Wes always wanted to be perfect and accepted by others, even if it meant hiding his true emotions under the surface.

As a kid growing up in a predominantly white suburban neighborhood, Wes’ parents always reminded him that as a person of color he had to work “twice as hard to be considered just as good as his white classmates.” Internalizing this as needing to strive for nothing short of perfection, Wes often felt not good enough. More importantly, he never felt like he belonged. In an effort to find belonging, Wes began to believe that he needed external validation to prove that he was good enough. However, that external validation never lasted.

His constant pursuit of perfection and the validation from others led to his struggles inside of the classroom. It was in the third grade that Wes was diagnosed with anxiety specifically around test taking and began to receive in-school help. Although he started to receive the help he needed and deserved, his anxiety convinced him that others saw him as “not smart enough” for getting extra support. At the young age of eight, Wes felt enormous and inescapable shame for the first time.

In order to escape shame and public embarrassment for not performing well in school, Wes sought to reinvent himself throughout middle school and high school by pretending that his anxiety didn’t exist. He ran for class officer, tried out for basketball, and convinced his parents that he needed new clothes. He felt sure that if he changed himself on the outside, he would finally find some relief for his internal feelings.

When he got to college, Wes then started turning to intimate relationships for validation. His desperate need to be accepted meant that he ignored the red flags and warning signs that he was in an unhealthy and abusive relationship. He was eventually able to end that relationship, but without the support and coping skills to manage he began an internal downward spiral. The person in that relationship was someone who Wes believed validated every aspect of who he was; after the break-up he believed that he was worthless and would never truly find his own place in the world. It was at this moment where Wes contemplated ending his life.

After being hospitalized in an outpatient facility, and years of self-reflection and self-acceptance through therapy and support from friends and family, Wes now lives a life where he accepts, understands, and manages his anxiety instead of suppressing it. He is able to show his humor, warmth, and his authentic self. Most importantly, he hopes to inspire others to feel less ashamed of their own mental health challenges and find a way to validate themselves.

Wes is located in the Greater Boston area. In-person speaking engagements beyond 90 miles may require a fee for travel expenses.

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