This past week I had the privilege of speaking at the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers convention and I got to meet the wonderful Judy Carter, who wrote The Comedy Bible. I interviewed Judy some years ago and I’ve been following her worJudy Carterk since. After establishing herself in the world of humor and comedy, Judy wrote The Message of You and has been helping speakers to tell their story. She delivered a short keynote on the topic that was very timely for my personal and professional journey.

The stories we tell and often the focus of our professional lives align with our modes of compensating and surviving in the world. It’s no accident that my company is called Exhilarated Performance and my new audiobook is Humor Me: Lighten Up and Love Life humor_meLaughing (time out for shameless plug: it makes a great holiday gift and is easy to send online with no postage or delivery costs. Still need a present for friends and family? Get them Humor Me). I’ve spent most of my life trying to clear bars and stay ahead of the fear of not doing enough. When a recent annual review suggested that I was unsatisfactory in a domain, I came face-to-face with my reactivity and had to ask deep questions about why this would bother me after so much growth and personal development work.

What Judy has helped me to realize is that my past history, my pain and personal mess (with age) point me to what I have to share and, perhaps, my most authentic contributions. The premise of my forthcoming book is that the core of many contemporary serious problems is that we are disconnected from ourselves, each other, and the planet. The roots of this connect to my own feelings of disconnection and my struggles to fit in. I also am very intrigued to address our stunted emotional lives and especially how boys and young men are taught to “man up” and suppress their feelings, which I believe has a lot to do with the rampant aggression and violence that men perpetrate. As shown in the documentary, The Mask You Live In, research shows that compared to girls, boys are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives. As a very sensitive person in environments that called for toughness, I developed armor that I’m still working to uninstall.

I’m finding it’s time to dial down my performer and focus on self-compassion. Although I’ve learned a lot about performance and humor as strategies to get by in life, I sense I can contribute more powerfully and meaningfully to increase our connection to ourselves, each other, and the planet and to help boys and young men to be more emotionally capable and more relationally supportive by talking about my own experiences and outlooks of feeling like I couldn’t connect or fit in. We often think of trauma as dramatic events involving abuse or disasters, yet most of us have felt the trauma of not feeling loved, or feeling inadequate as a little person, or feeling like our parents or others could not attune to us.

I’m only beginning to explore The Message of You, and it feels like the start of a most vital voyage. I’ve been asking questions about how I can best serve progress for wholeness and human connection. The work I’ve done with my ALIVE model has been useful with a variety of groups and I sense that bringing my vulnerability to creating healthier approaches to masculinity could be an even bigger, better focus. I’m looking for “landing gear” and I welcome suggestions about how to move forward.

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