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The Outside And Inside You - 8/8/2008

There’s an old adage, “You can’t tell a book by its cover”.  Obviously, it wasn’t about books.  What it implied was, when you meet a person, you can’t totally trust what’s on the outside.  You’ve got to be able to see them on the inside.  What that suggests is that everyone has an inside and an outside.  The outside is the thoughts,  wishes, hopes and dreams.  It’s what we think and say.  The inside is what we feel, fear and, too often, what we do.  It’s odd, but most people think, dream, hope and say good things, because their mind knows what’s right or wrong, constructive or destructive and what’s politically correct.  But, more often than not, what they do isn’t controlled by what they think.  For instance, New Year’s resolutions.  Everybody says the right things, “I want to lose weight... exercise... eat right...stop smoking or drinking and work more effectively”.  Thirty days later, their intentions are long forgotten.  Not because of the outside.  The outside truly meant all those things, but the inside won out.

It’s proof positive that every individual is two different people.   Outside, you’re the adult, the intellectual person, the individual who is the sum total of all of your wishes, desires and thoughts, as well as your experiences, every book you’ve read, every movie you’ve  seen, every interaction you’ve had and every class you’ve attended.   All of which is synthesized into some huge knowledge base within you.  Conversely, inside, you’re a child who is controlled by emotions that are impulsive, immature and far from grown up.  And rightly so, because your kid’s cognitive abilities aren’t yet fully developed and won’t be for a considerable length of time.  Yet, frequently, you let this impulsive, immature being determine what you do and say.

Interestingly, however, if I were to ask you to describe yourself, you’d say, “I’m five foot two, blue eyed, long hair, slim, fairly smart, a good student”, etc.  They’re all facts and, for the most part, few if any of you would relate your feelings.  

Similar to you, I could say I know I must be bright.  I didn’t get a Ph.D. by accident.  I had to work hard and overcome numerous hurdles and fears to get it.   I know that a lot of people care for and relate to me.  I think I’m worthwhile and I have good intentions.  But, if you asked me what I feel about me, you’d get an entirely different picture.  You’d get the book, not the cover.  Inside, that little kid, the emotional part of me, is someone who I see as lacking in intelligence, not bright enough, a person who can be easily intimidated when he’s in a group of people he views as very bright.  He’s an individual who, because of ADD, the way he grew up and his DNA, wound up being an extremely emotionally needy person, who desperately needs affection, feels inadequate and doubts whether he really deserves any affection he receives.  Thus, no accomplishment, once he’s gained it, means that much, because it couldn’t be much if he got it.  That person is very real to me.  Today, I can glibly describe him to you but, for the first part of my life, I didn’t know he existed.  I knew I was occasionally sad and there was an empty feeling in me.  That when I was around people I really wanted to be close to or have a relationship with, I never felt I was good enough, or that I fit in.  Even when I was included, I felt I was on the outside looking in.  Sadly, that kid has governed a lot of my behaviors all my life. No matter what I accomplished, or what people said, the empty feeling was always there.  I tried lots of things to hide it.  I earned degrees, gained possessions and hid beneath extra pounds, constant work and humor.  But few people really knew me.  They only knew how funny I was.  They had no idea that inside was a little kid I was ashamed of.  It was almost like having a twin brother with a hunchback who I didn’t want anybody to see.  But, not only didn’t I want others to see him, I didn’t want to see him, either.  And then, I discovered that, no matter how successful I was, how many degrees I had, or how much food I ate, I couldn’t get rid of him.  The unhappy, empty-feeling little kid was always there.  Still, I kept trying.  What if I write a book, etc.  Then he’ll be okay. But, no matter what I did, it was never enough.  Finally, I realized that if I couldn’t run from him then I needed to run toward him.  I had to undress him, take off the Ph.D., eliminate the things I used to hide behind and let the naked little hunchbacked kid with his inadequate feelings stand out in the open.  Not necessarily for the  rest of the world to see, but for me to accept and be able to live with without shame and without having to exert all the energy it takes to hide that person.   To that end, I just described him to you, and I seriously doubt that it’s changed your opinion of me one way or another.  I’m still who I am.  Ethel Merman said it best, “The one thing you’ve got to do in life is be you, because it’s the only thing you can do that nobody else can.”   

All of which brings me to ask, who are you on the inside?  Not what do you think of you.  I want to know what you feel and who you’re hiding.  Your picture of him/her may not be factual, but the way you perceive that little kid is what you’ve been running from all your life.  Moreover, you let it interfere with being who you really are, doing what you’re fully capable of and enjoying the love you deserve. You may rationalize that your attempts to hide him/her have resulted in your successes, but I would ask how much more success might you have experienced if you hadn’t wasted so much energy hiding the best of you, the little kid inside?

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