30 Things you May Not Know About Me (Plus An Exercise in Self-Expression)

“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can offer with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation, but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

That’s me in the top right corner wearing a ball-suite. This is a band I used to be in called Kick Kick. You see, there are a lot of things people don’t know about me. And I think that’s been the problem my whole life – a lack of transparency and not being willing to fully express myself! (I think a ball-suite might be the extreme in self-expression for me.) When it comes down to it, I’ve been so damn professional and worried about offending others that I have held back my desires and convictions. How often do we do this in our lives? How often do we stifle our genius and cover up who we really are because we’re worried about gaining other peoples’ approval? I think we all struggle at one time or another with really opening up and sharing our true self. Instead we create an “ideal self” we present to the world to try and cover up what we’re not proud of. We would rather shelter our brilliant message from others than experience disapproval! Frankly, I’m tired of hiding, which is why one of my major goals for 2014 is to be more transparent in my writing. To share who I really am on a deeper and more meaningful level. No more “Academic Joe.” I’m tired of trying to sound smart and impress people. If you want theoretical perspectives on human behavior and motivation, you will no longer find it here. (Well maybe a little bit. I am a bit of a psychology nerd.) But overall, I want to open the book of my life and share who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m headed. I figured sharing 30 things about me would be a good start. Why the number 30? Well I celebrated my 30th birthday last week and thought it would be as good a time as ever to start this new chapter. So, without further ado, here are 30 things you may not know about me. (P.S. – If you want to grow your own self-expression, the exercise to do so is at the end of the article, so don’t miss it.) 1. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way, shall we? I have two grad degrees, and am a psychotherapist and personal coach. Hey, I like what I do and wanted to include it in case you have never made time to check out the about page. If you were already aware of that, sorry, let’s move on to the stuff you may not know. druming crossroads2. I have a huge passion for music, and have played drums for 15 years or so. It’s just a hobby at this point in my life, but at one point I had aspirations to be a professional rock-n-roller! I was used to play in different bands from ska-punk to pop-rock. I even dropped out of grad school to make a go of it. It wasn’t as glamorous as I hoped, so back to school and practicality I went. 3. I learned to play guitar so I could write music instead of just banging on drums like a Neanderthal. I had some inspiration, wrote some songs, and recorded an EP. Why? Because I could I guess, but also as a creative outlet and an attempt to produce music with an inspiring message. The music is now sitting aimlessly in the cloud, won’t you give it some company? (I hope you like guitar solos.) 4. I am a coffee addict, and no not Folgers. I’m talking about the good stuff. I love flavored coffees and spending time at mom and pops coffee shops. I get a little overzealous with creamer at times, but we all have our vices. 5. I am a stereotypical Capricorn. Not a fan of horoscopes? Well let me drop a little knowledge on ya! I’m a hard-worker, organized, and practical person overall. I’m even tempered and tend to be patient and frugal. Check out your sign here. I personally believe the alignment of the planets could have something to do with our temperament, but if I’m just being naive, at least it fun. 6. I hate running and working out, but since I know how important working out is to my overall health and well-being I’m willing to do it. I just might bitch and complain a little. 7. When I was a child I wanted to work with animals or be a cartoonist. I know these two things sounds a little distinct, but my favorite thing to draw was animals. The magazine Ranger Rick was a huge inspiration for me. I knew all sorts of facts about animals and wanted to work in a zoo. For some reason this dream faded like so may do. I still like cartoons though. 8. I tried for many years to uncover “my style.” I have finally accepted my fate of being a preppy. That’s what happens from years and years of having to wear business casual attire. I also like to go all out and wear a suite, James Bond inspired of course. Nothing is better than an elegant suite and tie to make you feel classy, but on the other end if I could I would wear a hoody and t-shirt for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t mind. 9. I was a rebellious teenager. I got in trouble with the law and had some struggles with substance use. I was on the fast track to nowhere. But thanks to a supportive family and realizing that having no ambition was pretty lame, I got my act together. Now I often counsel teenagers in the juvenile justice system. Karma?! tank 7 2 10. My favorite beer is Tank 7 from Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City. It’s a farmhouse ale with a subtle %8.5 alcohol, so be careful not to drink too many. I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur. (I have a few other recommendations if you’re interested). One of the birthday gifts from my lovely girlfriend this year was a class is brewing beer. So, my first batch is fermenting as we speak! Delicious! 11. I think meditation is best thing since sliced bread! Yeah I just said that. I try to meditate daily but like everything else it goes in waves. I teach meditation classes around Kansas City as well, and have a “secret plan” to start a non-profit organization educating, training, and promoting meditation in the Midwest. I guess the secrets out. 12. The first job I ever had was at Baskin Robbins when I was 15 years old. My parents got me the job, and then I got fired for not going to work one day. I don’t hold a grudge and still love ice cream though. You live and learn right? 13. One of the coolest things I’ve done is staying in a haunted hotel during last Halloween. The hotel is called the Crescent and is in Eureka Springs, AR. Even better, I got to stay in one of the “haunted rooms” where they tend to have repeat sightings. I didn’t necessarily have an “experience” but I was scared out of mind every night. 14. I don’t own a television. I find that television is too large of a distraction. The only thing I miss is having easy access to sporting events but that’s why I have friends to mooch off of. 15. I enjoy movies and really appreciate a good comedy or indy film. Movies are one way I bring humor into my life. I also like to watch a movie for its artistic interpretation, and enjoy analyzing the directing, acting, and cinematography. This leaves me watching movies alone most of the time but if it expands my mind I’m all in. (I’m willing to compromise and watch a chick flick once in a while. I’m not a total jerk!) 16. My family used to have a tradition of an annual trip to Beaver Lake in Arkansas. I have some of my fondest memories from these vacations. Rope swings, cliff jumping, jet skis, and tubing. This lake is a hidden gem if you’re the lake going type. 17. I get free haircuts for Life from my girlfriend whom is a stylist! (That is unless she doesn’t want to go out with me anymore.) 18. Throughout my life I have been fortunate to travel internationally. I traveled a little in college and some thanks to my late grandmother whom was called “Gaga.” (I’m pretty sure it means “grandma” in another language). She took us on family vacations to Denmark and the Bahamas. I also visited countries including South Africa, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and Mexico in college. I would love my next stop to be Australia. 19. I have never sung karaoke. I love to watch people sing. I think it is one of the most entertaining things to do, but when it comes to sing I get terrified. I might have to add this to my goals for the year – “Karaoke one Bob Marley song.” eden20. I was bitten by a dog when I was a kid and had a dog phobia until I was about 10 years old. I think this might be where my anxiety started. Now I love dogs! I currently have an adopted dog son named Eden! He’s a golden retriever whom is totally chill and relaxed. A perfect Capricorn dog if you will. 21. Religion has been a varied journey in my life. In my teenage years I was an atheist. Then I was agnostic as I uncovered more spirituality and learned about Eastern philosophies. I then had a spiritual experience where I was “born again” and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I now connect with God or whatever you want to call your higher power on a daily basis as much as possible. I meditate, pray, and do all I can to get that loving feeling of inspiration, hope, faith, and gratitude. The more the merrier. 22. I have a 1 and half year old nephew named Colin. I really learn a lot from him and can’t wait to watch him blossom over the coming years. I recently wrote a post about in case you didn’t get a chance to read it. Check it out! 23. My mother is a pre-school teacher and my father has been in the sales industry for many years. They’re also still married and have been for more than 25 years. Hey, statistically that’s worth mentioning. 24. I am a germaphobe. I used to be a lot worse and was a little obsessive and compulsive about washing my hands. Okay fine, I still obsessively wash my hands, but I can handle getting my hands dirty if I have to. Oh yeah I don’t like bugs either. I’m starting to feel like a real sissy here. 25. I am naturally introverted. I tend to be a reserved a laid back person. I’m a thinker who is reflective and analytic. Sometimes I over-think things but am learning to get more connected to my intuition. If the situation is right I am willing to take center stage however. I love teaching and public speaking and have done so for years. 26. I also tend to be a little neurotic at times. In retrospect I had some difficulties with anxiety as a teenager. The practice of meditation and focusing on personal development has helped tremendously. 27. I am a huge Kansas Jayhawk basketball fan. I was brain washed as a young child to believe in the fury of the Phog. If you ever get a chance to experience Allen Fieldhouse, the facility where the basketball team plays, it is more than with it! I graduated from KU with a degree in psychology in 2006. 28. My signature strengths in order are: love of learning, curiosity, appreciation of beauty and aesthetics, perseverance, and social intelligence. I try to incorporate these into my day to day life for greater well-being and engagement.  29. I love reading self-help books! I rarely read anything other than non-fiction. Here are the top five I would recommend:

30. My big hairy audacious dream is to someday be a published author and full time personal coach. A boy can dream can’t he?! Well, one of my major goal for 2014 was to be more transparent in my work and writing. Looks like I’m on my way to accomplishing this goal! Thank you for taking time to read this!

“Don’t let your special character and values, the secret that you know and no one else does, the truth – don’t let that get swallowed up by the great chewing complacency.”

– Aesop

Your Turn: Full Expression by Embracing your Shadow

Is there a situation where you find it difficult to fully express yourself? Where you freeze up and struggle to be genuine and open about who you are. In these situations we are fighting against insecurity and self-doubt. We are afraid of what others might think about us and put on a mask to prevent people from seeing our weaknesses. This insecurity comes from what is called the “shadow.”  I’m sure you have heard this term from the book and film The Shadow Effect by Deepak Chopra and Debbie Ford. The shadow is essentially the embodiment of all our negative traits, and most people are ashamed of it. We are so afraid that someone else will notice these traits in us that we spend a huge amount of energy and time hiding them from others; even if it prevents us from living an amazing and fulfilling life. Our shadow keeps us confined and restricted. It keeps us from really being authentic as we try to save face and gain approval. So, in order to break free from the shadow’s shackles, try this exercise to embrace your shadow instead of denying its existence.

Step 1. Imagine your shadow

Find a private place to uncover the image that defines your shadow. Close your eyes and visualize an image of your shadow. Imagine it with a physical face and body. What does your shadow look like? What is its demeanor and facial expression? Give it a name if you would like, and see it in as much detail as possible. For me, the shadow is a weak and feeble boy. He looks pathetic, afraid, and scared. He is trembling, hugging himself, and hiding his face in shame. Make sense?

Step 2: Embrace your shadow

Now that you have a clear picture of your shadow you need to build a new relationship with him or her. It can be life-long practice to embrace your shadow, but for now set a goal for the next week to summon your shadow for a few minutes each day and connect with him or her in a compassionate and caring way. Don’t be disgusted by your shadow, welcome it. Take a deep breathe, view your shadow, and visualize yourself wrapping your arms around your shadow in loving embrace. Bond with your shadow. Tell your shadow you love him or her. You and your shadow are one and together you are stronger than when separated. 

3. Work with your shadow 

After you have grown a healthy attachment to your shadow, it’s time to practice partnering with your shadow. What is a situation or event where you tend to shut down or put up a mask to protect yourself? It may be public speaking, meeting new people, family reunions, or work meetings. Whenever you struggle to express yourself is where you need to embrace and partner with your shadow. Imagine yourself in this situation in front of the crowd, whether it’s one person or one thousand. Together you and the shadow turn to each other and smile. You assess the situation with confidence and courage. You and your shadow speak with one voice. You speak in a genuine way without worrying about others approval. You can accept who you are and there is no need to hide behind a mask.

4. Bonus tip: Everyone has a shadow

If it makes it any easier to use this exercise, keep in mind that we all have a shadow. It looks different for everyone but each person you encounter is dealing with their own issues. I like to image my shadow meeting the other person’s shadow as a nice reminder that they are just as insecure as I might be. There is no reason to hide from ourselves. Start revealing what’s important to you. Share more in your relationships. Embrace your desires, expectations, and limitations. Find freedom from being more open and honest.