Something’s been released in me: a certain type of confidence and self-assurance I’ve never had.
Believe it or not, most of my life I’ve been downplaying myself and my desires, and I’ve not allowed myself to shine because of the absurdity that others may perceive in my aspirations and ambitions. I’ve given small glimpses of who I am, and I’ve even revealed intimate aspects of my life, like my desire for fame. But I’ve never really fully emerged from my shell to do what I please and be whatever it is I’m inspired to be—all because of the fear of judgement and the fear of others’ disbelief in my capabilities of accomplishing what it is I aspire to become.
I’ve allowed myself to be held down long enough.
And I’m done.
Everyone can go fuck themselves.
In rising up and being myself, I might dwindle my friends list, which is actually perfect; the ones that I’ll have left are true. I don’t need the shit around me that doesn’t support who I am and what I do.
As some of you may know, I recently took a healing journey with Iboga—an African psychedelic plant medicine—that purged my coming-out CPTSD and freed me of the shame I carried for years about who I am.
This experience was definitely a major turning point in what I’m now feeling—and becoming—but this also had been brewing long before. In fact, many years of stifled dreams and frustrated callings, were boiling over and came to a head just as I received the invitation to do this shamanic work.
The moment I defied my twelve step sponsor’s suggestions against doing it, self-assurance and confidence began to rise within me.
My personal work with the twelve steps over the years helped me to awaken more and to identify some of my passions—one of which is writing and sharing my truths. It also connected me to a ‘god of my understanding;’ which for me is an energy that I have faith in and pray to, but that I don’t actually understand or comprehend.
Over the last year, I’ve begun to write again more frequently, and in that time, I stopped seeing a therapist because my writing and sharing was healing in and of itself.
What I identified via my writing, was that my lack of a sense of self originated in pretending to be something and someone I’m not—right around the time when I first realized I was gay. I began a life of casting an image to protect myself emotionally and physically. Thunder Bay (northwestern Ontario) was not the safest place to be gay in the eighties and nineties.
Through the process of finally taking a leap and trying something radical that called to me (Iboga), and the past year of writing, I’ve come to understand that the frustration in never being myself had always pushed me in the direction of seeking fame and acknowledgment. Somewhere inside I believed if people thought I was something, then I could believe I was something too. The problem with this is that I was never able to have any deep, meaningful and intimate relationships because—when it came to me—there was no person to date or to be intimate with—there was only a contrived image.
By the time I was 20, I had moved to Toronto and was dancing on nightclub podiums in foot-high platforms and an adult-sized diaper. A therapist later in my life told me that I had been outwardly expressing my years of suppressed inner-rage—that in being outrageous I was being ‘outwardly-rageous.’
Even when I sobered up and began to awaken spiritually, my desire for fame and acknowledgement guided me to the front of the room in the twelve step fellowships and into the yoga world where I promoted myself in—albeit—more palatable and healthier ways.
But the more I sought fame and promoted myself and my yoga brand, the emptier I felt and the further I moved from knowing myself, because I was still promoting the image of ‘Michael the sober, yoga guy’ instead of just being myself.
Extremely enthusiastic in everything I focus on, the few times I emerged and let it be known that I was passionate about yoga, exercise, spirituality and Madonna, it was mostly met with criticism by the most important people in my life, like my twelve step sponsor at the time, and even by members of my family. They called it obsession, or they said my enthusiasm in what I was passionate about was just me talking about myself too much. So I would crawl back into my shell and once again stifle myself, or I would continue to talk about these things, and continue to feel embarrassment and shame because my ‘obsessions’ weren’t the norm.
I recognize with pride however, that my excitement for Madonna and Kabbalah took me to PR school to try and work for her publicity team, and it also wrangled together a production team that had started making a documentary about my desire to meet her (that’s a whole other story.) I get that these scenarios are not realistic for the majority of people, but I’m not the majority of people. I’m a dreamer. I’m also a believer that the people who end up on talk shows meeting their idols (I want to meet Madonna on Ellen) are the people who dream about these things and set the energy in motion. I think it’s no mere coincidence that on October 19, 2008 I was front-row-centre for the Sticky and Sweet Tour, and I ended up singing into Madonna’s microphone and professing my love for her. Yes, that actually happened, and one year after, her official tour book was published with a half-page picture of me in it! Take that, haters!
I was also the only published writer in my PR graduating class, with an offer from my professor to attempt to get me an internship at Liz Rosenberg’s (Madonna’s publicist) office.
My passion for yoga and exercise allowed me to create and promote my own brand that still gets me unsolicited teaching jobs to this day. If you’re a yoga teacher in Toronto, you will know this is no small feat. I also ran two full marathons and qualified for the Boston, which—in having once been nearly a hundred pounds heavier—is a success story unto itself.
Yet, through all of this, I only half-shared who I really was (especially with potential romantic partners) because of the absurdity that I believed my passions and dreams would be judged with.
Recently, my good friend Andrew said to me that he believed I have great potential, and that even though I’ve done well and made a name for myself, he believed something was still holding me back. Andrew believed I would find that out with my shamanic adventure. I always knew I was bursting with a type of energy potential that was somehow stifled, so I also believed what Andrew was saying, but I thought my answer would simply be one specific event or reason that I would uncover and toss aside. I was surprised to find out it was a way of living that I had nurtured and perpetuated since I was in my early teens of being ashamed of/afraid of sharing my true passions and desires.
Truthfully, I still get worked up and angry when I think about all the times I allowed myself to experience shame and a sense that what I get excited about isn’t valid because of the disapproval of others.
This behaviour of pseudo-conforming to what the people around me deem as appropriate is over.
It’s time for self-assurance.
When I was leaving the Cher concert a few weeks ago, I felt inspired and energized to go as far as I could go in my life. I always feel like this after watching a live performance by one of the legends of our time.
I said to my friend Joe that I felt so inspired and motivated, and he asked me, ‘[If you’re so inspired and motivated] What are you going to do?’
For what seemed like the first time to me, I didn’t feel as if I needed a concrete answer of a specific career path or even an obscure objective like ‘be famous.’ Instead, my answer–which came naturally and effortlessly–was, ‘Whatever I want!’ And to me that means whatever I am inspired to do or be at any given time. I no longer feel the need to define who I am to anyone. And I trust that if I’m inspired to do or be something—no matter what it is—then it’s not absurd and it’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
The pain of leading an inauthentic life is excruciating and murderous. And for me it was exactly what has held me back and–at times–almost killed me.
So, if I am untypically excited about Madonna, I’m going to share it. If I am obsessed with the gym or yoga, good for me!—I’ll adapt if it causes problems in my own life, not if it bothers you for some stupid reason.
I might not yet know what or where it is that the unlocking of my true potential lies, but being myself—no matter how absurd that might be to others—is definitely the best start I can make. And at the very least, if I know just one thing about myself, it’s that I am a dreamer, and I’m going to continue to dream big–and even bigger!