Behind a Mask

...currently writing from Griffin, GA

This is my journey. Raw, real, and vulnerable.

For those who have followed this blog, you may have read my entry when it first started, (“Selfie for the Man.”) I opened up and cracked the door on my body image issues and how I was dealing with them. But now after time of reflection, and a month of focus and rediscovery, I have come to realize that my first blog was not even the tip of the iceberg: it was the symptom of a bigger issue.  

So I wanted to share the real story, and Ang was kind enough to allow me to share it here. Alright... here it goes.

I have always had problems opening up to people and communicating.


With so much technology, we are so focused on the perception of the world, more so than just embracing who we are. We use technology to send snip-its of ourselves through 10 second videos, Instagram posts, our Facebook, and our text messages: short, sweet, to the point, and only the side we want to show. I felt lost in a sea of acquaintances that I "talked to," but never really opened up and connected with. I wanted to change that, so I thought back to different ways I've communicated that felt personal and real. I had a friend that got a job on a cruise ship and we would send letters back and forth. I remember how exciting it was to get them and how much she would say it made her day when she got them. I also had an old roommate, Tudor, (who will come up again,) who was all about alternative ways to communicate. He would send letters to friends, and instead of texting, he would send video messages, (which were so much more personal and felt so much more like real communication.)

So about a year ago, I started sending letters out to friends.


Then about a month ago, I hung out with a girl that I was into, and we talked for hours: about life, our pasts, our fears, ambitions, embracing things... stuff you don't talk about with most people.

I felt like we made a real connection, and I had not done that with someone, (especially a girl,) in about 5 years.

Then things got weird and she got distant. When I tried to open up and communicate I felt like it was a one-way street. Normally I would move on. I tried to get her off my mind by fooling around with a sea of tinder girls, (my normal cure to get over girls.) 

But I couldn't shake it this time.

I was bothered by the feeling of rejection.

And and I couldn't figure out why. 

What was it that I was missing? What was really bothering me?


Later on, this past week, I reconnected with a friend from 9 years ago. We knew of each other but hadn’t been close at all; we’d texted on and off for the last two and a half years. In a similar sense, we started asking really deep questions over the course of a couple days. By the end of it, I felt like I knew her better than most of my friends that I’ve had for years.

And I started to get a taste of this pure, honest, and real human interaction that I'd been missing out on. It didn't have to be intertwined and complicated by physical attraction, or "the pursuit of something more."

I didn't need an agenda. I could just be open, real, and genuine. With anybody.

Because of all the opening up, I was inspired to look at my own issues. I was in between jobs, so I had tons of time to reflect. During this time I really started to dig up my deep-rooted insecurities. Well… sometimes when you dig them up to face them, they end up being bigger than you expected and you aren't as ready to deal with them as you thought you were.

I was fighting with my issues of feeling abandoned, and "not good enough." In the past, I took my frustration out on the people around me. I would act like an asshole to people so they would hate me... Because I would rather be hated than rejected.

My body issue was where I started.


When I looked in the mirror, all I saw was the high school me: the 6-foot, 2-inch, 135-pound, scrawny kid.

"I think I am small, I think I have a gut, I think I have love handles, I think I look like a doughy body with no muscle definition, I think I have a weird nose, I hate my big ears that stick out, I hate that one side of my face is straight and the other puffs out a bit…"

So I worked out like crazy, but my perception did not change. I wanted to know why. The more I thought about it, the more I realized: I was afraid others would see my flaws and reject me. They would think I am “ugly” and leave me. 

Where was this coming from?

I realized that it stemmed from one of the biggest insecurities I’ve had. It was at the core of most of my issues. It was the reason I did what I did. This is really hard to type and open up… I feel like I am revealing my inner-self that I don't show… but I want to be open so here it goes:

I attribute “myself not being good enough” as the reason my Dad didn't stick around when I was a kid.

If I were better... "maybe he wouldn't have left me."


The biggest secret I have kept from some of my closest friends and family members.

Even with him being in my life now, it still eats away at me. 

At my core, I have never felt I was good enough.

As more self reflection came along, it just kept coming up. It was part of the reason I saw myself as “damaged goods” and “not good enough” in so many aspects of my life.

The reason I was always going after so many women was to prove to myself: I was “good enough” to pick up women.

It's why I felt like my mother was never proud of me. It's why I hated compliments from people; I could not accept them because I could not believe I was ever good enough to get a compliment.

It's why I focus on helping others but never let anyone help me.

It's why I battled depression for the last 10 years, but most wouldn't know – because I put on a happy face everyday and made people laugh.

I put on so many faces and most of my closest friends and family didn't know I felt broken on the inside. I didn't open up to people was because of my fear of being rejected.

It's why I felt like a failure in everything I did.

I have been cheated on by almost all my exes, and because of that I have become guarded.

I don't let people in, because if they don't know me, they can't truly reject me… and if they reject me, they reject a persona I created… and not the real me. This is why I created the persona of being an asshole; because I would rather be hated by someone than rejected by someone. When I got close to people, I would be an asshole, pushing them away on purpose, so that I’d never be susceptible to being hurt.

I dove into working out to change my perception of myself, but it was like chasing a carrot on a stick tied to my back: every step I took towards the goal that I thought would fix my body issues, just pushed my issues further ahead.

That's when I realized I was trying to fix a symptom.

I could never get “big enough” to change the way I saw myself. I could never get rid of my body issues until I addressed the true problem: my biggest insecurity, that had seeped into so many aspects of my life.

So I started to work out just to be healthy and feel good. I stopped focusing on how much I could lift, and instead focused on how healthy I felt.

After discovering my root issue, I could better understand why I did the things that I did. It was the key to everything!

I felt brave enough to be vulnerable and seek the human connection that I was scared to seek before... that I had cut myself off from - even though it's all I've ever really wanted. I no longer wanted to hide behind a mask; no longer wanted to put up walls. I wanted to know people better. So I decided to do something about it. 

I started by calling up my mother to thank her for all she has done in my life.

I called a few different people: some I left messages for, and others I spoke to on the phone. I opened up and thanked them for how they helped me: how their simple actions made a massive impact on my life, (something I was no longer afraid to do.)

I FaceTimed my buddy, Tudor about all of this.

He is someone that I knew would be open. The 7 months I lived with him, he purposefully asked questions to get to know the real me, even when I put up walls. He has become a man of wisdom I look up to, so I just filled him in on what happened and how I wanted to pursue more human connection.

His words were so supportive and genuine. I felt like a weight I’d carried for years was lifted from my shoulders. I wanted to share my journey with more people, but I was scared.

What if they reject me?

What if they laugh at me being vulnerable?


He told me something that hit home.

“Just because somebody doesn't respond – it doesn't mean they’ve rejected you. Showing the vulnerable, insecure you might bring up stuff in them that they are not ready to deal with.”

I myself had done this for so many years. I avoided people that were open because it scared me and made me think of own issues. He told me to stop focusing on the results, but instead focus on my intentions. Are they pure and good? If they are, then who cares what the results are!

He was right.

I wanted to be vulnerable, so that I could tell others how they had helped me in life! I didn’t worry that they might not reciprocate; it doesn’t lower my value at all. I still wanted to change the “me” I put out into the world. I wanted to be a positive person that is vulnerable on social media, and in friendships.

That way I might be able to give others courage to open up as well.

I ended the day talking, chatting on FaceTime, and sending video messages to 25 different people. Not everyone responded, and that’s OK. I still just wanted them to know…

"Thanks for the Good Times."




I went to bed feeling amazing and wanting to keep it up. I’ve decided that this is how I want to live my life.


I can't fight my insecurities if I bury them or hide them. I must bring them to the light in order to deal with them. It may not be today, tomorrow, or a year before I get past it... but at least now my friends can help me.

I was doing a disservice to them by not being open. How can anyone help me if they don't know that I need help?

If I lose friends because they do not want to be open, that's fine. I would rather have more real human connections than superficial digital connections. Who knows? Maybe one day they will want to open up... and they’ll know where to find me.

This journey has helped me take a step in the right direction for my body image. Sometimes we address our body image alone as the issue, when it's really much deeper. We never will solve the problem by fighting the symptoms. We have to take the time to look at the true issue.

So here I am: vulnerable but happier than I have been!


I’m ready for my next stage of life, and ready to change the way I view myself as a whole. Welcome to my journey, it's just starting but I am finally excited for the journey and not just the finish line.

 - Brandon Votaw.