I rarely find myself paddling about in shark-infested waters, with a nose bleed, wearing my XL ‘sharks are lame’ t-shirt. If I did, I’d have every right to be scared; to feel that true fear of mortal danger. So I feel like a bit of a cheat when, on a Monday morning, in the confines of a carpeted office, in a moderately comfortable chair, I start to feel terrified.
The fear might be familiar to you. At a certain moment, your brain emphatically decides that everyone you’ve ever known is far more attractive, successful and sexually fulfilled than you. They almost certainly crack better jokes. They are all on the right path. In fact, they are doing so brilliantly on this path they haven’t even the time to look down to where you currently lie in this murderously panicky ditch.
Of course, that’s normal. Internal angst and an overdeveloped sense of being born to unfulfilled greatness are practically the entry-level requirements for the modern city dweller. But it’s not something that we’ve accepted as normal for men.
Instead, we tend to romanticise manhood as a final destination, the point at which you can leave your boyish doubts behind and step forward as a decisive, confident male. Of course, there’s obviously something very seductive in this idea; we’d all like to have all of the answers all of the time. The problem is that it’s wildly inaccurate.
As most men will testify, you can spend a lifetime searching for some watershed moment where certainty just drops into your lap, but it’s not going to happen. Life is uncertain and uncertainty creates doubt, so maintaining the cover of an infallible man is both a colossal waste of time and an unnecessary effort, since there’s actually nothing wrong with doubt.
It’s not a weakness, it’s simply a form of questioning, interrogating and evaluating life. It might not always feel healthy, but it has its roots in a thoughtful, self-aware outlook. We don’t need to chastise ourselves for every mistake, but equally, we shouldn’t be ashamed of the moments where these thoughts come rushing in.
Fundamentally, it makes us all far more interesting. What you fear, love, crave and envy, make you an individual; a bit of shading between the black and the white. Consider how utterly boring it would be to pretend that life leaves us unaffected. How much more exhilarating to ride the rollercoaster. To change your mind from dawn to dusk, fall in and out of love, die with embarrassment at every gaffe and yet somehow still find a way to wake up the day after and do it all over again.
Fuck the sharks, facing that takes far more courage.
Paris Penman Davies is an entrepreneur, copywriter and creative consultant. He is the founder of sustainable menswear label He Must (www.hemust.co.uk), prior to which he spent ten years working for global brands across Europe and South America. He is an anxious, over-thinking, wide-eyed romantic who, when not talking about other peoples’ sex lives, is fascinated by the undercurrents within popular culture. If you have something which you feel passionately about, let him know.
Text: Paris Penman Davies
Photography: Ted Humble-Smith
In exclusive for: The Flow House