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FIGHTING EGO & PERCEPTION PT. 1

I always knew and understood that we all struggle with something in life. Whether it is a struggle with finances, depression, toxic relationships/friendships, lack of confidence, or anxiety. In my case, it was the struggle with my ego and perception. I've struggled with issues concerning worrying about the opinions of others and the desires of my ego unknowingly since I was a child.

Perception Defined: "A thought, belief, or opinion, often held by many people and based on appearances."

— Cambridge dictionary.

In this era of social media, perception runs the show on the majority of social platforms. Social media has become a space where once you sign up, you can become whomever you want to. People choose to become models, musicians, artists, comedians; the list goes on. The crazy thing about perception and social media is, when people meet, a lot of the time their day to day lives don't add up to who they are online. I didn't fall into that category. I was the same in person as I was on social media, but at what cost? Due to the image I had created, I intentionally chose to direct my energy towards my desire to live a lifestyle that would appeal to others. I acted based on the idea that money would solve all my problems and chased women like it was my part-time job. I eventually paid the price of living this life year after year. I spent time not being committed to anything or anyone of importance. Instead, I chose to sacrifice self-growth and my relationship with my family, the two things that needed my attention most. I wasn't prepared to handle any responsibilities that came with facing the truth. Instead, I chose to neglect what I should've prioritized. The social media image I projected was a strategic highlight reel of a fun, pseudo-lavish lifestyle. My page, filled with a plethora of women, expensive alcoholic beverages, and wild pool parties, was centered around posts that didn't represent my true identity. I spent much time traveling around the US, partying with different celebs and best of all, dining at some of the most excellent restaurants America has to offer. I'm sure it sounds impressive and seems like a dream worth living, and at one point in time, I felt the same way. This thought process came to a screeching halt when I realized how detrimental this lifestyle was on my finances. I knew I wanted more out of life. Being financially unethical and living an unhealthy life, in general, wasn't apparent to me for a long time. With my bills paid, I was able to do all the lavish things I could imagine so what more could I ask for out of life. The consequences of my reality only began to set in when I took a moment to ask myself exactly what I expected out of life. I put the preferences of what seemed cool aside and tried to figure out what it is that I desired. I realized that the only things that mattered to me were finding a way to contribute to my family and friends, and a way to gain wealth. My current actions had absolutely nothing to do with these desires, but I knew that was what I wanted. My entire life, I dreamed of being the backbone for my friends and family. I felt I knew the power of wealth and how it could help support them. I knew that not only could these tools be used to support the people I cared for, but also to create avenues for them to grow in all aspects. Having this understanding, I concluded that my actions were not paving the way for me to be this kind of person for them. In some way or another, I had to initiate a change. I am a firm believer that everyone has a purpose, and we should use that purpose to help drive ourselves to go further. Not only does this give people the courage to exceed their expectations, but they can understand how important it is to give back. In turn, they are encouraged to help push others forward as well. How could I become a better human being or help promote others to do the same if I'm trying to keep up with a false lifestyle I created? For me, keeping up with the Jones became me keeping up with Khirie's ego and his next social media post. I would have never thought I would allow perception to be a distraction for my self-proclaimed purpose, personal goals, and personal growth. My ego has played the most significant role in why the cycles of my life kept occurring. My ego drove me to feel that if I visually came off as the perfect father and the guy that does all the cool things, then I would never have to face truths. I had fears that I didn't dare to overcome. As long as I could hide my negatives from people, and keep their attention on what I wanted to be known for, I could maintain my reputation. As shallow as that sounds, my main concern had always been my reputation. This way of thinking allowed me to convince myself that I was good enough. The validation I received from social media, and the people around me kept me in this comfortable space that I didn't feel was necessary to leave.

Growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, I always felt like an outsider. My living situation was nontraditional in comparison to those around me, and at first, I thought it was normal. For the most part, I lived with my Godmother DD. I couldn't understand why a woman who's not kin to me, and who has no kids of her own, could give me all her time and energy. DD chose to raise me when she didn't have to take on that responsibility. Regardless of her distant connection to me, she made it a priority to teach and treat me with unconditional love. I am very grateful to have her, but sometimes I hated that she was the one that had to show me how deep love could go. My mother has always been present in my life, unlike my father. As a result of his absence, she worked a lot to make sure she could financially support me in ways that child support couldn't. This made time my mother and I spent together hard to come by. While I was growing up, I couldn't understand why we rarely spent time together. As I grew older, I began to see that the purpose of sacrificing time with me was to give me a better life with what she was able to provide. The older I got, I always wished money wasn't a significant factor in our life. That way, we could spend all the time in the world together, and she could save that money she spent on me and spoil herself. Although I didn't grow up in a great neighborhood or live on the safest side of town, my mother and DD did everything to give me the best life possible. Regardless of how we were living, I always had the best clothes and went to the best private schools. They both ensured that I was regularly involved in sporting activities that kept me busy and out of trouble. My father, on the other hand, has 11 kids in which I happen to be the youngest. He lived in the same city as me and stayed only a few minutes away from where DD and I lived. We barely ever saw one another, which never allowed us to get to know each other or build a relationship. To live so close by in the same city, I couldn't understand why that bond never occurred. As a child, I didn't know how he could have a son so close to him and not care to show him any attention or love. I was confused, but through all the confusion, I never judged him. I figured he just had better things to do with his time.

When I started to see the difference between my family dynamic and the families of the kids around me, things began to feel uncomfortable. I noticed that even if they didn't have both parents present, at least one of them was always there. I saw all the kids were dropped off and picked up from school or community activities by either their mother or father. Don't get me wrong, my mother would do those things occasionally but the majority of the time it was DD who was always there. Seeing the difference between the other kids in these schools and the community and me, I felt embarrassed. I appreciated that DD was always there for me but felt ashamed by the fact that my parents weren't. Once the kids around me started to question where my parents were, I felt even more different than before. Now it wasn't just something that people noticed, but it was a topic of conversation. As young as I was, I made up my mind to do whatever I could to be better than the other kids, no matter what it took to make that happen. If they were going to talk about me, it was going to be because I stood out for what I was good at and not what I thought were my shortcomings. That feeling drove me to want everything that was considered cool growing up. For the most part in my youth, sports was the thing I excelled at, but as I got further into middle school getting girls became part of the equation as well. I figured those were the two things that mattered most to the people around me, which would make me stand out for something other than my family arrangement. If I maintained the image that I was good at sports and had all the girls, it would become a more significant distraction from me having an unusual upbringing. Instead, the conversations would shift towards how cool I was.

Oddly enough, that's precisely what happened. Since that moment, I created an ego-centered on coolness and focused on being self-centered as a way to mask my insecurities. Throughout my childhood and well into my teenage years, I was blessed to be skilled when it came to playing sports. With time I learned how to be smooth enough to pull the pretty girls in and out of school. Like most young boys playing professional sports, having all the girls was the dream. It wasn't until later that I discovered how it could also be a distraction towards my sports goals. Being from Indianapolis, all the people I looked up to had all the women. Even while watching TV as a kid, the majority of celebrities I admired were well known for their art, but also for glamorizing the number of women they had. I just wanted to imitate the results of both celebrities and the men that I looked up to in life. As I got older, I began to see the work those individuals had to put in to get where they were, outside of the attention they received from females. That wasn't the life I desired. I just wanted to look as cool as they portrayed themselves to be without having to put in all the effort to get there. Being young, I didn't understand the concept of sacrifice. I just wanted to be the cool guy that I felt people dreamed of being. I wanted to create a life that helped relieve my insecurities of not being good enough for a typical family.

As time went on, my obsession with getting girls took up most of my time, and put my professional sports dream out of reach. I was spending most of my time with women, and as a result, at the age of nineteen, I had a child, Karrington Grace Williams. At that moment, I realized that things needed to change. Seeing how expensive a child is to take care of, I started to panic because I had to refocus my priorities. Growing up, having money was never a focus for me because everything was always given to me. I never had any significant responsibilities that required me to manage money. Instead, I was responsible for simple things like putting gas in my car or paying for minor outings or dates. Karrington's mother knew my lifestyle very well but was just concerned about me spending time with our daughter and me being there as a father. I feared how others would perceive my newfound reality of being a father, so I changed the narrative to avoid judgment for my reckless behavior. Instead of spending time with my daughter, I indirectly convinced the world, using social media, that I was a good father to Karrington because I provided for her. I understood that giving money could be substituted for spending quality time with my daughter and used that to my advantage. Everyone I knew viewed cash as a solution to their problems and the reason for their happiness. This caused those closest to me to accept my behavior of operating as a personal atm to my daughter without a second thought. As long as I continued to dispense when requested, no one ever looked at me as a bad father. Truthfully, I had yet to consider what it meant to be a good father in the first place. Not having a clear example of that myself, I continued to live life without making the proper sacrifices. I needed to ensure that Karrington was loved the way that every child deserves to be loved. I simultaneously used money as the solution and the excuse. I felt that if I found different ways to make money to support Karrington and my lifestyle, it would compensate for the lack of time. I couldn't realize what I was doing because the people I looked up to as parents never emphasized the importance of spending time with my kids.

After Karrington was born, I tried to prioritize her position in my life, yet the order became money, girls, and then my daughter. A few years would go by, but no lifestyle changes would occur. Having a daughter didn't slow me down the way some might've expected; in fact, it did the opposite. I was praised for having many women by the men in my life, when at the time, what I really needed was guidance. Looking back, I realized that the same people I looked to for guidance needed it themselves. On the other hand, the women in my family warned me of the importance of being sexually responsible and using condoms. DD would tell me,

“distractions destroy,”

but I could never understand what she meant by that. Instead, I used women as my comfort. I used my situation as a means of being vulnerable with women in a way that would make them feel sorry for me. Ultimately, it provided me with validation for my behavior and allowed me the leeway not to take responsibility for my actions, or make any form of commitment to women, Karrington, or myself. I made it clear to the women I entertained that making money to support Karrington was my main priority, which was always a soft spot to them. They never judged me for my inability to spend time with them, or my daughter, as long as I was willing to provide the emotional support they desired. My manipulative behavior with no form of self-control placed me in the same predicament. Four years after Karrington was born, the unexpected occurred. On December 31, 2013, I would have my first son Khirie Jamal Williams Jr.

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