The past 4+ years have all been about change. Massive changes. Tiny changes. Entering this new era of me has been a painful and mighty challenge. Each change turned the wheel of evolution; revealing new things and leaving some things behind. And there’s been so much new that I haven’t spent much time on thinking, habits, etc that I used to have; things I used to do.
After some examination, I found a few things I no longer do. All of which defined- in many ways — the last era of me. Some were personality based or motivating forces. Others were about survival and a craving for identity. Whatever the reason, I simple don’t do them any more. I’ve outgrown them — emotionally and spiritually.
- Posturing — I had a boss in the early 2000s that once told me, “Justin, you’re always working an angle.” That was true. I did want something from most people. Whether it was making a sale, validating my existence, affirming my value. I didn’t have the confidence to just be — I had to go get these things from other people. My posturing was a combination of flattery, insincere sincerity, self-deprecation and outright lying. I called it being “relatable” — when really it was about survival-based manipulation. I was using my God-given ability to connect with people for my own gain.
No more. Sure, the old triggers and responses are still there. But each time I feel that urge to posture, I remind myself that I don’t have to be anything for anyone. And also, you can’t love people and also use them.
- Pretense — I had a vivid and lively imagination as a child. One that got me through violence, boredom, loneliness. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid teens that I learned to pretend. I pretended to be confident. I pretended like I had my life in order. And back to posturing, I would pretend like I liked you if I thought you could do something for me. The more I pretended, the larger my imposter syndrome would grow. Because I was an imposter. I was pretending to be happy. Pretending to be successful. I was good at pretending — especially when social media came around. I had a good sense of image and perception — and how to pretend in order to build the image I wanted everyone to see. No more. I am me. No acting. No pretending. Which, deliciously, has brought back my childhood ability to imagine and think creatively. I will extend a few minutes of grace to a situation — but if it’s not for me, I give myself permission to simply leave rather than pretend to be there. This includes many social settings, small talk, closed society gossip.
- Primal Dominance — I was a dichotomy. In many ways, I was a wuss. In other ways, I wanted to drink from the skulls of my enemies. Especially intellectually. I wanted to intellectually dominate you. To show you who was smarter. The same boss told me “You are way too quick to show people how smart you are.” I was always insecure about my not having a college education, so if I came across someone with a lot of schooling — especially from a prestigious university- I would preen and proclaim that my “street” education was much more useful. I was also insecure about my perceived lack of athletic ability. So I would show off how smart I was on sports, working out, physical challenges to overcompensate for my lack of worth in these areas. No more. Sure, there’s a time for decisive leadership. I still consider myself an Alpha but a secure, awake, contemplative one.
When these three things fell away, I noticed additional changes. I no longer give advice. This is a fairly new epiphany, but most advice I was giving was related to one, some or all three of the above. My advice was all of the ego — even if well intentioned and typically factually correct. Secondly, I no longer identify with any groups. I am a human man, that by citizenship, is an American. That’s it. When I removed posturing, pretense and primal dominance from my behavior, I no longer NEEDED to be in a group. Finally, I have learned joy. The joy of genuineness. The joy of discipline. The joy of suffering. The joy of empathy. I have learned that when you connect to the soul and its creator, your primary emotion is joy. And joy doesn’t need to posture, pretend or dominate. Joy just is.