Hawaii has been fun. I’m writing this while gazing at the beach in Kaanapali. Needless to say, my setup isn’t too shabby. Here’s a pic of Britt and I on the beach (selfie warning)…
When you’re in the finance world, you quickly learn via counterparts and management that “dressing to impress” is essential to success. Putting on my suit over the past 12 years has been my mental equivalent of a solder putting on armor before battle. Engrained in me was the misnomer that whoever looked more successful actually had an edge when entering a room.
I started out wearing a plethora of colored shirts from cost efficient discount stores. My suits were the caliber of “buy one, get two free.” I remember an older gentleman at our firm standing on stage while addressing the office during an internal conference day. He said “blues and whites tend to work,” while referencing shirt color selection. I’m sure I slid deep into my seat, as I was the “colored shirt guy” back then. I never forgot his quote. I bet it took me 7 years to decide that his words had no significant meaning before deciding I could pull off a purple shirt again.
When you’re 24 years old and entering a new career that is 100% commission, pinching pennies was a necessity. Slowly but surely, my tastes changed as I started to earn more income. I was conditioned by my environment to “look the part” of my sales role. Every time I enhanced my wardrobe I was merely “investing in myself,” or so I was told. I started to really correlate my success to how I dressed because the sharper I looked, the better I felt.
I started to explore higher-end department stores for shirts and suits after being in the business a few years. Each year seemed to bring a bit of a higher-caliber taste. After all, my buddies in the business were all making the same strides. And the guys down the hall, with their Rolex watches and and fancy everything else, were certainly symbols for success from my young perspective.
Before I knew it, “my armor” started consisting of famous name brands only. Then the real kicker came along- custom clothing! I was introduced to a gentleman who helped tailer and create shirts and suits custom designed per each individual. If you’ve ever gone from wearing a suit “off the rack” (even if tailored) to a custom Italian suit, you’ll know what I mean when I say YOU CANNOT GO BACK! Shirts priced at $150 or more with suits ranging from $1k-$1,500 each, I had an expensive closet. From wood-bottom Allen Edmonds (never rubber soles), to monogramed shirts and tailored fine Italian suits, I was certainly mirroring success!
I don’t know what I’d call the past few years of my life. Some might say I had a nervous breakdown on some level. Some might speculate a premature mid-life crisis (1/3 life crisis?). I would say it has been more of a spiritual awakening. I would also say that it has more to do with a major shift in priorities, doing my best to lean away from the world and into MY FAITH.
I have to be honest. This shift has me looking at my closet of suits with utter disdain. I break out into a cold sweat just thinking about that mislead version of myself that would spend so much to look a certain way for all the world to see. Over the past several months, I refer to me in a suit as my “alter ego.” Me in a suit is my version of “Clark Kent.” My suits were my attempt to fit into my defined career role, to fit in with colleagues, and my attempt to gain respect and status. I like to think that for a long time I needed the suits (my armor) to prepare my ego to gallup courageously into the world of client acquisition and salesmanship. I wrote a piece called THE DEATH OF MY SALESMAN a few months ago. This blog post helped explain why a sales career catered so well to broken parts of myself, yet the realization that I no longer want to play this role. I therefore explained my vantage point post spiritual awakening- viewing my career from a different lens. I’m now looking at my alter ego as a part of me that I’m ready to release back to the world from which it was created.
I’ve been wanting to write a piece for several months about burning my suits. Yes- literally burning them. I feel like the world will be a better place, however, if I simply make a hefty donation of suits and shirts to a local charity I partner with, but you get the point. I guess I just don’t really care anymore if someone chooses whether or not to work with me in any capacity because of what I’m wearing. I grew up in a relatively small town in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I’m conservative by nature and certainly didn’t grow up watching my father put suits on everyday, or anyone else for that matter. Anyone who knows me or follows me on Instagram knows that I prefer to be in shorts/jeans and a tee-shirt, usually accessorized with a snap-back hat of some sort. I prefer casual or athletic shoes, not $350 ones that need polished weekly. My alter ego isn’t authentically me, so why not force myself to continue being more authentic?
My colleagues and clients might be a bit taken back moving forward. Choose not to affiliate with me because I show up in jeans? That’s your prerogative. Sure, I’ll sport some casual dressier pants and a nice shirt here or there, if necessary out of respect for a specific environment. I’ll even keep a suit or two for events that would prove disrespectful to show up casually dressed, like a charitable ball for instance. My suit, overly priced shoes and tie working days are in the past, however. I’m shifting back to the REAL DUSTIN for my day-to-day work. Attire is just one piece of this transition from conformity and toward individuality; yet it is a symbolic piece that’s been weighing on me. I feel like it’s finally time for me to “burn the suits.” Dustin’s “Clark Kent” is fading into the past, along with the ego-driven persona that drove this alter ego into formation in the first place.
Which part of you feels unauthentic each day? Perhaps what you wear every day just “isn’t you?” Perhaps who you’re expected to be at work, with your family, or within your circle of friends just feels fake? Who or what holds you back from being your true authentic self? Where do you feel like you’re “putting on a show” in your life? Where do you feel the need to show up as someone different than who God created you to be?
I guess when I really think about it, I would rather others experience the most genuine version of Dustin over any created versions! I prefer others choose to like me for the REAL ME over the conditioned version built to fit in!
I’m grateful God is giving me the awareness to take small steps toward being who He created me to be. This decision takes courage and I’m thankful He’s given me enough to make this decision of authenticity. I’m glad my awareness has led to a continual shedding of my worldly self. I’m happy to make strides toward being a child of God again, not an actor caring more about what the world thinks over being my true self.
Here’s to more board shorts! Here’s to jeans! Here’s to a snapback and v-neck in a room full of suits! Here’s to authenticity! Here’s to being COURAGEOUSLY ME!
LET’S BURN SOME SUITS!
For more pics and to fully experience the journey follow @surrender_project on Instagram!