This weekend I got to help out my good friend Christian with his networking event for young talents. It was a lot of fun and I’d been asked to help warm up the audience before he went on stage.
I figured a fitting theme for networking would be first hand impressions. So I went on stage wearing a white hoodie to cover my tattoos and after a short time on stage where I talked about first hand impressions, I asked the audience: “How many of you think I look like a fairly normal and decent guy?”
Pretty much all hands went up in the auditorium. So then I took off my hoodie to show my arms, stating: “Now that you’ve got the right first hand impression, then it’s nice to just be myself…”
The audience was in. The point had been made.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
And so next up I prepped the audience to give my friend a proper welcome and a proper first hand impression: basically giving him a standing ovation as he entered the stage. And he delivered a solid performance afterwards with a high buzz of energy in the room.
A good start.
Later on that day, as we were setting up some camera equipment another friend snapped a photo of me as we were setting up the camera and lighting. For once, I didn’t pose, I didn’t put on a smile, I just stood in a relaxed and natural manner.
Here’s how that looked:
My friend calls me over to tell me it was a really great photo.
And as I look at the small camera screen and see myself, I’m actually surprised at what I see. I look like a pretty fucking tough guy. I look a little like a thug (or a lot). I basically look like someone you probably wouldn’t want to run into in the middle of the night in a dark alley.
(And of course all of those are accurate descriptions of me…)
My father used to talk about how my brother was tough on the outside, but soft on the inside – while it was the opposite with me; soft on the outside, but tough on the inside. My brother practiced martial arts, he hit the gym pretty hard and he’d walk around with his shoulders out looking mean. He’d genuinely scare people when he walked down the streets, but I knew that behind all that he was vulnerable and sensitive, like everyone else. The tough exterior was his defense.
I’ve always hid my toughness with a soft and warm exterior. A friendly smile and a polite serving demeanor. I guess over the years, the inside has started to show more and more.
But is it any wonder though that I’ve become hardened?
Growing up in a home with a violent and abusive, alcoholic stepfather and a mother who stood by passively and silently, telling me “everything is wonderful, it’s just as it should be”… You’d have to develop some thick skin to survive that…
And today I’m grateful for that, because it allows me to endure through any kind of pain. It means that I’m not afraid to do what I have to do and take risks. I’m not afraid of failing. I’m not afraid of suffering. I’m used to both, which allows me to push forward through pretty much anything.
Here’s the problem though…
“Who wants to sleep with a rock as their pillow?”
Like I said, I’m happy and grateful for the strength I have today, but honestly I would rather be without the callousness. I would rather use that strength to be soft and loving. To be vulnerable like my brother was, because the truth is…
Apathy doesn’t require any effort, it doesn’t take any energy to not give a shit or to be cold.
Hate and anger comes naturally to us too and it’s easy to fuel, it’s easy to rage at the world.
But happiness and love. Now that requires some real strength and commitment. You have to work for those.
To experience happiness and love we need to let go of the negative emotions. Quite often that means letting go of our ego and self-entitlement, forgiving those who have hurt us and to let go of our anger. It can be transformative and healing, but it is a much harder process than staying in those negative emotions would be. But easier said than done…
The scary thing is that once you get addicted to negative and destructive emotions like anger, rage, jealousy, hate or even something like self-pity, then you start to crave it. And once you crave it, you will start looking for it in your life, you might even start creating it in your life. Maybe you know someone who’s addicted to anger? They can find something in any day to get angry about: someone offended them at work, the train was delayed or even worse, it’s raining again! The anger becomes their life, it becomes a habit.
Anger and rage are very addictive emotions. They make you feel powerful.
I used to be angry quite a lot. It made me feel powerful. It made me feel like I could fight the whole damned world, like I could force my way through anything. And with enough rage, I was able to break down a lot of barriers in my life – or break my hand punching it through a window… Being in that kind of state is highly destructive for both yourself and others. And it certainly doesn’t leave much space for happiness or love.
And at the end of the day: isn’t that what we’re all striving for in our lives? Happiness and love…
Well I can tell you that requires a lot of hard work and effort on our part. It’s much easier to be annoyed about being stuck outside waiting for a train on rainy day, than it is to be happy about it. But I for one would much rather be happy about it.
And so my question to you is this:
Are you filling your life with happiness and love?
- Or are there some negative emotions in your life that you’re addicted to?
- Are there some people that you need to forgive and some things that you need to let go of?
- And Is there some callousness in you that needs to be softened to make room for love and happiness?