I've always been a huge fan of Ewan McGregor. Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, hell, he even made Moulin Rouge a belter and I'm not embarrassed to admit it!
But other than his raw natural talent on screen and distinctive Scottish accent, I didn't know much about the man until last week. The press had picked up on an interview he did with website DAD.info, in which he spoke candidly about his struggles with such early success.
Speaking about his wife, he told DAD.info, "I was just 23 at the time, so she was with me through all of that craziness. It took me a while to realise what makes you happy and content and what doesn't."
He continued, "At the time when you're riding a wave of success and you're drinking and partying, you think you're happy, but that's not the case."
McGregor's heartfelt interview hugely resonated with me and I immediately drew parallels between his story and my own personal journey, as well as the ongoing journeys of many of my clients at The Performance Lounge.
Witnessing the lives of men in London, it seems to me that many of them (many of us) are holding onto a destructive, warped and conditioned view of what happiness really is. A view that being masculine means you have to act, speak and behave in a certain way.
On the surface this seems normal to us all. In many ways it's expected actually. But playing such different roles to who you really might be on the inside can often lead to a disconnection. It's like constantly wearing a mask. And, as you can imagine, this leaves people feeling fake, feeling lonely and feeling depressed later on in their lives.
Here are five ways to ditch your boyhood persona and step into manhood with pride:
1. Start accepting reality
You need to get real. It may be time for you to accept that the old, archetypal view that as a man you need to be "a good ol' city boy" or "just one of the lads" may not be who you are anymore. Maybe the kind of man who finds himself getting involved in banter to within an inch of his life or living to excess only to impress people is not the kind of person you want to be.
Sure the persona you're getting tired of now may have served you well throughout your time at university or while you were backpacking round Australia. But many clients I talk to who are desperately holding onto old roles realise that one plus one doesn't equal two anymore.
It's an act. It's a role that you have been playing and you know what? You play it automatically. And in playing these roles, you are actually sacrificing your happiness and hiding who you really are in an attempt to get validation from the outside world.
It's time to stop acting. It's time to stop role-playing.
2. Get mindful
Being mindful isn't just about meditating. You can use mindfulness techniques to start understanding the roles you've been playing and discover more about who you really are and the person you want to become.
You're not "fighting for your right to party" anymore, like the Beastie Boys sang in the late 80s. When you start to become more mindful of your "up all night" partying ways, the song that's more likely to be ringing in your ears is "the drugs don't work, they just make it worse" by Richard Ashcroft. At the time of writing the song, he proclaimed, "That's how I'm feeling at the moment. They make me worse, man. But I still take 'em. Out of boredom and frustration you turn to something else to escape."
The truth is, addictions and compulsions are a mixture of pleasure and pain. And as much as you may not want to admit it, living to excess every weekend is an addiction. Over time we find the balance of that scales tipping towards the pain, both physical and emotional. We are master delusionists, weaving wonderful justifications as to why we still do what we do. However the simple fact is the habit forming brain simply doesn't know any better. But we can wake it up by becoming more mindful.
So next time you are out drinking or partying, ask yourself: "Am I really enjoying this? Does it really feel good or am I just living in anticipation for some romanticised illusion about what this all used to feel like for me?"
Be the mindful witness to the pain and dysfunction of your addictive behaviours. Becoming more aware of how you act and how it really feels could be your gift towards freedom.
3. Believe that you can change
Change in life is inevitable, we should expect it, embrace it and move towards change in order to become the people we truly are inside. You cannot change whats going on around you until you start to change whats going on within you.
Change is inevitable and happiness starts within.
Think of it this way, if you had to use your less dominant hand for a prolonged period of time, how long would it take you to get used to opening doors and typing before it felt normal? Maybe a few weeks. Maybe a few months. It may be awkward, you'll probably have to remind yourself to do it over and over, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a breeze. What if you inner happiness depended on the same commitment, would you do it?
Your brain is plastic. Neuroplasticity, a term coined by neuro-scientists, describes a natural phenomena occurring in the brain as we change. It means that our brains can be moulded towards new, self-promoting behaviour.
Change only happens when you make a commitment to that change. It can be scary at first, but we are all capable of self-promoting change. The only requirements are - focus, determination and truth.
4. Cultivate a playful attitude
In the absence of hangovers, comedowns and feelings of guilt, shame and exhaustion, you'll have so much time to fill with other things. Things you genuinely enjoy. Things that fill your mind and body with excitement, with fun and with happiness.
Many people wrongly believe that living a life without alcohol, drugs and all night raves is boring. But really it's more balanced, which means you have space to discover what truly fulfills you in life.
Making the transition to a healthy, happy and balanced life filled with fun is all about curiously investigating what makes you truly happy. As a child I loved painting and drawing, but when that was deemed "uncool" by lads at school, that love for colour and creativity went out the window - sacrificed for a feeling of inclusion, recognition and safety.
What things did you push aside when you were growing up that you can now reclaim? What things do you really enjoy doing? Remember it's not about finding a new hobby and becoming an expert at it, this is all part of ripping up your old routine, rejecting what's familiar and letting yourself colour outside the lines again.
5. Surrender to your inner creator
It's fine to let go of everything you think you know about yourself and break the pattern. Don't be afraid!
Take this as an opportunity to get to truly understand what makes you happy. And this is all about you, no one else. You can then unashamedly do that. Do what you want.
We all have a wonderful, genetic blueprint that allows us to connect with the world in a very meaningful way, then along the way we are conditioned to be what is expected of us. We pick up beliefs and ideas about the world from everything and everyone around us, when really we could create our own reality.
Consider the terrace at a football game. Observe the dad taking his son to a game, every week year in and year out. Whilst observing his surroundings, the kid grows up believing that screaming and shouting, swearing blindly at the opposition fans, the ref and even their own team is the norm.
Observe the kid who is now 15. He's stands up, proceeds to do what he knows, which is to project hatred at the ref or the traveling fans, and over his shoulder his dad is smiling, "that's my boy" he says to everyone surrounding them. This kind of transaction, this passing on of traits can be seen in all areas of society and among people from all walks of life. But the truth is, we forget about our conditioning. We forget that we have all the answers we need within. But we still search outside ourselves for answers and for how we should act. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's time for a change.
Now I'm not saying don't enjoy the footie - my life wouldn't be the same without watching Match of the Day. I'm just saying, that when the odd time I catch myself screaming at the TV, I smile and realise that kind of behaviour is just something I picked up along the way, it's not me. It's a behaviour I can choose to reject now. A behaviour I can choose to ignore now. A behaviour I'm strong enough to leave behind now.
Carl Jung, the grandaddy of talking therapies once wisely said, "I am not what was given to me, I am what I choose to become." Choose yourself.
It's this process of acceptance, mindfulness, self-belief, playfulness and willfulness to create your own reality that can allow you to fully realise the person you were born to be. It turns out, that unlike his character Renton in Trainspotting, the real Ewan McGregor did choose life.