This is from Chip Gaines (HGTV’s Fixer Upper) new book “No Pain. No Gaines.” Right in the middle of us talking about the false self and posing, this comes along. As you read this, you will see how the false self was formed in him – how he took on whatever personality he thought would appeal to the crowd. And we can see how his wife called it out in him and how he developed his “non-negotiables” for life. Even in knowing who he is, he still fell into the temptation to pose on the red carpet. That’s the thing about your false self – it is well crafted and perfected and you’ve been leaning on it a long time. Just because we have exposed it doesn’t mean it will give up without a fight. It is a life-long process to crucify the false in us. Here is what he says…
I spent a decent portion of my life as an imposter, taking my cue from others about who I should be. It sounds bad, but I was good at it. I was good at fitting in, good at seeming like I belonged no matter what the scene.
In 6th, 7th and 8th grade, I was in a popular crew of kids who people wanted to be around. I learned how to “shapeshift” (his word of the false self) with the best of them, adopting the lingo, the laugh, the look of anyone I wanted to fit in with. I even wore boat shoes and tied a sweater around my neck one time, just to try out-country-club the actual country club kids. I practiced shapeshifting all through high school. Obviously, there was a pretty significant insecurity hiding beneath those polo shirts. I started to believe that people were far more interested in their own version of me than the real me.
As human beings we can get pretty creative about coming up with multiple personalities, taking cues from what other people seem to want. You look around to other people for evidence of who you should be. You laugh at something you don’t think is funny because other people are laughing at it. You pretend to like a band you hate or act like you hate a band you love. You wear sunglasses everyone else is wearing. These are small things, but it’s death by a thousand papercuts to your sense of self. If you keep it, it’s easy to forget who you really are.
My personality muscle had become so conditioned to create new identities that I continued to generate new versions of myself throughout college. I was still focused on being the guy everybody liked. Fortunately, my imitation act took its final bow soon after I met Joanna Stevens. She didn’t seem to want a made-to-order version of me. She saw all through that nonsense. After we’d been dating a while, Jo sat me down and told me she needed to know who it was she’d be marrying. It became clear how easily this charade could destroy my chance of a life with this woman. You cannot substitute in something artificial without compromising the integrity of the whole deal.
Jo’s question forced me to drop the act and take up the task of discovering who I really was. I had to peel back all those crappy layers I’d accumulated and carried around with me since childhood so I could see what was really there from the beginning. Once I could clearly see the difference between what was fake and what was real, these qualities became my non-negotiables: the strength of my faith, my dedication to my purpose, my love for my family, my commitment to who I am.
Identify your non-negotiables, and all those made-up layers fall away. Then you start building from there. But peeling off layers you’ve worn for a long time is not easy. What you find underneath might be pretty unappealing at first – pale from the lack of exposure to sunlight, weak from lack of use. But ultimately you were given the stuff under there to hold you up and help you move through the world. Once that outer protective layer is gone, and you get used to moving around without it, there’s no feeling as beautiful and free.
Two years ago, Jo and I were selected on the Time Magazine Time 100 list along with LeBron James, Michele Obama and Taylor Swift. Stepping out of the limo was like entering the Twilight Zone. Cameras, paparazzi, red carpet, the works. We kept saying to ourselves, “how are we qualified to be here?”
A reporter asked me “Chip, what art has influenced you and Joanna over the past six months?” My inner voice was silent. I tried to come up with a name. Who painted the Mona Lisa? The Sistine Chapel? Anything? My head spun. I came up with nothing. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Zip. It was all over by midnight and we went back to our hotel like a pair of zombies. In the fog, we sat on the bed and asked each other, “What just happened? Why do we feel like we just got kicked in the face?”
I’d let the idea of what that answer was supposed to look like get in the way of an answer that came from me, from my heart. I should have just laughed and said, “Man, I’m a construction guy from Waco, Texas. My idea of a work of art is a perfect three-bedroom house. If you’re talking about painting, you wanna see the one my kid did that we have hanging on the fridge?” I should have gone back to what defines me as a person, my values, my non-negotiables. I don’t care much about art or fancy parties or awards. I care that my kids think I’m a good dad. I care that I am a good husband to my wife. I care that my business is strong and that we are raising up and training leaders.
What leads us to believe that the original of who we are isn’t enough? Who was it in your life who convinced you that you need layers of camouflage to be worthy of acceptance? What passing comment started out as a “note to self” but turned into a false identity?
Each time we concede to someone else’s opinion of us, or we willingly buy into some lesser truth or inaccurate picture of who we are, what we’re really doing is surrendering our purpose. I believe that when we abandon our true purpose, the thing God made us to do, we’re not the only ones who suffer. There’s a ripple effect. It really does change everything for everyone.