You can’t half-ass this vulnerability shit. You are either all the way in or all the way out.
Back before Facebook and Instagram replaced our basic needs for water and sleep, I was voted “Member of the Month” on the social networking site, MiGente.com. A popularity contest at best, and a hook-up site at worst, I chose my profile name for its humor and potential for profile clicks. I never stopped to think about the meaning, and certainly never considered that I would have to reckon with the ways I would come to embody the name later in life.
Sinverguenza — translated in Spanish means “shameless.” But if you ask your neighborhood tia, she’d tell you that it’s a name reserved for a person who lives out of integrity and recklessly; with little regard to the repercussions of his/her actions. As I reflect on instances in which I have been very “sinverguenza” in my life, I get nauseating contractions in the pit of my stomach, which I can now identify as the physical manifestation of shame.
In order to set myself free from shame, I’ve had to learn to give myself the gift of Grace. Like a seed planted, and watered with compassion, Grace bears the fruit of unconditional love and forgiveness. Grace is allowing myself to be seen…fully.
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging.” – Brene Brown
Not being loved and abandoned is my biggest fear in life, and the shame associated with that has prevented me from living in my fullest potential — my authentic Truth.
My Dad not being present when I was a young boy, replaced by a step-father who expressed his anger by violently beating my mother; my Mother’s “tough love” silent treatment as a form of discipline because that was her way of raising “el hombre de la casa” or “man of the house,” all contributed to me developing the unfortunate skill of separating myself from my feelings as a form of survival.
To avoid the pain of my Mother’s silent treatment, I developed a habit of omitting the truth or flat out lying about things I thought would incur her wrath. I remember vividly one incident in middle school, a group of us latch-key kids were walking home. As the sun gave way to the navy blue sky, and the cold winter wind blew loose trash in the school play yard, I got into an argument with a classmate about who’s Starter jacket was cooler. Before we knew it, we found ourselves in a reluctant fight and in the process I lost my house keys. I realized I had no choice but to call my mother at work to let her know I was locked out. When I got home, instead of telling my mom the truth about what happened, I lied to her and said that I had been bullied, jumped by a group of kids, and lost my keys in the scuffle. Concerned, my mom took off work the next day to talk to come to school and talk to my teachers. I’ve never felt as embarrassed as I did when my teacher told her the truth. What I remember most is the look on my mother’s face, a look I would recognize in other people I loved whenever I disappointed them. I would rather have been beaten with a thousand brooms instead of withstanding the embarrassment I felt in that moment. Shame.
The fear of being “unlovable” also played a role in my romantic relationships. It led to me co-create unhealthy, toxic, and codependent relationships with women who seemed to reflect back to me the darkest sides of myself. I found myself telling partial truths or omitting facts in relationships because I was afraid that being honest would mean facing the risk of losing someone I cared for. I even went as far as telling a girl on a date that I wanted to be a “toxic bachelor” after reading an article celebrating the playboy lifestyle of a popular actor at the time. As she tapped her nails on the rim of her wine glass, she looked up at with piercing eyes and asked: “what are you running from?” After a long pause, I replied, “I’m not running from anything, I just don’t believe in monogamy.” I knew she knew I was lying, I was just another “fuck boy who thought he was a good guy.” I would justify lying in my relationships by convincing myself that by not telling the truth I would spare these women’s feelings when in fact I was only serving my selfish interests.
The work I do today with The Lives of Men and on the Yahoo! News series “Dear Men” is just as much about exploring my own healing as it is about helping men reconnect to the deepest parts of themselves. I’ve learned that as men we can be very sensitive creatures who silently yearn to find healthy and supportive environments to express our emotions. Through that work, I hope to inspire men to explore healthier forms of manhood that challenge the long-held notions of masculinity, and encourage men to embrace vulnerability as a way to connect to a deeper part of themselves, and in the process develop stronger relationships. The shame of having once considered being someone who had little regard for someone else’s feelings is something I wrestle with often, but, for me, the journey has never been about being perfect, it’s always been about evolving and becoming good humans.
Hurt people, hurt people, and I accept that I have been complicit in hurting some people I care about, and with that comes deep feelings of shame. I’ve learned the hard way that the process of disconnecting myself emotionally from others can only occur if I’ve successfully disconnected from myself first. I thought that being a toxic bachelor was the safest way to fill the deep sense of longing for love, acceptance, and validation, that I lost in the aftermath of a deeply traumatic event in my life.
“Shame can’t survive empathy because it depends on me buying into the belief that I’m alone.” – Brene Brown
To be vulnerable is to allow me to be seen, to be held, to be loved. Not despite my flaws and shortcomings, but BECAUSE of them. The truth is that in fearing the worst, I denied myself the best — the opportunity for the people I love to offer me the very medicine I so badly yearn for – compassion.
I have a close circle of family and friends that support me, even when I’m not at my best. My Mom has always been my biggest cheerleader (and has now become an Instagram celebrity!) My partner, has taught me that I am worthy of love ESPECIALLY during my darkest moments. All of this has always been available to me, all I had to do was get out of my own way and be shameless. I had to learn that with the right people, all I had to do was ask for help, or admit to my mistakes, and in turn, the floodgates of empathy and love would be made available to me. That has been the scariest, yet the most transformative revelation of my evolution as a man.
I now understand that my very existence makes me worthy of not only giving but also receiving love. I am enough. I’ve accepted that I can’t become the fullest version of myself unless I allow myself to be seen…fully, flaws and all. I have to be Sin Verguenza or shame-Less. That means having the courage and the willingness to live naked and vulnerable.
Jason Rosario is the Executive Producer and host of the Yahoo! News original, ”Dear Men”, a web series that explores the evolution of manhood. He is a social entrepreneur, cultural creative, and storyteller. In 2017 he founded The Lives of Men (TLoM), a creative agency and diversity accelerator that is challenging, redefining, and shaping modern masculinity through story-telling and strategic initiatives.
As a motivational speaker and media personality, his talks often focus on the intersection of self-actualization, identity, and masculinity. Jason has been featured in various media outlets including; TheGrio, Cassius Magazine, Black and Well Magazine, Sirius XM, In Her Shoes Blog, Huffington Post, NowThis, Netflix, Fox 5 News, and Hot97.
In 2019, Jason was selected as one of Black Enterprise’s “BE Modern Men of Distinction” an honor that celebrates and elevates the narrative, images, and contributions of men of color across cultures, communities, and fields of endeavor across the nation and around the world. Jason is a graduate of NYU’s Stern School of Business and has a background in finance.
Instagram & Twitter: @jason__rosario & @thelivesofmen