Are You Truly Showing Up?

“Your take it or leave it attitude with your family is unacceptable.”

— My brother

Matthew Van Valkenburgh at Kogen Dojo. Photo by Mike Oswald Photography

For many years, I thought that honesty meant saying or doing whatever I felt, even if it hurt people, as long as I was being true to myself and my feelings. In fact, my basic stance was that if you were hurt or offended by what I said, that was your problem. At least I wasn’t a liar. I was who I was and, if you didn’t like it, I didn’t need you in my life anyway. I would rather be authentic and alone than a fake with friends and family.

This approach to relationships made for interesting family gatherings. We would all get together for a holiday or a birthday and I would start giving my opinion on things, opinions no one wanted or needed. Every cutting comment I made was backed by smug arrogance and disdain or disgust for everyone and everything. I was a real joy to be around. This went on for a long time with my attitude being, “At least I showed up.”

After one more comment and one more resultant fight or argument, my brother looked at me and shot back, “Your take or leave it attitude with your family is unacceptable.” This didn’t sit well with me. This was him being honest, authentic, and telling me that who I insisted on being was not okay with who he was and who they were. Over time, this began to sink in and, slowly, I began to show up differently, or at least I have tried to.

If all we present to the world are our reactionary feelings and opinions, are we really being ourselves? Are we truly being authentic if we tell everyone around us to “take it or leave it?” I suspect, from my own experience, this is actually the worst form of hiding. No one will ever get to know us, the real us, if we do not allow for some vulnerability. True relationships begin by showing up as others need, not as we want to be.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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