The following post was inspired by this audio as I drove down the road one day:
Growing up my father used to say to me all the time, “Matt, if your nose runs and your feet smell you must be built upside down.” Now I will have you know that although my father had an addiction I did not know it. I thought he was the best man in the world. He made me laugh and smile. I was the one place that I feel he let down his walls and was himself. The one place that he did not need the addiction to find joy and happiness. I really did not understand what he was saying. After all I was not even six at the time. Finally one day I said to him, “Dad I get it.” He said back to me, “get what?” I replied, “your nose is supposed to smell and your feet are supposed to assist you in running.” He replied, “I have always known that you were smart and that you were going to do great things in life.”
Fast forward 25 years and the saying holds a whole new meaning. The last few months of my life have been a time of discovery. A time to go back to my routes and decipher the childlike enthusiasm that my father saw in me. You see little did my dad know but I saw right through the addiction. I saw what my dad was on the inside. I saw the dad with the guard or walls down. What he projected on the outside to the world was not who he was. Yes, he was scared and insecure, and the addiction masked those insecurities. However, what I saw was a man who wanted to love and be loved. A man that could make anyone laugh. A man that wanted to be able to say to the world I am scared and have the world say back to him that it was ok.
I realize that I am a lot like my Father. Furthermore, I realize that so many of us are a lot like my father. We project outwardly what we think the world expects us to be. We conform to the world. If the pressure is too much we turn to something like work, addiction, working out to help mask those insecurities or take us away. We strive for social acceptance and while we do so we deprive the world of a genuine heart. Outwardly, I had it all. I had a beautiful wife, three beautiful children, a high six figure a year job, a beautiful home, a rental, a savings account, friends, I went to church, and blah blah blah.
Did I really have it all?
I will be the first to say I did not. I was empty and I was chasing a bar that I could never reach because every time I got close the bar was raised. My boss raised it, my wife, I raised it. It would never be enough. There would always be someone or something to catch.
My dad was sort of right – We may not be built upside down but I think that we are inside out. When I say we I am not trying to insult anyone but I am trying to be real. I think that we chase the worldly standard. That what we have on the outside is how we define ourselves. It leads us to act out of character. It leads us to not live in the moment. We have to live from the inside out. Easier said than done. What if the world does not accept me? What if I am ridiculed? What if they think what I am saying is a crock? I say, what if?
You see I lost it all – yep that is right. I no longer have the big home, the beautiful wife, the fancy cars or even the fancy watch. Material goods on their own are not bad but I was living outside in. The world was not seeing that boy that my dad saw or the dad that I saw. The world was seeing a robot. Today, I live flawed but very real. I am living from the inside out. I am not afraid to be honest. If someone does not like what they see then I have to be confident that it was one relationship I don’t need right now. I am rebuilding on a foundation that is rock solid. I do still have my children. Now I really have them and better yet they have me. I am no longer chasing things I am told I should want when I am with them. I am creating a real authentic relationship with them.
New Confidence – I just let all my walls down and that very well could lead to losing everyone that follows me now. It could be the end of my business. However, I believe in authenticity. It is my story and I am not ashamed to have lived it. The things that have happened in my life have led me back to a place where I can find myself. I can find the boy I was and be the man that I am. Conformity is a slow death. By no means have I got it figured out. I am a work in progress. However, I believe the difference is my decisions are now based on how I feel on the inside. I am living from the inside out. My hope and faith does not lie in the hands of the world. I have done that for several years and it resulted in anxiety, fear, sense of rejection and self worth. It hurt when I let someone down. What I have to come to realize is that I cannot control that feeling in someone else. It is not me that they are rejecting. Many times it is something within themselves that caused them to reject me. Here is one example: The day that I graduated from college was a huge day for me. The first in the family to ever accomplish this feat. I was greeted by my mom and step-dad, sister and close friend. They were all so proud. Then my Dad, grandma and grandpa came over to me. The very first thing that my father said to me was, “Good job, man you look fat in that gown.” I said, “thanks.” He threw some money my way and then I asked if he would be attending the dinner and he stated that they needed to get on the road. That they needed to go hit a few casinos. I was devastated but I would not let anyone know. Several years later I realized that it is hard for him to by near my mom and see her happy with another man. He sees her and it is a mirror of his mistakes. He was not part of my childhood and so he did not feel that he played a role in my accomplishment. I am on a tangent here but the point is that when I live for the approval for others I will be let down. Not necessarily because they do not approve of me but because they are not where they want to be.
In conclusion, many of us are built from the outside in. We have walls up for the world to see. Having the walls up can be seen as a protective measure. If we have the walls up the bad people cannot get in. Well neither can the good people. I have walls and I am trying hard to knock them down. I am working hard on letting that boy that my Dad saw early in life out for the world to see. I have a story and I believe if I let my walls down and share it that others may realize they are not alone. My hope, prayer and dream is that others will feel comfortable to start to let down their walls and live from the inside out. Take on the world instead of letting the world dictate our behaviors. Learn that what we say and do does have an impact on others. Let’s make that positive. I have found in my life that because I am willing to share so openly people feel comfortable to share with me. If I can help one person in my life live more authentically, live from the inside out, or gain the confidence to go after their dream then being vulnerable and sharing was worth it.