Updated: Apr 27
We've all heard it before... There are 2 ways to learn... The easy way or the hard way...
Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way one too many times in my life because I closed my mind to other people's perspectives. From the age of 17, I was on a search for something more, never settling for mediocrity and judging myself harder than anyone else. I was playing a game of comparison with everyone around me whether it be on the bodybuilding stage or the dance stage, seeking unrealistic expectations of perfection which looking back at now was borderline insanity.
Lesson #1 - There is no love to be found in the nightclub:
I'll admit it... I have had a "Love at first sight" moment one too many times in this life of mine. Whether it be the sexy, seductive goddess standing at the side of the stage watching me dance in a smoke filled bar or the imperfectly perfect beauty who needed a knight in shining armor to come save the day, I fell for it over and over again. Like myself, I focused on the exterior the majority of the time. I created a fantasy world where I could ride off into the sunset like the end of a cheesy 80's movie, living happily ever after. In more cases than not, my relationships would start off with electric sexual energy which could not be sustained. How could it? Sexual satisfaction only goes so far. Eventually, the honeymoon stage wears off and reality tends to set in. Keeping it real, what did I honestly expect? There always seemed to be an alternate available in the club scene and as a guy who took his clothes off for a living, most women didn't exactly see me as "Husband Material". I guess you always want what you don't have and I was on the impossible mission to find love in all the wrong places. Even though I had a very hard time expressing myself emotionally, when I fell for someone, I fell hard. I wore my heart on my sleeve and had to discipline my disappointment on more than one occasion which made me have to learn the hard way over and over again. Don't cry for me though... I put myself there and although it was a hard road, I'm glad I went down it. I see the look in people's eyes when I tell them about my former career. That look of curiosity and assumption. I can almost read their minds sometimes I swear... "He must have been such a slut... or he must have been exploited in some way...". Neither are true. I was no angel, but I was far from a slut. I was never exploited and I entered the industry willing and able. I have zero regrets as far as my career choice, but I made a different kind of sacrifice with this choice of mine. I sacrificed true love because there was no love to be found in the nightclub and a higher state of consciousness was non-existent.
Lesson #2 - Never mistake your status for your worth:
I have had the good fortune of seeing my life size image plastered across a billboard in Northern Florida, winning Mr. Nude Western Canada back in 1997 and being a VIP at the largest beach club in the USA for almost a decade while rubbing shoulders with everything from professional wrestlers to actors to rock stars. Having this status was AMAZING and admittedly, it felt almost surreal in the moment for a guy who never looked at himself that way. Having this status came with expectation. I was expected to play the role every minute of every day which was ok because I enjoyed playing the role. It was fun being in the spotlight and this status boosted my ego which at times was to my benefit and at other times to my detriment. My onstage persona started to consume me and the majority of the time I didn't know who to trust, especially when I lived in Florida. I put myself in an environment of drugs and partying that never stopped. This alternate reality provided hundreds, if not thousands of acquaintances who all seemed to want a piece of me for all the wrong reasons. Again, don't cry for me... it was an experience I was grateful to have because it clarified who my true friends were when it counted, especially after the lights went down. However, for quite some time, I had mistaken status for worth. I had assumed that the only value I had to this world was behind the alter-ego that I presented onstage and the guy trying to be the life of the party offstage. I came to realize many years later that my status and my worth were not the same. My status as a male dancer is most definitely in the rear-view mirror, but I am worth more now than I ever was as an entertainer. My struggle with unworthiness and self-doubt continues though even as I am writing this blog post. I do not want my legacy to simply be the guy that spent 25 years of his life as a stripper, but it definitely defines my uniqueness. Like so many of us, I have been guilty of holding myself back from my true potential by being my own worst judge. I had all the confidence in the world when I was onstage, but I leaned on my status to get me through, never understanding that I was worthy of so much more in this life. When I meet new people and they discover what I am doing as an author and authenticity coach, they see my worth because they don't normalize me. I can see it in their eyes now in a completely different way. They don't care about my status anymore, but they can see my worth with crystal clarity.
Lesson #3 - Everything is temporary:
Whether it be my career, my relationships or even my life... everything is temporary. Nothing lasts forever. I always knew this when it came to my career. Who really wants to see a 55 year old male exotic dancer right? Strangely enough though, when it came to relationships, I created this fantasy in my head that I would find my "Forever" person. Talk about setting yourself up for inevitable disappointment! Breakups have never been easy for me, especially when I squeezed too tight and they slipped through my fingers due to this. The older I get, the more awareness I have that everything is temporary. The present truly is a gift and I have learned to appreciate it as much as possible because it will eventually be non-existent. My good buddy Dean reminded me of this when my last relationship ended and I am grateful that he did. It helped me to deal with the break-up with a far more rational mindset instead of letting my emotions take over.
Lesson #4 - Marriage is work which requires connection:
I was playing a slot machine when it came to my marriage. Like almost every relationship I have had, it started out spectacular, but without connection, the ties that bound simply broke due to too much strain. The comfort zone of being taken for granted ended up being the standard and the charismatic entertainer that my now ex-wife had married turned to dust. Why did the ties break? Well, because we communicated, but we never connected. Hindsight is 20/20 and through my authenticity training, I came to realize that we were just gliding along, living on sex, drugs and rock and roll without truly getting to know one another. We never clarified our core values and the feelings connected to them. I had unrealistic expectations of my partner, looking down from my pedestal at her, expecting her to be something that she was not. Looking back, it sickens me that I had the audacity to expect more from my partner without addressing my own shit. (That shit that I didn't know existed at the time). When it comes to marriage, I learned the hard way. Instead of working harder, I assumed that my partner would always be there because she just loved me that much. Well, again, everything is temporary. Lesson learned... if there is a next time, I will work 10 times as hard after I get married to connect with my partner by understanding them. However, if there is a next time, my partner will have to be willing to walk through the fire with me, exposing their vulnerability with a clear understanding of their core values as well as mine.
Lesson #5 - Not everyone thinks like you:
As a Canadian living in "The Dirty South" of the United States for almost a decade, I most definitely learned that people see life through a different perspective than I do and I had to learn to respect their perspective, especially when I disagreed with them. Now more than ever, we live in a tribal world where everyone wants to be right. Barriers are put up instead of taking the time to understand why we think differently. When I first arrived in Florida way back in 1996, I suppose I was living in a fantasy world in more than one way. I didn't think about political or religious ideology and how divided these two subjects in particular would effect my life and the lives of others around me. In Canada, we don't live under a 2 party political system. It's not as "Black and White" so-to-speak. Up until 9/11, political division didn't even cross my mind. I had my own viewpoint, but I was borderline oblivious to how divided it was. After 9/11, I came to truly realize that due to people's upbringing and lifestyle in a world that I was only somewhat familiar with, they most definitely didn't think like me and I became frustrated when they didn't see it the way I did. I became tribal. I wouldn't try to understand them and they definitely didn't try to understand me. Every time that politics entered into the conversation, I stood there, gritting my teeth, feeling like a grain of salt in a pepper shaker. I rarely spoke up because I felt that I was wasting my time. I wasn't going to change their mind and they weren't going to change mine. My ideology of what was right or wrong was just as strong or even stronger than theirs, so I found it to be a waste of energy.
When it came to religion, I could respect a person who practiced what they were preaching, but I met one too many preachers who didn't practice. They hid their corruption behind their religion and I didn't have any respect for that. However, when it comes to religion or politics, I now try to have a deeper understanding of what makes that person tick. I don't have to agree, but by respecting the perspective that they have, the better chance I have for them to respect mine. Not everyone sees life through my lens and that's ok. With this practice, I can now understand the root cause of why they feel the way that they do and move along to something we do agree on without it being a wedge.
If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and/or give it a thumbs up! I want to hear your perspectives on any or all of these subjects. (Especially if you disagree). Getting other's feedback about my strengths and weaknesses makes me a more well rounded and authentic person. I am far from perfect. I have made SO many mistakes and I am sure to make more, but I can only see life through my lens. Learning and growing is all part of the package with this thing called life and I plan on learning and growing until the day I die.
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Corey Laine Hilton is a well respected, bestselling author and Certified Authenticity Coach.
He has entertained thousands of clients internationally over the span of a 25 year career in the male exotic dance industry, laying the groundwork for his raw, mission driven message through his unique and colourful perspective.
With life experience and dedicated research on the subject of self-worth, he reveals his 10 strongest personal values and the emotional feelings attached to them in a career most cannot comprehend.
His insights have been seen on multiple social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and Youtube as well as podcasts focusing on mental health, spirituality and authenticity.
As a Certified Authenticity Coach, he has the ability to help men over 30 lacking emotional expression overcome subconscious blocks by utilizing his unique perspectives while providing his "Naked Truth" through his journey of self-discovery. He exposes his struggle between his authentic self and his onstage alter-ego in a foregone industry providing his audience with a view of the reality of what it was like being on the other side of the "Velvet Rope".