I chose to respond to trauma by hiding for 10 years behind a mask. Only after confronting my issues head-on could I unveil.

How I Became a Masked Man and Why I Unveiled

By Richard Taylor

6.1.16 (Lifestyle): Remembering traumatic situations is always a challenge for the one doing the recalling of memories. Reflecting on life-altering events isn’t wrong, but what can, and which has proven to, be dangerous is how we respond to what we remember. Trauma, and our responses to it, manifests in many forms. For example, one may willingly neglect to use pleasantries with friends and strangers. Or, it can be something more severe, and less subtle, like developing a phobia of the outdoors due to a fear of being pierced by a random bullet.

I’ve come to realize, through my many years of depression and suicide attempts, that experiencing trauma is often out of our control, but our reactions to it isn’t.

In my new book, Love Between My Scars, I talk about my traumatic experience of being surrounded and attacked in the boys’ bathroom by a group of young men who moments after the beat-down took my Pokémon cards and told me that I was defenseless because I’m fat. In that moment, instead of speaking affirmations to myself, I became weak and alone and began wearing masks – in the form of unhealthy relationships, superficial titles and athletic accomplishments – to hide my truth and, more importantly, my true personhood.

I hid behind masks for 10 years until my final suicide attempt, when a doctor then genuinely encouraged me to live, and live, unmasked, I did. I’m learning, though, that I’m no different than any other human who wears a mask to avoid being exposed. But the danger of wearing a mask throughout life is the potential it has of driving one insane by trying to keep up with lie after lie.

Through my recovery I learned that this didn’t have to be my story; everything I did was by choice. I know now how to counter the attacks on my purpose: getting to a place of addressing issues head on and never reaching for a mask.

For those of you hiding yourself as a result of past hurts and experiences, I urge you to face them head on and stay mindful of the fact that you’re more than the sum of your mistakes and the terrible things that have happened to you.

Those situations may have been life-altering, but they shouldn’t own or control you. Take your power back! Redirecting your energy and time! Embrace the process and the lessons that ensue!

When you self-affirm, own and harness your power and live in love, despite feelings fear and hate, you can avoid becoming a masked creature, a human whose true identity becomes so secret that it eludes him/her and passer-byers.

Charismatic Chicago native Richard Taylor began public speaking professionally in 2011 and has since cultivated a successful career as a motivational speaker, author, and consultant. He holds a B.A. in Corporate Communications from Northern Illinois University, and it was his involvement as a peer mentor on NIU’s campus that inspired him to begin speaking on a larger platform. Richard focuses on empowering audiences of all ages through helping them to overcome issues such as depression, suicide and low self-esteem. Richard has shared the stage with celebrities, global thought leaders, and philanthropists alike. He has graced several stages as a keynote speaker for graduations, conferences, campaigns, and events across the country. In 2013, Richard made a shift from microphone to manuscript, authoring his debut book Unashamed: The Process of Reconstruction, which sold over 7,000 copies in the first year of its release and made Amazon’s best- seller list. Shortly thereafter, he flooded social media outlets, chronicling his motivational messages and inspiring encounters from speaking and mentorship; perhaps most notably, his YouTube series “Getting Over The Hump.” That same year he launched his trademark brand, Unashamed Nation, which is the parent company that encompasses all of his initiatives and business ventures. The following year, he authored his second book, Between the Dream, which also made Amazon’s best-seller list upon its release in November 2014. In his free time, Richard runs an independent mentorship program for young men called I.C.E. (I Choose Empowerment), and since initiating the program at his Alma Mater, Martin Luther King College Prep, he has mentored over 500 young men in Chicago. He is also an OpEd writer for TechBook Online and the Good Men Project, and serves as a professional consultant to several colleges and organizations. On stage or on the page, Richard’s remarkable display of transparency enables him to connect with audiences beyond the surface of the subject matter and continues to be the hallmark of his career. His inspiring message of hope and perseverance delivered with undeniable authenticity has helped to establish him as one of the most influential voices of this generation. A dynamic speaker, thought-provoking author, and passionate mentor, whichever platform he uses, Richard continuously proves himself to be an agent for change and an advocate for lif

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