Husband Material

I'm Fine Syndrome (with Stephen Thomas)

July 10, 2023 Drew Boa
I'm Fine Syndrome (with Stephen Thomas)
Husband Material
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Husband Material
I'm Fine Syndrome (with Stephen Thomas)
Jul 10, 2023
Drew Boa

Have you ever pretended to be fine when you're really not? In this episode, Stephen Thomas explains "I'm Fine Syndrome"—what it is, why we struggle with it, and how to crush it. You'll learn the importance of honoring your wants and needs...and the power of being authentic. Admitting you're not fine is an act of bravery and the first step towards true freedom.

Stephen Thomas is a husband and father who has enjoyed freedom from porn and hookup culture for over 14 years. He is a Certified Husband Material Coach who provides coaching for individuals, couples, and groups. Stephen is passionate about seeing men who feel hopelessly buried by addictions come alive and realize the strength God has placed in them.

Learn more at stephenthomasconsulting.com

Apply to join a group at husbandmaterial.com/group

Facebook: facebook.com/stephenthomasconsulting

Email Stephen at stephen@stephenthomasconsulting.com

Text Stephen at 864-881-1749

Take the Husband Material Journey...

Thanks for listening!


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever pretended to be fine when you're really not? In this episode, Stephen Thomas explains "I'm Fine Syndrome"—what it is, why we struggle with it, and how to crush it. You'll learn the importance of honoring your wants and needs...and the power of being authentic. Admitting you're not fine is an act of bravery and the first step towards true freedom.

Stephen Thomas is a husband and father who has enjoyed freedom from porn and hookup culture for over 14 years. He is a Certified Husband Material Coach who provides coaching for individuals, couples, and groups. Stephen is passionate about seeing men who feel hopelessly buried by addictions come alive and realize the strength God has placed in them.

Learn more at stephenthomasconsulting.com

Apply to join a group at husbandmaterial.com/group

Facebook: facebook.com/stephenthomasconsulting

Email Stephen at stephen@stephenthomasconsulting.com

Text Stephen at 864-881-1749

Take the Husband Material Journey...

Thanks for listening!


Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Husband Material podcast, where we help Christian men outgrow porn. Why? So you can change your brain, heal your heart and save your relationship. My name is Drew Boa and I'm here to show you how Let's go. Hey man, thanks for your interest in today's episode. I'm buying syndrome with Stephen Thomas. This is one of those core issues for men outgrowing porn that comes up again and again. Today you will learn the primary symptoms of I'm Fying Syndrome, where it comes from, how we can break free and some powerful examples of authenticity from Stephen's story. Enjoy the episode. Welcome to Husband Material Today after over a year. It has been too long since I have welcomed back Stephen Thomas to Husband Material. Hey man, hey Drew, It's good to see you again. You too. Stephen, is a certified Husband Material coach with over 14 years of sobriety who has led so, so, so many men into more healing and freedom lately, especially with what we're going to talk about today. I'm Fying Syndrome, stephen. What is I'm Fying Syndrome?

Speaker 2:

Well, i'm Fying Syndrome has a couple of different meanings. So, in the context of relationships with others, it could be you have some sort of engagement with a friend or your spouse and maybe something, something has said, hurts you, but you don't tell them, you pretend to be fine, or you even tell them I'm fine. So that's one side of the coin, and then the other side is not really understanding what our needs and our wants are. But if people say, hey, what do you want, what do you want with life, and you just draw a blank, that is another aspect of I'm Fying Syndrome. At the core of it is a lack of acknowledgement of oneself, a lack of acknowledgement that we have needs, that we have wants, and then learning how to communicate them or learning how to take action on them.

Speaker 1:

Stephen, when you first introduced me to this concept of I'm Fying Syndrome, I had never heard it before. Did you come up?

Speaker 2:

with it. I came up with it in my mind. I've Googled it and see other people using it, but maybe this is just the result of me not reading enough, that I never heard anybody else use it, so I can say I came up with it.

Speaker 1:

Well, regardless of the intellectual property, it seems like you have put together many of your observations of working with men to something that I think is really helpful.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Yeah, this is to the T what I've had to battle in myself and what I regularly see men who are battling addiction deal with.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, why do you think this is so common for men who struggle with porn?

Speaker 2:

Well, we talked about how one aspect of I'm Fying Syndrome is a struggle with self-awareness. It's a lack of understanding of what we want. So some guys struggle to know what they want, but they're in some kind of pain and they don't even know how to identify it. Corn becomes a way of soothing that Porn offers comfort, right. So it becomes easier to just reach for something to make that pain go away, rather than try to understand what it is we even want. So that's one side of it. And then the other side is the fear of vulnerability in relationships. Basically, porn is a way to isolate, and that might feel safer if you have pain from relationships And therefore you can go and get your needs met by yourself rather than leaning into connection with other people, which for some people aka me, one who has suffered from I'm Fying Syndrome it can be terrifying to communicate needs in relationships And because of that porn might just feel safer in the moment and therefore we'll turn to it to again make that pain go away. It's a distraction.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Stephen. what has I'm Fying Syndrome looked like for you?

Speaker 2:

Those look like the two things I've just stated Learning to identify my own wants and needs. When we say, what do we need? That's a common question we teach guys to ask themselves who are struggling with porn Hey, what is it that you really need? The thing for me is I could talk myself out of needing anything. It's like, well, i have shelter, i have food. You know, i'm fine. There's that word, i'm fine. There it is, yeah.

Speaker 2:

The other thing I've learned is I've learned that acknowledging and honoring want is really beautiful and powerful. I find it's more powerful in my relationship with God to want him rather than to need him. That keeps me coming back right. It's more powerful to want to lead porn rather than to need it. I mean, the truth is, need can be powerful too, and that can get guys, you know, to some freedom and some breakthrough as far as sobriety goes. But to realize that I don't want this Like I see clearly how this is hurting me. It's more powerful to want health than to want.

Speaker 2:

I like to call porn the fast food of sex or the fast food of even connection needs. Here's your quick, easy fix to make your problems go away for a few minutes, and what we really do do that is we just kick down feeling our pain, either like we're in pain, then we'll choose porn, and then there's a big low that comes after porn over like here I am stuck again. I really want to be free from porn. So it's like you kind of can face your pain before or later, like you can face it now or you can kick it down the road And until you have that kind of come to Jesus moment of I'm in pain right now and I hate how stuck I feel.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it takes so much courage to say I'm not fine. A lot of times we're afraid and ashamed of not being okay and not being fine And of what might happen if I actually told the truth to someone who I really care about.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it could bring up rejection. We could like if you have relational trauma, which is where you learn to be fine and you don't want people to reject you, then you're facing your trauma by saying I'm actually not fine right now.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and we have gone through this a few times in our friendship. I think it might be helpful for people to hear about that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So we'll talk about groups later, but I went through your group just three years ago And I came in with lots of sobriety but was really curious about what you're doing because, yeah, i love the husband material approach And one of the gifts of doing the small group was that there is a group commitment to courage, which is, hey, courageously speak the truth of what your experience is. That's one aspect of what courage can mean, i should say, and that might be to lean into conflict And that really unlocked something in me to begin practicing telling people. I'm actually not fine. So since then you and I have become friends and it's really fun because we came in doing recovery work and there's so much resonance in our conversations, there's so much that we're just on board right.

Speaker 2:

And then, as we continued the journey in our friendship, there became moments where it's like, oh, i realized that I have a different idea than Drew does on a topic, maybe in recovery, or we've our friendship, but during COVID So just being around each other during COVID we realized we have different approaches to COVID, things like that. So I realized that for me, i need to take the courageous step of just let myself be seen and known and say, hey, i see you and I'm learning some things about your worldview on different things, and I have no desire to argue. I have your permission to be you, but I actually wanna show you me and let you know that. Oh, that's difficult for me because I have a different viewpoint.

Speaker 1:

During COVID we had very different viewpoints on things. Yeah, And we had one of those delicate, beautiful, courageous conversations where you expressed where you were at and I attuned to you, and then I expressed where I was at and you attuned to me and we didn't even argue Like it was great. Yeah. And we both also expressed fears about how this could affect our friendship Absolutely, If we have such opposite views. We had fears about how the other person would perceive us or where things would go.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and to be fair, i mean COVID was a really divisive time for our country, for the world, for Christians There's a lot of Christians just on different views of things And for me it was again me breaking I'm fine syndrome was purely about me showing up and saying I'm here, and one way I like to describe relational health is that we allow ourselves to take equal space in the room as others. So it's like, hey, i've seen you and I've seen you express yourself, and that's fine. I want to express myself too, because we've committed to a close friendship.

Speaker 1:

And I have seen in our friendship and the groups that we've been through how you saying I'm not fine or there's something that I need to share that has created relational health in the group. It's like you're giving everybody permission to not be fine, Thank you.

Speaker 2:

And you're right, though, because then we have an opportunity to be authentic, and authentic is really the word that has been on my heart more than anything in this season of life. Underneath authenticity is vulnerability. If the opportunity to be authentic isn't there, especially in a small group setting, is people withdraw over time. So if you're looking at a symptom, if you're wondering if you struggle with I'm fine syndrome, if you're not sure if you do, one great one is, do you regularly feel disconnected in your relationships over time? Maybe you start off with lots of resonance, but then there's a drifting that happened. Maybe it's your lack of vulnerability that is causing the vulnerability of your friend is causing the relationship to go distant. I guess I learned that I would rather a relationship be distant because we realize, hey, we have different values of relief systems and we bless each other. To chase that It might mean that we're not going to be as close, because then I'm being true to myself, but the pain of hiddenness and lying, pretending to be fine, is like I can't do it any.

Speaker 1:

So, in other words, you would rather be totally authentic with somebody, even if it means you end up going separate ways.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely 100 percent Because, for example, that hasn't happened with us. We've worked through the fact that we have different values and we're okay with it. But the reality is, if something is on your heart that I have opposition to, i don't know what word to use there, but I don't want to prevent you from chasing your dreams. I also am comfortable that my viewpoint of the world isn't completely representative of God's way. We all see in part. The Bible says So. I have the ability to realize that I don't see the whole picture and I don't want to block people from chasing their dreams and being authentic. We want relationships where people choose us because they want us Remember the power of want not because they have to be friends with us. We feel that when it feels like somebody is supposed to be there, it feels inauthentic, it doesn't feel as life-giving.

Speaker 1:

That's so good And the irony is we actually agree on almost everything. There are just a few things that always come up in any relationship with a friend, family member or significant other that always cause friction. They always cause rupture. There will always be a rupture in any relationship, but will there be repair? Will there be the courage to lean into conflict with curiosity and compassion? And if there is, then you can actually experience connection. So we've talked about pleasing and appeasing as part of I'm Fine Syndrome, not really being authentic, seeing our relationships slowly drift apart. What are some other symptoms of I'm Fine Syndrome?

Speaker 2:

This is kind of a funny one to me, but and I kind of touched base on it but if you suffer from I'm Fine Syndrome, you may get mad when you're around people who don't. So again, if your spouse is speaking to you that she's not fine and you're mad, get over it. Like if you dismiss yourself yes, you dismiss others too You're telling them bury it, just like I do No one would make this problem go away. So if you just decided to be okay, if you could just be fine and there's that evil four letter word, fine.

Speaker 1:

Yes, the.

Speaker 2:

Christian F word It is. that's a great symptom If you find yourself upset when people show up with needs. that is a symptom of I'm Fine Syndrome. Some other syndromes again are not knowing what you want. Again I said, if you dismiss yourself, you dismiss others. I think some of us are so used to dismissing what we want that we lose sight of what we want. And it could be little things. It could be hey, where do you guys wanna go for dinner? And you're just like, oh, whatever you guys want. And if you never have an opinion, here's the sad thing about that. This might hurt, but I feel like this is good pain to realize. If you're the person who never has an opinion or never expresses a want, there's almost a dullness to people who are like that. That makes them unenjoyable. It's like I actually want to know you but you don't have a personality. If a person doesn't ever express wants and needs, that's another symptom of I'm Fine Syndrome.

Speaker 1:

Steven, it really hurts my heart to think about the times when I felt that. But you can't tell someone.

Speaker 2:

I've told friends of mine, stop being blah. I have. I've said no, you have an opinion, show up, buddy, I want this for you. So you're poor with people. They know you're for them, right, And there's a way to deliver a message that could either be harmful or helpful. But yeah, there's people that you'll meet and you realize, oh, they have a dullness to them And I don't get judgy about it. It's just more like, yeah, they're struggling. That comes from pain in their past set. We're gonna talk about where this comes from a little later, but it's just that awareness. I'm not gonna beat people up, but you just pick up on it. And again, I don't judge because, like, that was me, That was me to the T. This is what I've been battling for years.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, we have to unlearn I'm fine syndrome, because we did learn it somewhere. Where does I'm fine syndrome come from?

Speaker 2:

There's a lot of places actually, family systems is always huge right. Family systems imprint on us how we view the world. So maybe you grew up in a family where you weren't allowed to be sad or mad. You didn't do emotions, so, again, you weren't taught to sort of receive your emotions and communicate about them. You're taught to dismiss them. That can definitely create a person who struggles with I'm fine syndrome. And another component of family systems is maybe your mother didn't do nurture well.

Speaker 2:

So again, i talked earlier about honoring want. So my wife has been such a great person in my life to help demonstrate the opposite of I'm fine syndrome. But if my little two year old, if we're like running out the door and he's like sad cause he doesn't have his stuffed animal, i would think, oh, he's gonna be fine, he'll get over it. But she'll be like, oh, he wants his stuffed animal And basically she's saying, just because you want it is enough. So I want to give you that. That's powerful man, that's really powerful, to just say, just because you want it, that's enough. Yes, let's go get his stuffed animal. Let's slow things down.

Speaker 1:

Whenever possible, whenever I have a chance to give you something that you want, i'm going to jump on it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and depending on your background, you might have grown up in a family that was kind of the very opposite of that.

Speaker 1:

There's a wisdom to know when it's enabling unhealth or when it's actually enabling intimacy.

Speaker 2:

I think in the context we're talking about with like a two or three-year-old, i think you're just again imprinting on them that wants are good and you can communicate about that. There's times, obviously, that our kids say I want another popsicle. We'll just communicate oh, too many will make your stomach hurt. We'll say no. But again it's not saying well, if you don't need it, you don't need it. You have a roof over your head. You're fine. You know what I mean. We're not teaching them to dismiss communicating about what they want. I think that's maybe the fine point. We're teaching them what is health and what isn't The fine point.

Speaker 1:

I love it. That's good Hearing those two examples is so helpful.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, again, if you push away, want porn is the way we're just trying to nurture ourselves. If you grow up in a family where there's no permission to speak up for what you want, unless it's life and death, your soul actually suffers. We could even say that a need is that we honor our wants.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's good, because we do need to honor our wants.

Speaker 2:

Yes, If you grow up in a family that didn't do that, that didn't teach you that, it's okay. I do believe that's a world that is going to make you vulnerable for addiction, for porn addiction, because, again, if you can't speak up around people, that might be very scary for you. So you have to isolate and you're going to end up taking care of your want for comfort, your want to just wind down at the end of the day in an unhealthy way.

Speaker 1:

There was a time just the other day when I was so not fine I felt like throwing up and weeping at the same time And we connected and almost immediately on that phone call, knowing that it was okay to not be okay with you, I just broke down And it's because we have had this trust built. You have proven yourself to be someone who welcomes deep emotions and desires.

Speaker 2:

I love that. That creates a space that you feel safe to share yourself with me, to share what's going on inside with me, and that gives me connection too, because I get to experience authenticity from you and from others, and that's the beauty is, you create an abundant world of connection by learning that want is okay.

Speaker 1:

And we prove that whenever we show up in the redemptive risk of saying part of me wants something to be different.

Speaker 2:

I love that because then we're learning to not push away our wants. We're learning to identify and speak up and take action on our wants.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so circling back to where does I'm fine syndrome come from? We've talked about family systems. What are some of the other contributors?

Speaker 2:

There are unhealthy cultural expressions of masculinity that are in our face. A lot Culture teaches us that masculinity means that you're okay all the time and you only have strength to give. But what I would like to say to that is that it's good to show up as a man, looking how can I give my strength to different situations? but that's only a part of masculinity. That's not masculinity in its entirety. It is not weak to have want. It is not weak to have needs.

Speaker 2:

And the other thing I would say with it is we're talking about emotional health and relational health, and sometimes I see men get stuck in wanting to provide for the family, and when they use the word provision they're thinking of food and shelter. But what a part of provision is to actually provide emotional connection. What about providing that? I mean you hear that as the plight of wives of like you know they're a workaholic or you know they're out there Are you here? of dads being away at work and never spending time with their kids. So maybe you gave them a good education or food, but did you really provide for them? Maybe they just wanted you right? So we want to get our personality back and show up for our family. So I think that's another one is just kind of breaking that lie that saying I'm fine means I'm being a man. I think we break that lie. That would help a lot of guys out.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, in what you're saying, i hear the implication that people don't only care about our strength. They need our weakness. They need to see our vulnerability. They need the sides of us that we might rather hide.

Speaker 2:

So good, look at it this way Let's provide connection. When somebody pretends to be perfect or have no problems, it wraps connection, because we all know that everybody has problems, you know, and we all know that we have problems if we're honest with ourselves. So when you're with somebody who is fine, it's hard to connect with them. So why don't you be a provider of connections? I actually think if we even take that and run with it, i do this work because I think this is what will make society heal. You know, i think the world is desperate for connection, right? So, embracing these facets of masculinity and maybe even recognizing that, hey, to show up as a frail human being who's wrestling through stuff is an act of courage, and I can rest in my masculine strength that I'm being courageous and showing up honestly and authentically. I would love to see more of that.

Speaker 1:

That's really what we're doing at husband material 100%.

Speaker 2:

So the next places that I'm fine syndrome comes from. It can be from church culture too. So maybe you have tried to have faith to be okay, like God has things taken care of. Everything is taken care of at the cross. These are messages I heard of. What happens is, if we come to God pretending that we're fine, we can go through our times of worship, prayer, totally disconnected from the experience and miss out on our connection with God. And what I wanna tell people is the truth is we serve the God of connection, a God who wanted to reconnect with us so badly that he sent Jesus to endure the pain of the cross because he just wanted that connection back with humanity. So it's okay to not be okay in your relationship with God. I mean, read the Psalms. Sometimes they don't even end on a positive note, and sometimes, in a relationship with God, that's just where we're at, and then we walk forward doing I'm in pain right now And that's okay.

Speaker 1:

Psalm 88 ends with saying the darkness is my closest friend.

Speaker 2:

So there you go. There's permission to not be fine, yes.

Speaker 1:

Biblical lament, grief, imprecatory Psalms. Like God, do something, because this sucks right now. That actually leads to more intimacy than coloring over or glossing over the sharp edges of our spiritual life.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and here's the thing. One other symptom of I'm fine syndrome is perfectionism, and sometimes that shame based, and sometimes it's hard for people who struggle with perfectionism to allow for the imperfections to be present. And actually when you do recovery work from a I'm trying to fix myself point of view, you're partnering with shame and you're missing the point. And this is why I think most men sputter out is because you got to break that perfectionism. You have to break the relationship from shame.

Speaker 2:

What's helpful when recovery works, or when healing works, or when it's time to encourage ourselves in the Lord and not just rest in the crap that we're in, is when we realize that. You know what I know a lot of pain and I don't think God wants me to be in this pain right now. He sees I'm in pain and wants something better for me in this circumstance And sometimes, just walking through with the Lord, you'll recognize when it's time to be in pain and be okay with that And other times where it's like I think God is the only one who's not in pain. God wants to bring some healing here, you know, and I think that comes with wisdom, as you just walked this out over time. But I'll just say that perfectionism can rob us of connection. It's a part of I'm fine syndrome. You're trying to tell the whole world you're fine, so they can't reject you.

Speaker 1:

That resonates, and also, as long as I'm fine, i'm not experiencing joy and delight. So I would say it's also robbing us of those things too, when we allow ourselves to not be fine and to go through sadness, anger, loneliness, really feel those things that also create space for joy to come on the other side.

Speaker 2:

Totally. I'm smiling because, as you're saying this, i bet you know what movie I'm thinking of Oh, inside Out, yes, yes, great movie. Y'all Go watch Inside Out and that might even help you with I'm fine syndrome. But the point is, is that experiencing all of the emotions actually make joy more beautiful? And when we pretend that the sad emotion, anger, the bad emotions quote unquote don't exist, we actually diminish joy, we diminish the power of the goodness, it's blah, it's gray, it's mediocre.

Speaker 2:

Exactly So. it's a really great thing to allow all of our emotions to have a voice with us.

Speaker 2:

At the heart of I'm fine syndrome is a lack of acknowledgement of oneself which this is maybe a good segue for the last place that I'm fine syndrome comes from, which is trauma. So for me, i experienced a lot of rejection and being picked on. When I changed schools in third grade and I compensated for that by learning to be a chameleon. I became what I thought others wanted me to be. I learned to push away having needs and wants in a friendship because I just wanted to be accepted. I didn't want to be difficult. I didn't want it to be difficult for others to accept me. I put having needs sort of in that category of being difficult And this trauma made me afraid to make new friends.

Speaker 2:

And I cope with that pain through porn. I was isolated and lonely and I needed a way to get through that And I used television, food and porn. That's what I did. Porn was a place that I could experience a fantasy of feeling strong and assertive, or I wanted the strength that I perceived. The men in porn hat. I saw them being assertive, wanting something and getting it, and I used sexually acting out as a way of getting that. It was getting an expression of strength that I believed I was lacking.

Speaker 1:

That makes so much sense. It also relates to the part of your story of being used and taken advantage of by others.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely Being fine allowed me to. I stopped to be treated like crap And that showed up in friendship. That showed up in a situation where I experienced a degree of sexual abuse by just being fine.

Speaker 1:

I want to honor and acknowledge that part of your story Thanks, man. And I also want to celebrate How far you have come in breaking free from I'm Fine Syndrome and bringing others like me with you. For someone who's resonating with I'm Fine Syndrome, what is the first step for them to take?

Speaker 2:

I think it's to recognize the pain of I'm Fine Syndrome. You think that I'm Fine Syndrome is protecting you from rejection, so it's protecting you from pain. But for me, i had to grieve the pain of how it made me feel impotent in relationships. It made me feel impotent in acknowledging and honoring my dreams. Not knowing what we want, not having dreams, is painful. Feeling dull or feeling like life is useless, that's painful. It's healthy to want to be assertive, continuing with grieving, grieve the pain of the loneliness. The reality is we want connection and not experiencing it hurts. So if you walk away from an interaction with someone and you're not authentic, you rob yourself of the opportunity for connection. So, in other words, we'll spend time with people and feel lonely. Now, the reality is not every time you have to show up and share your opinion about things with people. But my point is, if you struggle with a fine syndrome, you do it a lot and you know what I'm talking about. You know that you walk away from interactions with people, still feeling lonely, not showing up and actually experiencing the connection. So, facing the pain of fear of rejection versus the pain of hiding myself and what that impacts me, i just realized, like I said earlier that I would rather show up. I would rather show up and it be a piece that I feel capable, i feel strong. Facing the fear is better than potentially being rejected. For me, showing up as someone I'm not So if the person that is fine is being rejected, the reality is that Steven's not really getting rejected, because it's just a facade of who Steven is.

Speaker 2:

I'd rather show up and be rejected for who I really am than not show who I really am. That's bold. I think. If people are listening to it, they know what I'm talking about, though It sucks. It sucks to feel so weak. It sucks to feel voiceless because we're the ones who live with ourselves all the time. At the end of the day, i can at least honor like hey, you showed up, steven, you loved yourself. Friends, we'll all go back home. We'll all part our ways at some point. So we're with ourselves all the time. So we have to have a really healthy relationship with ourselves.

Speaker 1:

There's a way to be honest and kind at the same time.

Speaker 2:

Yes, totally. So. Authenticity doesn't mean you just always share an opinion. So, for example, if, drew, if you're sharing with me the other day about the pain you're in, and then I just shift the focus to what I think about the circumstance, and if I shift the focus to me, my thoughts and ideas on it, you likely won't feel connection. So I actually know that authentic Steven wants to be really good at leaning in and learning about you and being a good friend to you. So I just know that it's not time to talk about me here. Now, if I feel a need for connection, i might say hey, drew, is there an opportunity for you to hold some space for me? And I'll give you permission. Maybe you can or you can't in that moment, and I know you've held space for me before, so I know it will come. You know what I mean. But the point is authenticity isn't just always like well. I think this.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

I'd also say that authenticity doesn't mean that telling people you're not fine doesn't have to include blame. It's not permission to be rude. It's letting people know how you are impacted by them And that's actually really vulnerable. So being authentic to do it well is vulnerable. It's telling people I feel hurt or I feel scared other than you did this, you did that. You will ruin your friendships if you go in with blame.

Speaker 1:

I'm specifically thinking of one time in our small group three years ago when you had shared a really vulnerable message to the group and then no one responded Yeah, and it was a chance to either say, oh, i'm fine, it doesn't really matter, or to express the hurt and the sadness you felt.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, i think I just told them. Hey, i'm losing excitement for the group experience of our group because I put myself out there and nobody else has, or nobody's, responded to what I've said. It makes me wonder oh, did I come across as too much or whatever? So I just, again, i let them know how it's impacted by it And a lot of people came in and were apologized. I didn't come in angry, i just wanted to say I want to let you guys know I find myself drifting in my connection to the group Because I wanted us to have an opportunity for that not to happen. That's why I showed up. This is the last part that I would say.

Speaker 2:

Authenticity isn't It's not projecting anger or blowing up at people. So anger is a secondary emotion that typically covers feelings Like I'm hurt or I'm scared. So it's okay to express I'm struggling with anger, but to blow up at somebody Like again, we want to become experts at acknowledging ourselves. So if you're in an anger trigger, that means you might need to do the work to calm down, understand what the anger is and maybe project the underneath feelings of I'm hurt or I'm scared or I'm afraid and communicate about that when appropriate. Again, because if you just blow up at people, you're going to hurt people And I hate it. When people say, well, i was triggered, so that's why I did that, it's like saying, well, i only did, i only cheated on you, honey, because I was drunk Like you still cheated, you still blew up on somebody. You still need to own that. So authenticity is not blowing up on people, not projecting anger, and again, this is a huge life adult skill to that will, long term, build healthy, lasting relationships.

Speaker 2:

I also want to talk about what authenticity is. So it's recognizing that it's okay to be in pain, it's okay to be struggling with something. It doesn't mean you're weak from an identity standpoint, it just means you are human. So recognize that you have wants and vocalize them. And this becomes important Again when you look at this through the lens of men who struggle at porn. Is that so many people, so many men I work with, just have no idea how to wind down from the day and they get their comfort through sexually acting out. So it's just okay to say, oh, i need to unwind. We're saying here, i'm not okay, but it's just realizing I have a need to learn how to wind day after work, after I'm going at a fast pace to come down and relax. Authenticity is recognizing that there is beauty, wholeness and strength associated with being able to speak up for yourself. Your healthy assertiveness is going to allow you to build an incredible life, and the abundance of that life will affect others too. It's amazing.

Speaker 1:

And it's like I said earlier in relationships.

Speaker 2:

It's just allowing yourself to take up equal space in the room as others. So authenticity is yeah, I have a different viewpoint. Let's say you're in a room where you're discussing and it's not about like leaning into someone and connecting with their pain, but it's just let's talk about this view, It's allowing your different viewpoint to be heard, It's not disappearing And that's healthy authenticity and that's not being dominating Again because you're thinking, oh, I just want to take up equal space, These guys have expressed their view. Cheers, Mike. That's authenticity.

Speaker 1:

Right Well, being mindful also about not taking up more space than others as well.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. To be real, it can be a bit messy to break free from my fine syndrome. If you have some friends who will tell you the truth about how they experience you, it'd be good to check in with them on that again, because it's okay to have problems. It's okay, it's going to be perfect. It's okay that you're breaking free from my fine syndrome. So, yeah, it's wonderful to show up for who you are and it actually is a blessing to the world to do that, because God did a great job making you.

Speaker 1:

Amen. Can you share a success story, maybe an example of healing?

Speaker 2:

Well, we've already shared about how, in the group, i've showed up as one who is not fine in our friendship, how I've shown up as not fine at times. Part of this is even what drove me to go public to just tell the world like, yep, part of my story is that I have struggled with same-sex attraction. It's funny because I didn't do that from the perspective of, oh, i want to minister to the world about this. It's just that I wanted to honor Stephen Thomas and say I'm not shaming about your story, so if people don't like it, they can deal with it Honestly. So that, honestly, was part of why I chose to.

Speaker 2:

And sure, there's not everybody who's going to need to do it at that level, but I'm an extrovert, so I just felt the need to do that for myself. And I'll say this when you give that gift of, hey, here's my frailty, here's my pain, it creates so much connection. Like, my wife and I are so open in our friend group about the things we've had to go through in our marriage and people just open up and there's such a gift of connection that happens and it's so beautiful. So, again, bringing your authentic self is so life-giving.

Speaker 1:

Amen, Stephen. thank you so much. What is your favorite thing about authenticity Being free from?

Speaker 2:

hiding. Hiding has hurt my soul so deeply. I feel emotion when I even say this to you, drew, but leaning into the authenticity, it's me honoring that I believe God made me strong and capable and I get to feel that Authenticity is such a punch in the face of the lie that I believe and I love it And guys here at Husband Material, we are creating space where it's okay not to be okay, where men are outgrowing porn and I'm fine syndrome in the process.

Speaker 1:

We're doing that online through Husband Material Academy. We're doing that at the Husband Material Retreat in Santa Barbara coming up in September. and one of our most powerful programs, which Stephen Thomas also leads, is our private small groups.

Speaker 2:

They're great and we set the culture that, hey, this is a place to show up authentically, and we actually know how painful and scary that can be, so we're going to help you. So this could be a great opportunity for those of you who feel like, hey, having a coach in my life would help me get some breakthrough in this area, because I'm resonating deeply with this topic.

Speaker 1:

And you get amazing examples from other men who are on the same journey and as leaders, we lead with our vulnerability. We bring our own healing journey to this process. So in these groups, we never ask you to do something that we are not going to do first.

Speaker 2:

And, honestly, when I went through the group with you, drew, i love that. I love that you would share. oh, man, something from one of your stories today has just been with me and I've been distracted because it's bringing up trauma in my own story And getting that example was so wonderful. I love groups that have leaders that lead with vulnerability. I would almost encourage people to not do groups that don't have leaders that lead with vulnerability.

Speaker 1:

Well, it's a very different type of leadership. We're being real, we're showing up with curiosity, compassion, courage and celebration, and one of my favorite things about these groups is when we celebrate each other for the very things that we're ashamed of.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, Absolutely. So good, Yeah. And again I've come to realize that healthy people have problems. So if people don't have problems, I see performance And Stephen, isn't it amazing?

Speaker 1:

Isn't it amazing when we see guys say things they've never told anyone before and receive connection and response?

Speaker 2:

It's sacred space. It really is getting to cry, getting to experience even the victories that happen, like all that is sacred space And I feel like it's such a privilege to when create that space for other men that they feel safe enough to open up and getting to be a participant on their healing journey. I just it's the best thing ever, man.

Speaker 1:

It's so good, It's amazing. So if you guys would like to connect with Stephen further, go to steventomusconsultingcom.

Speaker 2:

That's right, stephen, with a PH.

Speaker 1:

Not a V. That's right, Awesome, And we've got links to everything in the description for this episode. Come join Stephen and I in Santa Barbara in September, or maybe even one of our private small groups. Most of all, always remember my friend, whether you're fine or not, you are God's beloved Son and you, He is well pleased.

What is "I'm Fine Syndrome"?
What are the symptoms?
Where does "I'm Fine Syndrome" come from?
What's the first step to freedom?
What's your favorite thing about authenticity?

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