Create the Presence You’ve Always Wanted

“Guys – Am I cool yet?”

It sounds so wrong, but so many of us project that feeling when we seek the approval of others instead of simply being who we are and desire to be.

We carry our presence with us wherever we go.

When the idea for this episode was first proposed because of Austin’s emerging new look, I responded, “Oh, image.” But as soon as the words left my lips, I realized that there’s so much more to our presence than our image or how we look.

Our presence engages our physical senses.

Sight: Sure, how we look is part of it. Are we fluffy? Slender Man? Voluptuous? The Incredible Hulk? How do we dress or do our hair? ….but also, do we look warm and inviting or cold and defensive. What is my body language communicating? So much of communication has little to do with the actual words that we choose…but also, what about those words?

Sound: What do my words add to the atmosphere? As a communicator who works with words, I also spend time crafting the vocal quality I desire. Some people have a silky smooth baritone voice that people want to hear. Others have voices that resonate like nails on a chalkboard. Others fart…. a LOT.

Smell: Speaking of farts… When I talk with others, am I immediately wondering if I’ve brushed my teeth yet that day? Is my scent pleasant, unnoticeable, or noticeably bad? Is that going to be obvious because I’m touchy feely or I’m a close talker who speaks to people from within their personal space bubble?

Presence even engages our “feelers” – the part of you that can sense the vibe or the energy in a room and the relative closeness of others.

I think most of us probably know someone who is the life of the party without even trying. We also probably know someone who wants to be the life of the party, but isn’t. They try to be something they’re currently not, so it comes off as obnoxious or something else altogether.

Can you remember feeling someone else’s presence from a distance? I still remember being in Austin’s backyard, poking people’s bubbles from several feet away for the first time, and people returning the favor. My virgin poking experience was so funny to me because it felt so….physical, yet no one was laying a finger on my body.

But WHY do we even care about our presence? Is it for you or is it for me?

Sometimes it’s for others. Maybe you want to be like Jesus and have a healing presence where power goes out of you and to those around you. Maybe you just realized that you’re an energy vampire and you want to change that because you don’t want to exhaust people anymore.

Maybe right now your attraction to the idea of presence is purely self-centered. That’s cool too.

I went on a cruise ship with Jen, the kids, and some of the Epoch crew before we moved away back in 2017. From the very beginning, I rocked the shortest short shorts I could find. Wearing them made me pretty uncomfortable at first – I wanted to know why. I wore them because I felt resistance and I wanted to push into that. Now, they are among my favorite shorts. They’ve got a Daniel Craig James Bond thing going on.

When it comes to haircuts and facial hair, I’ve done some wild things…. It’s almost like I choose to put myself in situations that seem way over my head – boxing and MMA sparring, except also with hair and short shorts. It’s testing myself to see if I’m comfortable with who I am, because I’ve been really, really vain. I’ve wanted to be the coolest guy in the room (which if you don’t know, pretty much immediately disqualifies you)…

Even when I saw one of the images we used for the podcast that had our head shots in it – my first thought was – “Oh no, I missed the message about submitting a head shot and (I’m assuming it was Tina) had to try to find one that works and I look like a goober in it.”

I mean, here I am, a bonafide hair model who has been featured on the same web pages as fellow hunks David Beckham and Brad Pitt (humble(?) brag), looking like I don’t even know how to wear the hat that’s concealing my receded hair line.

So what has its hooks in you? What aspects of you can the insecure parts of yourself use to manipulate you? Vanity? A longing to be desired by the multitudes? Something else?

With all the above in mind, I don’t think I’ve been a very good steward of my presence. I’ve often been oblivious to the vibration I’m setting for the room. I’ve changed my outer image so many times to overcompensate for some self-perceived deficiencies…. Like, when I was preaching, in the back of my mind, I wanted my hair to turn white before it all fell out because I wanted to be taken seriously. That image was what I wanted to create while on that same stage I was rolling with mullets, mohawks, American flag bandannas, lighting bolts and stars shaved into the side of my head. I don’t think there’s a podcast length long enough to make fun of that properly.

I don’t know if you’ve seen or remember the movie The Mask, starring Jim Carrey. It’s about a guy who finds a magical mask that magnifies his personality, adds a boatload of charisma, and provides whoever wears it with some cartoonish superpowers. I watched that VHS tape a ton during summer vacations as a kid. The underlying theme, which is common to so many stories, that, “We are enough,” was on display so obviously in that movie. Yet, it went over my head every time.

At 35, I look back at the masks I’ve put on that have allowed me to be who I want to be, because something in me sees who I am as not good enough or cool enough or influential enough, etc.

It’s only VERY recently that I’ve tried to be very intentional about understanding who I am, what I want, and then identifying the times where I lie to myself about that for whatever reason. If I’m hiding something…why? This pursuit of honesty with myself has led to some of the most genuine conversations with others. I admitted a parenting failure to a friend not too long ago (which, having recently started a parenting podcast, is something I initially wanted no one to be aware of). This opened up the most raw conversations with this person that we’d ever had, with them feeling free to share their current struggles – because they knew I wasn’t there to judge!

Yet beyond it all, the presence we can intentionally craft has the potential to be immensely powerful.

I want my presence to reflect me. I’m serious, but I like to laugh and have a LOT of fun. I might not be as XTREME as I was in my youth, but I’m still bold and daring. Yet I love being approachable and close with people, having heart-to-heart conversations about life and the nature of the universe. I’m constantly evolving.

This week has given me plenty to think about. There’s a lot of room to grow in my presence.

I didn’t know that someone was taking sneaky photos in a chow hall in Iraq over 15 years ago. I think it’s fitting that the photo featured seriously in the link above has, in recent years, become a meme that gets circulated annually for laughs.

Image may contain: one or more people, meme and text

We can’t control how people will perceive us or how they’ll act on that. However, we can control our intent. We can create the presence we’ve always wanted.

presence quote matt rainey
create the presence you've always wanted
About the communicator


In addition to contributing to The Epoch, Matt is currently the host of the Evolving Parent Podcast and he coaches any youth sport his kids will play. He's a former US Marine journalist and public affairs specialist who has worked as a contractor in the tech sector for numerous companies. He recently earned a BS in Freshwater Science and Sustainability, but continues learning in multiple fields every day.