We feel ashamed, even burdened by these incidents. So much so that we try to hide these unpleasant life experiences from others and even go as far as repressing these events from our own memories. The damage of hiding our skeletons in the closet from others prevents us from getting the help we need to move ahead (and also could be quite costly in the future of our careers). And the damage repressing memories causes to our subconscious mind leads us to blocking out any and all other related events in the past.
What this does is it holds us back from being our whole, true selves. It holds us down in our careers, our relationships and from reaching our full potential. Hiding the pain slowly eats away at our souls until we start to feel anxious, depressed and even possibly losing hope for our futures.
When we hide these scars, they take away from our livelihood of who we are and strip us from the potential that lives within us. While some of us try to forget, others hold on to moments and get stuck, unable to move ahead. And each day we slowly wither away.
The Enormous Misconception That We're the Only One to Feel Excruciating Pain
What makes us feel this way is the misconception that we're the only ones who have experienced such traumatic events. Whether it's the loss of a home, a job or even a loved one (or moving in with your inlaws), holding onto that pain by ourselves just causes us to wither away. What we need instead is to know that others have experienced the same thing we have and get the support we need from others to move past it and experience a breakthrough.
There are many ways you could go about sharing these fears. You could attend a talk therapy session to reframe the incidents. You could reflect back upon your life to figure out what has held you back for so long. Or you could share your tragedies with others.
While these are all great options and all three may be the perfect trifecta to help you get past all your limiters you've acquired over the years, I'm only qualified to talk about the latter: sharing your tragedies with others.
Chances are that you're a fan of this publication because of your strong desire to move ahead in life and take ownership of your future. Most people who discuss career advice talk about faking it until you make it, being bold and acting fearless or presenting what may be interpreted as being your perfect self. But what if there was a way you could succeed just by being yourself, without any smoke and mirrors?
Think about what your life would be like. You'd be able to express yourself freely. You wouldn't have to worry about the preconceived fears that probably won't ever manifest. And best of all, you'd be able to connect with the masses.
How do you go about doing that? Before I get into the how, let me share the state of the world we're currently in.
We're One Upping Each Other and the Rippling Effect It's Causing on Society
In my grandparent's generation, people walked down the street and greeted each other. Then in my parent's generation, people decided it was best to keep up with the Jones'. Fast forward to today, everyone is trying to impress upon others just how great their lives are.
We've entered into an airbrushed Instagram culture where nearly every photo has a smile or the person is on vacation and we've collectively decided as a society that it's important to share our very best moments with others. But what has that truly gotten us?
Sure, a few outliers have created success by touting that they are the best. But the majority of us feel like we're just faking who we are. And what's worse is when you're feeling down and about, but see tons of people who look as if they're living their best life yet. When we're feeling down, watching someone succeed doesn't make us feel better; instead it rips away at our self esteem as we feel less worthy of our actions, leading us further into depression.
Don't Share Your Dirty Laundry or Else… or Else What?
If you really take a moment to think about it, it makes perfect sense why depression, anxiety and loneliness are at an all time high. Our culture has taught us that the worst thing we could do is air our dirty laundry. Instead, we need to always act as if everything is going perfectly in our lives. But who could truly live up to those standards?
Not me, I know that for a fact. I once tried to fake it until I made it. All it caused in my life was being unable to pay the electricity bill, getting evicted from my home and almost living on the street (if it weren't for my grandmother saving me) and pushing people further and further away. People would ask me how things were going and I'd lie to them and say it was fine. But it really wasn't.
I was so scared that my friends and strangers would mock me for how far I had fallen. But one incident changed how I felt about everything.
I couldn't lie about the fake successful person I was any longer, so in 2010, I ditched the act for the very first time and told my friend Joshua M. Shelton what had happened. Do you know what he did?
The Surprising Reality of What Happens When You Share Your Skeletons
Well, first off, he didn't mock or ridicule me. Instead, he showed compassion and empathy. He drove with his girlfriend down from Los Angeles to my grandmother's home in Buena Park, picked me up and brought me back up to Los Angeles so we could go salsa dancing. He did everything in his power to show me that it didn't matter what I was experiencing, that he would be there for me as a friend.
That was the first day a seed was planted in my mind that sharing the truth and revealing my whole self would open up the doors to the future.
I didn't know it at the time, but an incident in 2012 when I broke my ankle and was sofa ridden for three months gave me the opportunity to reflect upon my whole life to get a full understanding of why I had fallen so far from grace. In 2013, I ditched the act again, but this time I openly shared all the struggles and hardships I faced in public forums.
Revealing Your Whole Self: Your Secret Weapon for Achieving Your Dreams
That led to my content being read 2 million times within six months and 10 million times by the end of 2014. By the end of 2015, I had more than doubled my income and started a new business. In 2016, I started being recognized as a top marketing influencer by large publications. Then in 2017, I had a horrible breakup that made me question who I was and I fell back down the rabbit hole for a year (yet I still maintained this solid reputation that helped me land large clients, like executives at Fortune 500 companies, venture capitalists and NYT bestselling authors).
I spent 2018 falling in love with my beautiful and amazing wife Angie and our sweetheart chihuahua Roo, while she sacrificed and gave up everything to move away from New York to live with me in Los Angeles. Things couldn't have been any more perfect and we had the most amazing time ever, going to play with horses, hiking up a trail to a waterfall (and getting in it) and getting married on the beaches of Malibu.
But this year I failed her. In February, Angie had an incident at work where she was the victim of misogyny. She left her job on the same day and I wasn't the most supportive husband I could be. Instead of being there for her and comforting her, letting her know that everything would be okay, I panicked and got scared.
How Running Away From Your Fears Strips You Away From Being Your True Self
I began downsizing and desperately asked for help because our household had taken a six figure hit on our income (and in July, sharing my struggles resulted in an extra $17,000 a month in gross income, which proves that ditching the act works wonders for your career). As my wife was never unemployed before, she had begun to lose her sense of identity. For some reason, I wasn't able to be empathetic towards her and let her soul slowly wither away. It wasn't until one day when I was mad at her for skipping out on family therapy that I went to my mother's house instead. While I was there, that's when it hit me.
The reason my wife was so sad and depressed is because she had given up absolutely everything for me and I was too busy freaking out that I wasn't giving her what she needed the most, my love.
Rediscovering Your Core Values and Placing Them Front and Center
I showered her in my love and gave her my entire heart. And uncovered some of the memories that I had repressed, based on some of our traumatic experiences we went through together, which resulted in attacks at each other's character. But when I went back through these experiences that I was fearful of, I was able to take a moment and step into Angie's shoes. I realized that she didn't mean what she said; she was just reacting to what I had said or done. In my mind, I forgave her and let go of the burden, then I cried and asked for her forgiveness.
Something miraculous happened after doing this a few times, with larger and larger issues I had repressed. Once I got to the biggest issue, put myself in her shoes and reframed the incident, all of my memories came soaring back to me. I could clearly remember events in my life that happened year by year, all the way back to my first day at kindergarten.
I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing from there, but prematurely moving into a new home and falling behind on income for about five months (along with many frivolous and costly activities to try and hide from the pain) led us into debt. And that led me to fail my wife again.
I began investing money into fixing all aspects of my business so that we would never be in this situation ever again. Investing so that in a year from now, we could be living a comfortable life from anywhere in the world and so I could make all of Angie's dreams come true. But I didn't fully understand how much my wife supported me and was putting my interests above hers…
When the lease to our apartment ended, we stood in limbo for a while. When I asked Angie if we should stay or go back to my mom's as originally planned, she said we should save money. It didn't occur to me that she was saying what she thought I wanted to hear to get us back on track, but I ended up bringing her into a hostile environment where she is scared to live with my mother.
Overcoming the Shame and Fear of Sharing Your Most Vulnerable Moments
Angie's gone through every single emotion possible and I failed her… I brought her to a place she could even consider to be prison… And it's eating away at her soul…
It breaks my heart so much to see her so sad… And I'm going to do everything in my power to bring that smile back to her beautiful face…
I'm currently modifying plans so we can get out of here as soon as possible… But this time, to our dream home; one with a southern exposure, large windows and a bright interior full of sunshine. Not to mention, enough space for us to have a baby and raise a child.
I don't know if Angie could ever forgive me for what I have done by causing us to fall into this mess to begin with, but I'm fighting with all my might to do my husbandly duties: to love Angie with all my heart and provide her with shelter and a sense of security. Angie, if you're reading this, I might not know how to express it, but I love you from the bottom of my heart and I promise you that I'm doing everything in my power to get us out of this scenario and we will be out of it soon, so we can share smiles and laughter filled with joy as soon as possible.
Gathering the Courage to Share and Manifesting Your New Reality
It may not seem like it because my family is still knee deep in a struggle (which I hope to solve in three months), but if I never ditched the act and revealed my whole self, I would probably still be earning $30,000 a year, lacking true friends and still being single. Revealing your whole self really is what drives true connection with others and propels your life forward (and all my shortcomings are from when I've forgotten to do what I'm best at).
If you've ever struggled in any way similarly to any of my personal experiences, I urge you to go out there and share your struggles openly and publicly. You're probably under predicting how many others have experienced something similar. On top of that, you may never know who may help you out of your situation because they need something you offer, as others have time and time again for me (for which I'm forever grateful). Or they may even tap you on the shoulder and offer you something you may never have known was possible, like many of the things I've been able to do.
I never knew I'd meet Angie, the love of my life, even though I've yearned to meet her since probably before I was a teenager. I never knew I'd write Ditch the Act: Reveal the Surprising Power of the Real You for Greater Success with McGraw-Hill Business. I never knew that I'd be a product CMO for ZeU Crypto Networks. I never knew I'd start a marketing agency or have courses teaching others how to build their personal brand. I never knew that I'd get a job at an academic medical center. I never knew I'd have a business where I'd land six figure clients. I never knew I'd be featured in publications over 300 times or even show up on TV. I never knew I'd even get 10 million reads on my content, let alone 100. But it all happened because I ditched the act and revealed my whole self and I'm sure it will for you too.
-------I hope that you can wish the best for my family in finding a home before it's too late for us. And I wish you the best in your life and career, because I know from the bottom of my heart, that there are large things in store for you as well. I wrote Ditch the Act because I wanted to share with you exactly how you can move ahead in your life, by revealing your whole self. In the book, you will find much more than personal stories from people like myself, Iman Oubou, Winnie Sun, Aaron Orendorff, Mark Metry and a handful of others who have ditched the act. And there's so much more than research as to why you should lead you life showcasing your skeletons. You will discover five levels of exposure, an exposure resume and an eight-step process that will walk you through exactly what you need to do to reveal your whole self to build camaraderie with others, create your own network of trust and lead you down the road to stack your success.
During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.