I can’t compete with myself.
For those who know me, I can be quite an introspective little soul. I constantly find myself looking at my current behaviour, situations, thoughts, dreams… pretty much everything really. I usually find myself asking for feedback and trying to understand myself and others better, almost to the point of annoying others about it. And so I thought it was time for another one of those types of posts, where we just go right into it. I always like to share my heart, so here it is.
Something that is very important to me is having a good name. Some advice I’ve always been directed by is that a good name, or a good reputation, is more precious than rubies. I guess in our world today, we are often told that we shouldn’t give two rips about what the people around us think, but I actually have seen that to be quite destructive counsel. It’s amazing how many doors in your life close by having an apathetic approach to your reputation – if you perform poorly or have a bad attitude in your career, companies aren’t likely to hire you; if you’re known for being a destructive or inconsistent friend, people are less likely to befriend you; if you stuff your husband or wife around, people aren’t as likely to listen to what you have to say. Conversely, a man’s or a woman’s gift makes room for him, and lets him stand before kings. A good reputation and a good name enables people to trust you much more quickly, be open to what you have to say, and let’s them know whether or not you’re genuine.
All that to say, in a number of conversations with people recently, I’ve regularly been encountering people’s views of who I am. Just who exactly is Matt Clark? I always laugh from the start of that line of thought because not as many people call me by just my first name – it’s not Matt, or Matty, or Matthew – it’s pretty much always two syllables, first name last name, pronounced without a space. And it’s kinda interesting to hear not just how people perceive you, but also why people perceive you certain ways. I’m usually more interested in the why than the what.
I guess in a lot of ways I lead a fairly public life. For starters, the fact you’re sitting on your laptop or phone reading the depths of my soul on this website proves that I don’t have as many secrets or hidden spots as some other people. Maybe you yourself know what that’s like. It’s funny being at parties now and people will be like, “Hey, aren’t you that Shoreline guy?”. There are so many countries I want to go to in my life, and it’s humbling to think in some ways I’m already there – people like you are reading all around the world, sometimes on my reflections of the lives around me, but often on the reflections of myself.
Just on that alone, I’ve had a number of people either write in or talk to me in person about how they feel like they know me so well. Pretty cool that I get to share my life and journey with you, which is a major point of this site in the first place.
But how much do you actually know?
I also find myself regularly “on stage”. Sometimes that’s literal, where I’ll be called up in front of dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. I definitely find myself in many more leadership roles in my career, where every person has their view on what I have to bring, and who I am as a person. People for instance are always surprised to find out I’m still in my 20s, and often the youngest one on a project, even if I end up carrying quite a big part of the responsibility. It’s also often a church situation where I’m called up the front to either teach something, or someone is discussing my personality or to brag on who they see me to be. Our church has a connections number which people can text to find out more information on how to get plugged in. Recently, a number of people texted in the question, “How do I date Matt Clark?”, resulting in many conversations in public settings about who Matt Clark actually is. In other social settings, I’ve had many people telling people “You have to meet Matt Clark”. I’m not always entirely sure why.
All this to say, I guess I find myself interested in the persona that has been created around me. And I guess I’ve been finding lately… that I can’t compete with myself.
A few situations in particular have had me going down this line of thought. A few weeks ago I had a group of female friends talking about relationships, and when it came to them sharing their views about me, they were saying that it was obvious that I had very high standards. I asked them what made them think that – I’d never discussed anything to that end with them before, and I hadn’t really filled them in on any of the relationships in my life. They just said “because you’re Matt Clark and you’re a leader”. I quickly retorted, saying that I hope that I don’t come across as holier than thou or untouchable, or that I expect perfection from anyone, cause I don’t – I actually really enjoy it when people are themselves, and I always just want to be real about where they are. They said that it wasn’t necessarily anything I’d done or said, but it was just because of this persona that I have.
My truest feelings and desires there are perhaps overshadowed… by myself.
And I guess one of the other things I get told a lot is that I am known for being this wise person. A whole bunch of people call me Rabbi – it started off because people thought I looked Jewish (although I’m not), but now they continue to say it because they enjoy my views on different things. And that’s pretty cool. But I find that it’s a lot to live up to. What if I have an off day? What if I lead someone astray? What if I say something in jest that’s taken seriously, because I’m usually seen to be always serious and always on?
It’s not like I have anyone’s expectations to live up to necessarily – it’s more that I find myself competing with this view of myself that exists.
Another view shared with me recently is that I am known for having strong and public views. Someone told me that that can be intimidating. Another group of people have communicated to me that I am very visible. A lot of things about me fall under scrutiny. As a result, I guess I’m pretty protective of the people I’m close to. I know I’m usually especially quiet of the people I get involved with – I just think that that level of pressure on a person means they no longer get to make free choices.
But it’s a level of attention that I can’t compete with.
And then I wonder if it’s just how I perceive the way others perceive me. If this persona is actually a real thing, or if it is a self projection of how I feel about their views. That there is so much that is assumed, but not known, or asked. Probably something I have also done of others at different points.
And the more I think about it, the more I think that all of us are exactly the same in this area.
All of us on our journey towards who we are born to be encounter the scrutiny and discussion of others. As we grow in leadership or influence, knowledge, emotional intelligence, as our network increases, as the number of lives we touch becomes greater and greater, so too does the conversation about us. So too does the number of divergent opinions on who we are. So too shrinks, or perceives to shrink, the opportunities for people to question you directly, resulting in assumption or surface level perceptions. So too do the true discoveries of who you are and how you act, leading to the size and quality of your reputation. One of my friends said it is who are, broadcast to everyone who doesn’t know you. And also to everyone who does. If some of these seem contradictory from each other, it’s probably because all of them seem to exist.
I think it truly is the process of refinement as we grow into maturity in mind and deed. Like pottery that is continually strengthened by gradually increasing temperatures. You turn the heat up to a certain level, and the clay has to get used to it. It solidifies its shape. It gets used to the temperature in such a way that it doesn’t melt, or explode. The temperature increases again, and it has to get used to the heat of this new level. I think our lives also are tested and strengthened in the same way – we are brought up to a certain level where we are tested, purified, and revealed for who we really are, and if we are able to grow in strength at this level here, we’ll be ready for the next step.
The quality of the human heart is tested by giving it fame. By shining a spotlight on what is already being done in private, for better or worse.
It’s all preparing us to fulfill all that has been placed in our lives to steward and see realized.
In other words, I don’t think this is a bad thing. It’s just a thing. It comes with the territory of growth and of stretching out. And I don’t know if we always talk about the realities of it. Maybe I’ll never be able to compete with myself – that being, the persona or reputation I have. It’s definitely always going to be a reality in my life, and in yours, that we will always have the true us, and then the person who people perceive to be us. My prayer is that that is the same person, and the gap between those two realities in minimal or non-existent.
I hope I haven’t come across here as boastful, or even that I’m against who I am. I’ve just been thinking about it quite a bit recently, and I thought it was an experience worth sharing. I know it’s not as stepped out as my usual posts, but I thought I’d give you another really raw look into my life.
So there you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the depths of my soul. Would love to hear your views and if you can relate to me in any way.
I can’t compete with myself, but maybe I don’t have to.