Unboxing My Life Story After Federal Prison

We like to put things, especially people, in boxes. 

We like to slap a label on that box and “know” what that person is. 

Notice I said what, not who.

“What” is easy.

“Who” involves a deeper level of understanding most people aren’t willing to explore. 

They’re either afraid to confront their own humanity or to let go of the box they stuffed someone into because that box provides comfort. 

Because if we don’t know a person or know very little about them, they’re an unknown. 

Maybe we only see a snapshot of how they’re currently behaving or how they behaved in the past. And if that behavior is something we believe we’d never do or be capable of doing, a part of us is frightened of it. 

Our brains are nothing more than survival machines; they care about keeping us alive and propagating the species, and nothing more.

When we confront something or someone unknown, it’s a threat to our survival, so we seize the low-hanging fruit of a label to help “ensure” our survival.

We have our box with our label, and we feel safe. 

Those labels are really judgments; they’re our opinions and definitions of a circumstance or individual. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this in my own life and the labels and judgments I impose on circumstances and individuals.

I’ve been noticing something: When I judge someone poorly, my ego feels “good” and “superior.”

I feel, in some way, vindicated.

But there’s another part of me that doesn’t feel good at all about my judgments. In fact, I feel terrible and constricted. 

I’m beginning to see my judgments for what they are: my fears, and my insecurities. I understand what the author Cheri Huber meant when she wrote,

“When you judge someone else it’s simply self-hate projected outward.” 

My judgments of others are a prison cell of my own design—one I’m trying to walk out of. Do I walk out of all of them? No, of course not. I’m human, and this is a practice.

But it’s a practice I’d like to continue. 

My judgments have become opportunities to understand myself better, which is something I’m drawn to as I get older. 

What about a circumstance or individual is striking a raw nerve within? What am I afraid of? What’s being reflected back to me that I’m so scared to confront in myself?

There’s a flip side to judgments; not only do I impose them on others, others impose them on me. 

Because they’re human beings having a human experience. 

As a formerly incarcerated individual who earns a living sharing my story of massive corporate success to the rock bottom of federal prison, I experience a lot of judgments – good and bad. 

Especially since I regularly present to many fraud and internal audit organizations, many in the audience have preconceived notions of someone with my background.  

My reactions or responses are a treasure trove of self-understanding, regardless of whether the judgment is poor or favorable. 

I can reflect on my emotions, both good and bad, to understand myself. When I’m either knocked down a peg or elevated up a peg, both are opportunities for self-inquiry. 

Is there a level of truth to what they’re saying? Do I need their validation, or does it merely feel good? There’s a big difference between the two. 

Something critical I’ve come to understand is this:

I don’t have to buy into how others define me. 

However, I owe it to myself to explore my emotions about their definition and understand how I’m complicit in it.

And to understand, only one person’s definition matters and that’s my own. 

In a well-lived life, that definition is ever-evolving and doesn’t fit in any box.

For the 1st half of my life, I ran from my true self, seeking my self-worth, adequacy, and acceptance outside myself.

The second half of my life has been the exploration and journey back to who I truly am, to chip away at all that’s not mine and seek my own truth.

The practice of unboxing is a part of this journey. 

đź“Ł If you’re ready to stand in your power, and unleash your potential the Midlife Mastery Program is for you. Schedule your free call here.