A Man in the World: No More Playing Roles

by Raymond Karam, Goonellabah

It seems for so long now I have been an actor in the world. I have filled many roles and have been improving each performance with a more measured and perfect one.

A few months ago I sat down with a few mates and we started talking about how we were feeling. This was a different kind of sit-down for me. It was informal – no alcohol, no sport – just men sharing how they were feeling and what they had been doing.

From these now regular, informal catch-ups I have been looking more at who and how I am. I realise I have been many things so far in my life. I have gone into many roles and done them well, but mostly the roles I chose were for reasons that didn’t actually come from what I really wanted to do. I have realised that from a young age I could feel what people wanted and needed from me, and I eventually just chose to be whatever they wanted: I was an actor.

I am now a married family man and in our house I would be considered to be the ‘perfect’ husband and father. Go to work, work hard, come home, say hello to everyone, clean up the house, get the children to bed, sit down and have dinner, etc. I ticked a lot of boxes for the ‘perfect’ man. But I now realise I was just playing roles for my family in the house.

In the men’s discussions I have been going to, I have been able to share and see that most men have been playing similar roles to me. Most, like me, start playing roles from when they are young. For me, my mother needed a good boy that loved her, so I was that for her. My father needed a quiet boy that followed him and did what he was told, so I did that. When I grew up the roles didn’t change. My wife needed to be loved and looked after, so I did that for her, etc.

If my wife had trouble with the children, I would come in and sort it out. I kept hearing the words, “Fill the need”. It was like I was trying to fix everything, so it looked good, but it actually would just keep going and it was never ‘fixed’. It just repeated itself over and over. The same problems and issues were there again and again. I was never actually fixing anything, I was just playing the same game. It was like there was something being presented to me to look at, but instead of looking at it, I was jumping into it and repeating the same behaviour. For me, once I had done or played a role once, there would be a pressure for me to be that again and again and again.

It’s not that I don’t do things for people anymore – the difference now is that I am learning to check in with myself first. In the past, I would just go and be whatever anyone wanted.

I have found out that I can still do all these things, but there is a massive difference. I stop and do my best to make sure that it is me choosing to do something – instead of just jumping in and “filling the need”.

I now feel as though I am free. I don’t feel a pressure or a weight on my shoulders to ‘be’ so many things for so many people. It seems when I choose this ‘new way’ that it is so easy because it is actually not so new… it has always been there for me but I pushed it aside to ‘be’ something else.

525 thoughts on “A Man in the World: No More Playing Roles

  1. I had an ouch reading today, especially the words ‘filling the need’ – I’ve been an absolute past master at this one, and in fact all those needs I was filling were about me finding a place where I felt I could be useful and needed, where I fit in. But in the majority of those scenarios I did just enough to fill the need and did not want to show myself and even be myself in there, so of course it is exhausting. I’m still learning how not to jump in, it’s very ingrained and requires some more unpicking from me to learn and understand that I don’t need to do anything I just need to be me.

  2. Check in with yourself first, before going and doing things for others – this really stood out for me, as I can feel how I find it harder to say ‘no’ when I am already in my role, ready to please, and feel as though I have to have a reason for saying ‘no’.

  3. When we take responsibility to be in our essence and not the roles we’ve identified with, it also takes pressure off those around us because we aren’t subtly manipulating them to “fill a need” either. Your blog is like a snapshot of what disconnection to our essence and the subsequent feeling of emptiness does in families and society – there are lots of needs to fill. We inhabit roles looking for our place and to be recognised, but we alway have that aching need for more because no role can ever replace being in connection to the inner essence we truly are. Without the essence it’s like the inner compass is missing so we look outside of ourselves for how to be.

  4. Beautifully presented Ray. What a simple truth. The difference between being what another requires so as to fit the bill and being yourself in everything you do is great to feel and observe as this means you can now bring all of you rather than just deliver what you thought was required.

  5. this continual role of being the fixer… This ongoing push that is within so many of us men is a constant source of destabilization… We really do need to stop and listen and feel, and so much of the time this is all that is needed

  6. Your words ‘I have realised that from a young age I could feel what people wanted and needed from me, and I eventually just chose to be whatever they wanted: I was an actor.’ Raymond lovely to read how you have now started to feel free of everyone else’s wants over you, expressing our own truth is so much more powerful.

  7. Ray, thank you for sharing about all the roles we have in life, the expectations around these roles and how they make us feel needed, for a while anyway. When we realise that we no longer have the need to be needed because we are all we need to be, then the roles become exposed for what they truly are and then we can make choices which are truly ours.

  8. Ray, it is both lovely and inspiring to read of the choices you are making to leave behind your role of trying to be everything to everyone and embracing the role of what and where feels true for you to offer your support.

  9. ‘Being something’ rather than just ‘being oneself’ is such the norm of society and can be seen as such a foundational cause of so much unhappiness, stress and conflict in the world.

  10. I am not a man but I do relate to what you have shared. To check in with ourselves before we knee jerk react and do what is there to be done is a lesson I am still learning. The key for me is to keep reminding myself that I am more than my daily deeds, for when I get caught in being identified for who I am by what I do, I get back on the slippery slope of reacting to what is being asked of me rather than following my own heart. What you are sharing is not a easy path, it sometimes rubs others the wrong way and I admire your bravery.

    1. I really like this Sarah, amazing wisdom. Just follow our heart! It’s not always what we want it to be but is always absolute.

  11. I totally relate to what you have shared here Ray, and it’s been only through honesty that I have been able to take responsibility of my need to be recognised and accepted by others and to let go of that only to embrace my own quality of tenderness as a man and honor what I feel in my body instead of what the world expects of me.

  12. Loved what you have shared Ray, I can relate to role playing being the fixer, the carer the’ good person most of my life. What I wanted was null and void in the need to be needed. It has been quite a journey to become responsible for me, my choices and my needs. So beautiful for you to choose to honour who you truly are as a man.

  13. Considering the messages incessantly regurgitating, it is remarkable that above all odds you were able to become aware of and overcome the paradigms and expectations of what it is to be a man, to stand as the man you are, free of all that previously confined you… without any need or pressure to fix or be anything other than who you are.

  14. Ray what you share about your way of living now feels very honouring and harmonious, not only of yourself but equally for those around you….deeply inspiring….

  15. To be of true service to people is to first honour and surrender to the fact that we are all divine and live that to the best of our ability.

  16. Sometimes we live so hard and fast but don’t consider what we will be like in 10 years, 20 years etc. I was thinking about saying that we could be a ‘completely different person’ in that amount of time and this may be true but I also felt deeper and that was that this way of thinking makes us believe we are going somewhere and the future is our freedom. We are already everything and just returning to knowing this and living it.

  17. It is the “ checking in with ourselves first” thing that is the game changer isn’t it… Let’s face it, if we did this before embarking on so much of what we do life would be very different… How we eat, how we exercise, how we interact, how we think… The list goes on.

  18. When I was reading your blog, I was feeling that it is actually quite natural for us to be part of each others lives and to support in many ways. But for many of us, this can come from a drive to be seen, appreciated, acknowledged, fit in, make things easier, do what needs to be done, etc… And I can see many people buckling under the pressure of this drive.

    Then I read this line – “I have found out that I can still do all these things, but there is a massive difference. I stop and do my best to make sure that it is me choosing to do something – instead of just jumping in and “filling the need” – and it made so much sense to me and I could feel the difference you talk about.

    One is done with yourself and of your own choosing, and another is done almost in automatic pilot and out of drive/a need. The job may get done, but the results can vary greatly depending on what you choose.

  19. “Being something’ rather than just ‘being oneself”; inspiring words Ray. What you have shared; about how vital it is to be oneself and to kick out the belief that you have to be all things to all people; is a powerful lesson for us all.

    1. It’s a great line Shirl – but why do we put more value on being something rather than enjoying and being ourselves? Why do we have a society that applauds the something and the doing rather than the being?

  20. We can be experts at playing roles to suit the needs of others – but we ARE actually masters of being who we are and expressing the beauty that is our true and divine selves.

  21. Fixing anything can be merely a band-aid for a tumour, for unless something is resolved at the root cause it will always be repeated until we learn to let it go in full.

    1. Well said Suse. It is a stop in your tracks moment when you realise that, by getting involved and looking for solutions rather than addressing the root cause, you could be adding to the poison that is being created.

  22. Reading this article tonight, I am stopped as I get a sense of the way society has made a man to be. Then depending on the personality of the man one can do as Ray has done, or another expression would be to become full of resentment and allow anger to become ones way. Could what Ray has shared be a significant point in men and women alike halting the societal pressures on men. For as women we ‘demand’ a lot from our men that holds these beliefs and pressures over them. I feel we all have a responsibility in creating a society that will allow our boys to grow into the very tender loving men they are within.

  23. This is an inspiring blog on how we perceive the roles we play as being who we are, rather than understanding this is far from the truth and roles are only a panacea to ‘fill the need’ of ourselves and others. To have the insight to stop this repetition is part of the healing as we return to the true expression of Love.
    “I stop and do my best to make sure that it is me choosing to do something – instead of just jumping in and “filling the need”.

  24. When we are filling the need of others we can be more like puppets with someone else pulling the strings but when we are true to ourselves we are a pleasure to be with as we are for ever evolving and not trapped in a role.

  25. The beautiful part about this piece of writing, is the awareness that you have about what is needed. Even though at first it has been met with burden, duty and obligation, the fact remains that you can see what is needed and this is a beautiful thing. All that was left was to sort out your relationship with what you can see, so that your tender and unconditional giving nature can truly be experienced by those around you, which it seems that you have done or are working on, which is stupendous yet again.

  26. That moment you take before jumping in and filling the need feels very important. Just a moment to check in and ask what is needed here. Sometimes things need to play out for a deeper healing to take place.

  27. Four years on and has much changed in this? In one way yes plenty has changed and in another way it has just been a deepening of what was written in this article. In other words there has been an unfolding of more and more subtleness of the same things. It wasn’t as though you build a life around these ‘roles’ it was more like you build a whole being around them and so naturally this would take some time to unwrap. What I have found is that we have this perception that you are doing something and when you stop, bam it’s gone when in actual fact because you have been ‘doing’ this something in so many ways and in so many places we need to step back into those places and redo or re imprint all that we have done before with this new way. I may not explain it clearly but I had a perception that we can just move on from things and you can as long as the way you live supports this new quality. In other words there is a true quality of living that takes care of everything, if you let this quality go then you drop back into the same issues or roles that were there before. You can’t learn or protect yourself away from things you need to live beyond them.

      1. Thank you and now more then ever I see things as a constant movement. Meaning that one thing never truly starts or ends, there are cycles that complete and then a new cycle starts but there is a forever movement of those cycles and all is contained in them. For me this means there is a flow to these cycles and all I need do is move with regard to this flow and all else is taken care of from there. Just like nature, things aren’t kept in storage waiting to be released or animals don’t do their own thing waiting until they are not centre stage, everything is connected to the movement and flow of the cycle that it is in and there is much to appreciate with that.

  28. I do know that too, to make life about filling in the needs of others, and it feels that many of us have adopted this model in our lives. Could it be that we collectively are maintaining a system we unspokenly have agreed on to hold on to such as the behaviours and patterns in life we all know as described in this blog and to hold these as being highly valuable for our societies?

  29. Acting up in the way we are expected to play is excelling in the world of action or doing. This world brings rewards and satisfactions if we learn to please others. If this is what we want, the good news is that we can spend our whole life doing it.
    You can only change gears if you can feel that there is a vacuum in your life and this pattern of movement only helps to keep it well and alive.

  30. Ray this is a great blog, when we live by the expectations and beliefs we or others hold about us, we are like puppets and someone else is normally pulling the strings, when we drop those expectations we are free to live who we are from the inside out.

  31. ‘It’s not that I don’t do things for people anymore – the difference now is that I am learning to check in with myself first.’ This is something I have recently started to incorporate into my days Ray and its changing the way I approach everything. This check in means I am more like to stay with myself, and not do anything simply to please another.

  32. So often we don’t just allow ourselves to be, we measure and change ourselves based on how we think we need to be in any given situation and even if we don’t do this, we may not go to the depth of really being connected and knowing what we need and want in each moment- we can just get on with things and do them as they have always been done without checking in with if it is what we want in that moment.

  33. Yes we men fall for the story the world sells us of you need to be this or that. We have been told we are nothing if we are not the roles laid out for us to step into and in stepping into them we lose any semblance of who we really are. I love the idea of a group of men meeting to discuss how they are feeling with no alcohol and no sport and no BBQ to swap aimless banter around. This is how we start to build a world based on truth rather than the big lie it has been about to date.

  34. Quite the difference Ray.. a more and more confusing game of having 100 different identities and having to maintain them all in different ways (its exhausting) rather than learning to feel who you are and then live one life.

  35. I can relate to this Ray, as I’m certain most others would too. I grew thinking I needed to be the fixer, the mediator, the one in the middle that made it all ok. I also tried to be so many things to so many people, and truth is, I still catch myself doing it now on occasion. But for the most part, through learning that it’s safe to express myself and how I feel, I’ve learnt that actually, I’m ok without trying so hard and being all these things to all these people, and that actually, the more myself I am, the more an opportunity I bring to others to be themselves without the trying also.

  36. For me it was about being the chameleon and I would change the way I was depending on the circumstances. Apart from being exhausting, it caused particular problems when two different characters collided in the same situation. Re-learning to simply be myself as proven to be a key to unlocking a more consistent approach, one life where all you get is the same me as anyone else!

  37. The roles we take on and the behaviours we play that come from taking on the roles become so automatic and empty. We can get ourselves in a rut before seeing what is at play and making the necessary changes to listen to ourselves and respond with love but when we do listen we feel Our purpose in life and what We’re here to do and not allow ourselves to be absorbed and enticed by what is going on around us.

  38. Ray I can relate to this blog as I also played many roles in the past, for me this was about being recognised and accepted and ‘pleasing’ others. It was a very exhausting way to live and it was a great step to learn to let this pattern go and to begin to love myself and to know that I was enough by simply being ‘me’.

  39. We do have to play a role in family and society, but it does not have to mean we abandon ourselves and become the role. Sometimes a role can even just be a personality/character – we forget who we truly are, disconnect from our essence, and make up a personality/character that would justify or hide our hurts and choices that led us up to that point.

  40. Great piece of writing Ray. I also see I fulfilled many roles, and I am learning to let go of them, because as you say, they are not me. Being the provider, or the good student are the easy ones, but what about that little act I put on to show that I love my partner? There are many more detailed roles I have taken on, to show that I fulfill a need.

  41. We take on many and various roles in our lives but most of them to fulfill the needs of, or to please, others. But in the process of this endless role playing we are missing out on the most important ‘role’ of all and that is living who we truly are. Taking on roles for others can actually be very exhausting and often full of complication whereas living who we are is so very natural and therefore so very easy.

  42. What a revelation for men to read how you as a man let go of such a deep ingrained pattern and survived :). Even more than that, to find out that it brings so much more of you into the world and to your partner too. Blessed is the world with men who make this step. Thank you Ray for the beauty you bring. It is felt overseas.

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