Growing up, I believed that, if I told someone I was feeling sad or hurt, I would be “complaining.” People who complain, I thought, are whiny and weak.
So, to be a “good boy,” and later on, a “real man,” I made sure I kept my moments of sadness and hurt to myself. In fact, you could even say I built my identity around being able to tolerate pain without protest.
After all, in my mid-to-late twenties, I spent most of my time in my office at a law firm, striving to handle as many matters as possible without a peep of discontentment, and show I was tough enough to take on any task the “higher-ups” threw my way.
How I Got Caught Singing
Sure, this attitude had its perks. Some people admired my inhuman discipline and stamina. But one night, I had a chat with a coworker that revamped my worldview.
I had the door to my office closed, and I didn’t think anyone else was in the building. Believing I was alone, I momentarily dropped the tough-guy façade and started singing. The song was “Remember,” which Josh Groban sings at the end of the Troy soundtrack.
Suddenly, there was a knock on my door. My colleague walked in and said “I didn’t know you could sing.”
My first reaction was to be mortified. Not only did my coworker hear me singing, but she heard me singing a mournful ballad originally recorded by a guy who does Christmas song duets with Celine Dion.
I mean, couldn’t it at least have been something macho and aggressive like Metallica? Something more in keeping with the hard-as-nails image I wanted to project? Didn’t this episode make me look like kind of a wuss?
How “Wussiness” Feeds My Creativity
Actually, though, she seemed excited by my singing. “I always imagined you doing something creative,” she said. “I’m glad to hear it’s true.”
This was a surprise. Not only did she appreciate my singing, but she enjoyed hearing me perform a song that showed my softer side. To her, it didn’t mean I was weak — it just meant I was a creative guy.
It occurred to me, in that moment, that my creativity was closely tied to my “vulnerable” feelings — hurt, sadness, embarrassment, and so on. By hiding those emotions in order to look tough, I was actually stifling my creativity, and depriving the world of what I had to offer.
Soon after this realization, I started getting back into songwriting and performing, which I hadn’t done for a long time. Writing songs was easiest, I noticed, when I based them on difficult experiences from my life. My “vulnerability” became more of a well to draw on for creative inspiration, rather than a weakness I had to hide.
I hope other people who feel scared to share their creative parts are fortunate enough to have someone in their lives who catches them singing.