive.
Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat. – William P. Young, The Shack
If you haven’t listened to Kesha’s “Rainbow” album, I highly suggest that you do. Prior to this album, her messages of self-love and empowerment were drowned out in party music and catchy choruses (which I still also love by the way).
But now as the music has slowed down and the lyrics come through, you can clearly hear her messages of conflict resolution and forgiveness.
“The past can’t haunt me if I don’t let it.”
“Hell is living in resentment.”
“Gotta learn to let it go.”
I’m a firm believer that forgiveness is more for the forgiver than the person being forgiven. Sometimes the scars run deep, and you don’t want to fix your relationship with that person. The thing is, forgiveness doesn’t restore the relationship. It doesn’t mean you trust that person again nor does it excuse anything that they did. It just means that you accept that this person is flawed and working through their own things. You accept that holding on to hatred perpetuates the hatred.
3) Reach within.
The root of this problem is on the inside. We all have our own insecurities. They consume us and manifest our biggest fears. After removing this person from my life, I have been reaching inward. I’ve adjusted my morning and nightly routines to involve about an hour of sit time. In the morning, I wake up, start the coffee, take a shower, pour myself a cup, and sit in my chair in the low light and write about my values and ambitions as a human and how I can live those things today. When I go about my day, I think about these things from time to time, and at night, before going to bed, I sit in my same chair (or in my bed) and write about how I felt about the day, what I’m proud about, and what I wish I could’ve done better.
It doesn’t matter how much people tell you how wonderful you actually are, how you should stop having such a low self-esteem, or how much I tell you that you’re great. Until you actually believe your worth, you’re never going to be happy.
This practice of just sitting with my thoughts aligned me with my values and beliefs and I was able to remind myself of my worth. I’d jot down what I was accomplishing and how I could be proud of myself. I could remind myself why to not take offense when someone is clearly acting out of their own hurt.
I could sit down and navigate my pain and my route to forgiveness. I can take better care of myself, and I’m actually thinking about the things that make me happy, or sad, or mad, or whatever other emotion one feels. I’m an all-around happier person because I’m actually taking care of myself.
4) Reach out and surround yourself with good people.
Whether they are positive thoughts or negative thoughts, at some point validation has to come from some outside source. We are a collection of the people in our lives, and these people remind us of who we are. When we live authentically, these people have the power to show indescribable love and validation.
For example, I’m pretty quirky, and for a long time, I kept thinking no one would be interested in me because of it: “I need to be as suave or charming as so-and-so.” But without knowing it, my friends constantly remind me that my quirkiness is one of the things they love the most about me, and I started realizing that my quirkiness is something to be appreciated.
Thank God for my relationships with incredible humans who show me externally that I’m not the only one that can love me for who I am.
5) Connect with the people who inspire you.
When I first embarked on my digital nomad career, I read a few entrepreneur blogs. I fell in love with one blog in particular, and I noticed the author actually lived in Boulder, Colorado, a 30-minute drive from Denver. I found the guy’s email address on his site and sent him an email just letting him know that I appreciated his work and outlook on life. He got back to me within a few days and said to let him know if I was ever in the Boulder area.
One day I was in the area for a presentation with an agency, and we ended up getting lunch together afterwards. It was one of my best lunches ever. It was transformative to connect with someone that I looked up to and just met. All the things that I told myself or things my friends told me held even more substance because another person outside of my social circle felt the same.
6) Most importantly, do what makes you happy and define your own success.
Free yourself. Do the things that you’ve always wanted to do or find pleasure doing. Go to a concert. Play an instrument. Go on a walk. Hike. Snowboard. Cry. Laugh. Just find an outlet. Whatever it is that makes you happy, do it and don’t wait for other people.
Let me tell you, some days it was hard to get myself out of bed. Don’t get me wrong, those days are needed just as much, but there are so many things that you have wanted to do for yourself, and they may even be things that you don’t want to do alone, but do it. That’s why I travel. I love to travel and I collect new experiences. I love challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone. I went to the French Alps for six weeks by myself, and I started crying my first day on the lifts because I realized what I had been keeping from myself and what I potentially would have never experienced had I just waited for someone to do it with.
The most liberating moment was when I took a last minute trip to Amsterdam. For a long time, my adventurous spirit was being stifled by close-minded beliefs and my world was being diminished. Being in Amsterdam, I was reminded how large the world is. I was reminded of how many different beliefs and cultures there really are, and I didn’t have to feel guilty because someone took offense to my trying to discover and experience the world.
Redefine success. Reinvent the meaning of what it means to be accomplished for the day. Some days, I tell myself I’ll feel like today was a success if I blah blah blah. Sometimes it’ll be something simple like organize the boxes in my closet, or sometimes it’ll be a big work project. But you’d be amazed what happiness you feel when you get that one thing done. It’s your definition of today’s success and no one else’s.
Just surround yourself with positivity that emanates your you. Be open-minded. Try something new or follow an idea. Think about what’s the worse that could happen if you fail. Chances are the consequences aren’t that bad. If anything, it’s a learning experience. This all takes you back to point number three. Hang out with yourself and learn what you like and don’t like.
I’m not perfect but I’m much better than I was. Sometimes I fail, but when I love myself, I can forgive myself as a flawed human, and forgive others as well. I stopped blaming myself and realized that at some point we started cultivating negative energy. You can care so much for another person, but sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes you just have to move forward without them.
I know we hear it all the time, but finding your worth in someone else is futile. A lot easier said than done, I know. You get caught up in these rhythms of life and lose sight of yourself. We live in a world where everything on the outside is telling us something and projecting all these ideas upon us. Be thinner. Be fitter. Be smarter. Etc. And even though we’re told to love ourselves, we ignore it.
Instead, re-create this world around you where you are loved. Start on the inside with who you are, find the activities that you love and build your worth. Through that, you will find the people that make you feel your worth. Then your world filled with your worth. When people come in and try to disrupt that, don’t let them cross your boundaries. When those people hurt you, forgive. Most of the time those people have no permanence in your life. So walk away. You’ll be okay. Your worlds aren’t meant to be connected any longer. “Don’t let anyone steal your happiness!”