The following is the introduction to Be Amazing, the newest book by author and “chief optimist” of Begin With Yes, Paul Boynton.
When I was younger, I didn’t know what being “in the closet” meant intellectually, but emotionally, I got it loud and clear. I was well aware that I was somehow different, and that those differences were more of a problem — not a blessing. Like most kids, I was working hard to get others to love me and I quickly learned that my best hope for that would come from hiding my differences, not celebrating them. And since that seemed to work fairly well, I stuck with this tried-and-true method with family and friends, and later added co-workers, business associates, and just about everyone else who happened into my life.
Like many gay kids from my generation, I struggled with revealing myself as a complete, authentic person. It just seemed so much easier to lock such an important part of who I was far, far away, choosing to be both an outsider, and an imposter to the world. I opted for this common-sense approach and turned myself into a make-believe boy, a make-believe teen-ager, and ultimately, a make-believe man. I had mistakenly concluded that in order to be loved, I needed to protect others from knowing the real me. Looking back, I realize that this decision — made by a confused and frightened little boy — missed the simple but profound truth that to be loved as me, I had to be me.
For a long time, I thought “the closet” was invented for gay kids, but I now know that I’ve had plenty of company among the coat hangers. As it turned out, it wasn’t just me and my gay brothers and sisters, but just about everyone I knew who had hidden a part of who they were in an attempt to please, meet expectations, and be accepted and loved. I wasn’t the only little kid who had sensed that people were less interested in who I was and more excited about who they wanted me to be. And so intuitively and innocently, I cracked the closet door open looking for safety, and then jumped in, full force, and slammed the door shut behind me, feeling just as scared and even more alone than ever before.
Some choose the closet rather than let others see their sensitive, vulnerable side. Some choose to play sports when all they really wanted to do was paint pictures. Many boys toughen-up and learn not to cry rather than be called demeaning names. And plenty of little girls choose to be cute and later sexy rather than the bold and daring person they really are.
And we all know how many of us were taught that growing up meant abandoning our passions and our dreams to pursue practical, more financially-rewarding careers. I now understand that I wasn’t alone at all! The closet wasn’t just for gay kids; the closet was for most kids who felt the best chance they had to be loved was to become what others wanted them to be. I now know that that closet was jam-packed with wonderful, beautiful, gifted kids of all shapes, inclinations, and sizes desperately wanting to be loved. And in the closet, it was so dark that we lost sight of how amazing we were and before long many of us forgot that not only could we crack the door open and step outside, but we were actually meant to live amazing lives making amazing things happen. I guess some would think that it was good news that we weren’t all alone in the closet.
But for me, the good news was that I found my way out. My crucial turning point was witnessing and identifying with the “coming out” episode of the Ellen DeGeneres sitcom that aired in the mid-90s. It was bold, socially provocative, and pretty gutsy of her, and it got me thinking. I didn’t suddenly fling open the closet door and step out into the sunlight; I was now a grown man and things were far more complicated. I could see that even for Ellen, “coming out” meant risking a career, losing lucrative endorsement deals, and a potential shift in public perception that would very likely teach her a lesson about the risk and penalty of being real. And from where I stood, the lesson probably wasn’t going to be very nice.
That, more than anything, made me hesitate about leaving the coats behind. But as I waited in the wings and watched Ellen wade through her own experience, I saw the power of her authenticity. Sure, it was messy, unpredictable, and probably pretty painful too, but it was done with such dignity and grace, and incredible self-respect. Soon, I began to feel emboldened, myself. In my case, I knew leaving the closet would be a challenge, not just for me but for everyone who thought they knew the real me.
“Coming out” would mean telling the truth to my loving wife, my children, friends, co-workers, and, as the CEO of a large nonprofit organization, my board of directors. I knew from watching Ellen’s journey unfold there would be very real consequences for me. But there were also so many rewards. I discovered that the real me was not only loving and loveable, but also so much more alive, creative, engaging, and fun to be around. I also saw so clearly that to live a passionate and purposeful life, the real me had some serious lost time to make up for!
And so, one day, I grabbed the handle, turned it slowly, eased that creaking closet door open, and stepped out into the warm light. And if you haven’t already beat me to it, consider this your official invitation. If you’re recognizing that you’ve hidden some part of yourself in the closet, here are a few things I have learned that just may help:
- Usually things we’ve hidden are actually some of our most unique, beautiful, and amazing attributes.
- “Coming out” late may not be better, but late beats never, any day.
- “Coming out” has plenty of risks and not everyone’s going to like the real you, but life is filled with risks and not everyone will like you, anyway.
- Sometimes the love we want and need the most comes from within.
- Being yourself is not only your right, it’s your reason for being here.
- What makes each of us unique is not a problem; it’s an amazing blessing.
- Telling a story is easy, but telling your authentic story takes courage, and when we do it, we discover we are brave enough.
- And most of all, we are each born to Be Amazing and that although the universe will patiently wait for us to step into that circle of light, the longer we wait, the less time we’ll have to share who we’re here to be.
Now, through the wonders of social media and my Begin with Yes book and Facebook page, so many wonderful people have come into my life. And although I may never meet them face-to-face, they’ve been open, willing, and brave enough to meet me, heart-to-heart. They continue to share personal stories of their own challenges and breakthroughs and how they’ve decided to “come out” of their own respective closets and bravely reclaim what was their birthright — their amazingness.
In the end, we each get to decide for ourselves the right time to “come out” and step into our own amazing potential. But I believe if you can see even a glimmer of light under the door and your hand is firmly on the handle, now just might be your moment!
The above excerpt is taken from Be Amazing, Boynton’s newest book, which hits bookstores Jan. 7, 2020.
It’s available now for preorder via Amazon using this link (and it will arrive Jan. 7.)
From an early review for Be Amazing from Publisher’s Weekly:
“…Boynton’s core principles all revolve around “generosity and kindness,” which he believes has a recursive power to uplift, and he offers six character qualities (among them “be as accommodating as possible”) and four steps (including “discover what amazing will look like”) to help move readers toward their goals. Boynton’s focus on practicing kindness and building community make this a welcome addition to self-help works on achieving personal success.”
Paul Boynton is CEO of Moore Center Services, counselor, mentor and chief optimist at Begin With Yes. With more than 2 million “Facebook Family” followers, Boynton’s inspirational outlook on life is one of encouragement and kindness based on his philosophy that, “When our actions align with our passions and purpose wonderful things begin to happen.”