Christian Lopez
Christian LopezImage by: Christian Lopez
Christian Lopez
14 November 2020

Why sharing feelings is scary as hell, but can also set you free

Christian Lopez
5 minutes read time

Christian Lopez reveals what’s truly Behind The Mask-ulinity

I start every morning with 30 push-ups and an espresso shot. Then I like to throw in a 5-10 minute meditation. A lot of self-awareness and keeping my body in shape goes into my routine. I am really lucky to be surrounded by good people such as my wife, my dog Charlie, my family and my friends. I couldn’t even imagine going through the pandemic alone. We’re social creatures and we’re not meant to be apart from each other like that. Having that strong support system has been huge for me. I’m a hugger and I can’t wait for this pandemic to be over and for everything to go back to quasi-normal. I want to hug everybody. And I give the best hugs. I love that transfer of love and energy to somebody else.

When I was drafted right out of high school by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2003, they had a mental performance/sports psychologist on staff. I remember them telling us if we ever felt like talking to him his door was always open. I was a cocky, Cuban kid from Miami who thought “I’m not crazy. I don’t need to talk to a sports psychologist. That’s just for crazy people, something for weak people.” In retrospect, man, do I wish I would’ve taken the opportunity and at least had a conversation with him. But like many young men, I was naive, and I didn’t think that was for me.

Growing up in Cuban culture and being an athlete from a young age, two things you’re adamantly taught are: Don’t talk about your emotions and don’t talk about your feelings. Don’t show your weaknesses because then they’ll be exploited. So I never took the time to do that but now that I look back on it, just because you’re a big, bad athlete and you’re really good at what you do and you seem to be Superman out on the field, that’s not the case. There are so many athletes that I’ve spoken to who have gone through the same fears, insecurities, failures and struggles that I have been through. There is so much that we deal with that we never open up about.

This is truly what led me to start my podcast, Behind The Mask-ulinity.

After I retired from baseball, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know who I was anymore. When that career came to an end, I felt like a failure because I didn’t reach the pinnacle of my profession of where I wanted to reach, and I was only 28. I moved out to Los Angeles thinking I wanted to become an actor because my ego still had that need for fortune, fame, and validation. I did that for a couple years and soon realized it was not what I wanted to do. So, I tried to become a firefighter and I put two and a half years into that to ultimately get rejected. I suddenly found myself back at square one and at a crossroads. In the interim, I had made a decision. I still felt crappy about myself and that I was a loser and a failure. I felt so much shame around that heartbreak that was baseball.

I was just looking at my life and realized I had to make a change. I realized nobody was going to just hand me anything. Nobody was going to feel sorry for me. I had to do this work on my own. So, I had a really deep, long conversation with a really good friend of mine, and he was just there for me. I was able to be very vulnerable. I cried a few times during our conversation. That was in August of 2017. The very next day I started meditating, journaling, getting more adamant about yoga and reading a bunch of self-help books.

Eventually that led me to throwing some blog posts up and opening up more on social media. As I started doing that, I began getting a little more comfortable sharing things and being more open about the stuff that I dealt with and it was scary as hell. I’ve always been a people pleaser, and a person who really cared what people said about me. So sharing these things about myself made me wonder what if people laugh at me? What if people shame me? What if people ridicule me? It was really scary, but I did it. I felt like it was what I needed to do to get some of this stuff off my chest. As I started to do it, some people said I was weak, but the vast majority of men thanked me for sharing. They told me it was something they needed to hear. It started off with that blog post and evolved into the podcast. 

Now I’m 60 episodes in and it’s been great. Some time I still get that feeling of fear and insecurity. I wonder “How are people going to react? What are they going to say?”

But every time I record an episode and publish it, it feels really good. It feels like another part of me is out there and another piece of that shame, fear and insecurity has been let go. It’s really been great.

For men out there who might be experiencing issues with mental health, just talk to somebody. Whether it’s your significant other, a therapist, a coach, a friend, a teammate, a colleague or a coworker, find somebody you can be open and honest with who you can be vulnerable with. Surround yourself with the right people—people who you love, trust, see you for you, and don’t want you to be anything other than the man that you are. Having deep open conversations can be scary, but once you get that stuff out there and off your shoulders, there’s this release that comes with it that’s like nothing else.

I hope to inspire men to be more open and and talk about their emotions more. Being emotional, kind and empathetic isn't feminine; it’s human. In my opinion, being a true masculine man means being able to go out on the field and be that athlete and be that tough guy and but then also come home and be tender and be loving.