Men, hold onto your hats. This is the most important message I can give you. I’ve thought about it for some time as I’ve reflected upon important moments of my life. Good and bad. Happy and sad. Good bloke and cad. Balanced and mad. I’ve been to all those places and got totally lost in some of them. I’ve seen forests closing in on me. I’ve called for help.

It was when I made one of those calls that Frank Costa was there to provide a vital clue to help me overcome the latest angst. He talked about Self-Compassion. Passion for myself. Whichever way it was worded, it meant the same thing. He was telling me to go easy on myself. It was such a simple message and one I’d flirted with over many years- yet somehow it was only when Frank alluded to it that the penny dropped.

When I was a kid there was always this perception that I had to meet some criteria imposed on me by my father

For decades I’d lived in a world of self-inflicted pressure: pressure to be the best, pressure to succeed, pressure to be a man. Back when I was a kid there was always this perception that I had to meet some criteria imposed on me by my father. It’s amazing how long we can hold onto a belief imposed when thoughts were simple. The world was simple. We had total belief in our fathers even though they didn’t express words such as feelings, emotions, fears. We trusted them but we overcooked their advice. We tied ourselves in knots trying to be everything to everyone. Bloody hard work.

Frank told this mid- 50s man to take my foot off the pedal. He talked about the good things I had done, my achievements, my giving to others. I had exhausted myself by this maniacal push to meet what I thought were my Father’s aspirations for me. Of course it was also ego-driven, testosterone-driven, greed-driven, recognition-driven. Outwardly pushing, I was inwardly suffering. The mental and physical aches that life can bring had worn me out.

It was time to hand over to my feeling self rather than give free-rein to my thinking self

My inability to be kind to myself had become a self-sabotaging behaviour. I mouthed words like not being able to love others unless I loved myself but never stopped to actually put the actions into place. Frank told me it was about time. It was time to hand over to my feeling self rather than give free-rein to my thinking self. If not now, when?!

The inherent problem in the nature of men is there is a split between good and bad. We have a tremendous ability to analyse ourselves and resolve complex personal issues, but sadly this self-analysing quality also allows us to beat ourselves up. “I should have done better.” “I’m a failure.” “I’m a fraud.” “I’m pathetic.”

We actually often know what’s going on inside us but we are too scared to fess up

We are none of the above. We just don’t give ourselves time or permission to be ourselves. We should live according to what makes us happy. We live by a mantra of success that we think our fathers were imposing when in actual fact they weren’t. They may even have been going through their own stuff at the time and only wanted us to be successful, safe and happy. Unfortunately Mothers usually didn’t impose in this space.

The Hindus have a method of teaching based on the wise man practising Self-Inquiry. When we practise it, we use questions that invoke the wisdom of the inner self. We actually often know what’s going on inside us but we are too scared to fess up. We don’t want to give away our dark secrets, our hidden fears, our insecurities, our competitive edge.

Misunderstandings kept chewing away, but they weren’t going to overwhelm me

Frank Costa taught me about Self-Compassion. It changed my life. I realised for the first time that I was ok and that I had nothing else significant to worry about. Sure the tiny niggles and the entrenched misunderstandings kept chewing away, but they weren’t going to overwhelm me. I learned that Self-Compassion isn’t Self-Judgement.

The message to young men who are working in the middle of the forest is to absolutely think this one through. It is the best lesson I can give and Frank Costa’s imprimatur is even better!! I ask readers to pass this message on to the young men in their lives. It is vital.