Being motivated by what people might think can kill the creative muse.
I’ve known I’ve been a people pleaser most of my life. I’ve often congratulated myself on being a good Southern boy and putting others ahead of myself. But, I’m here to tell you that has, all too often in my life, seriously messed with my creative flow and has compromised my ability to show up authentically. That’s not a good thing.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to pause and consider the effect of one’s creative expression on others. I’m just proposing that having it at the front of the queue vs. a further-down-the-line kind of thing has the potential to hobble you before you’re out of the starting gate.
Are you playing to the crowd?
Asking myself this question has made me squirm. I hate realizing that I’ve been too motivated by making other people happy and being liked and accepted rather than letting ‘er rip and seeing what happens. I hate knowing that people pleasing has been my personal creativity killer.
Having a blog and participating in social media has been driving home this awareness. I’m convinced that the geniuses behind FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are master manipulators, playing successfully into the human need to be liked, to have a following as proof of being accepted and successful, all while keeping us salivating for more, just like Pavlov’s dog. Sadly, countless people put themselves through all sorts of gyrations to market themselves as having an enviable life. Countless others rabidly pursue ways to shock people in order to garner attention.
How much honesty is in that? Where are our real voices if we’re playing to what we think are other people expectations or if we’re just steering into shock zones to become newsworthy?
A year of reckoning.
Things have truly come to a head with your truly recently. I’ve had my blog for almost five years. I’ve put myself “out there” in my posts and in my photos and commentaries on Instagram. As I approach a new post or placing a new image on Instagram, I too often put it through the filter of “What will people think?” and “Will this drum up a lot of response?” As I become more conscious of those motivations, I understand just why sometimes I end up feeling yucky and why I know I’ve fallen for chasing a cheap and short-lived high.
And then, when people lob in a molotov cocktail of criticism, I tuck my tail and vow to find a way to thread the needle of pleasing everyone. Whatever fragile sense of success I’ve thought I’ve achieved comes crumbling down.
That’s just plain insane.
Look inward rather than outward.
And, be willing to challenge every belief you’ve had. That’s a current mantra of mine having realized that most of my thoughts, my beliefs, are a crowd of voices from other people and from years of conditioning. I have to laugh at this because I chose to spend the entirety of my working career in advertising/marketing. I chose to participate in manipulating people’s perceptions. Busted!
Also, a big, public confession: I’ve been chasing the answers to life’s biggest questions by attaching myself to the opinions and teachings of countless “sages” or anointed (by the masses) “enlightened” teachers. I’ve spent more time in the self-help aisle at the bookstore than any other section. I’ve done more than my part to keep the self-help industry solidly in the black.
Perhaps I’ve exhausted myself in this regard. Maybe I’m finally seeing that I’ve just kept jumping on the hamster wheel of a failed strategy. Whatever the reason or reasons, I’m done with looking to gurus to give me the answers. I’m done telling myself that the truth isn’t right here inside of me, now.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve dispensed with a huge swath of conditioning from my Southern Baptist upbringing. But, what I’ve found, as so much doctrine falls away, one gem, one piece of gold, one shining light stays with me, and that’s Jesus’s words that “the kingdom of God is within you.” In my opinion, far too little time has been spent on those powerful words, while more time has been spent training people to look outside their dirty, sin-filled souls for redemption.
My blog has evolved into more of a public “journaling” of my big life change.
When I moved to Italy and changed my life so dramatically, I thought I was steering into a romantic unfurling of an ideal life. Yes, there are plenty of new, rich things that are enhancing my world, but big changes have a way of knocking a person off-center, of changing the status quo so much that failed personal strategies become more readily exposed. I’d say that the first three years of my full-time life in Italy was like riding out a 7.2 earthquake. Personal structures and walls began crumbling. Rebuilding could only begin when I became painfully aware of what hadn’t been serving me and hadn’t been deepening my own creative growth. So, by following my blog, you get the play-by-play of where the river of life is taking me. And, the river is telling me to dispense with fixations on public opinion and to begin clearing creative roadblocks.
Damn the torpedoes.
That’s where I am right now—having the audacity to say “I won’t be motivated by what you think!” even though I cringe when I say something that is so counter to all I’ve been taught and counter to how I’ve behaved most of my life. But, another part of me cheers and says, “At last! Spread your wings.” Fail grandly. Be willing to anger people. Be willing for people not to like me. But, most importantly embody creative honesty!
Jed, so very insightful as always! I love what you share….a life worth examining! It helps me as I move along life’s path….albeit two steps behind.
PS. I still like you…whether you care or not! 🙂
Ciao, Kevin! I love being reminded of the quote “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I’m learning to examine it a bit more lightly these days (thankfully) and without constant vigilance. When I relax a bit, it seems as though what I need to know, what I need to be aware of, floats to the surface. And, then things change! New behavior for me, not trying to coerce evolution!
I have never commented on your blog , Although many times I wanted to. I started following you on Italy Wise because I was considering moving to Italy. I am an Italian American with family roots in Sorrento. I also studied psychology at the Universita De Urbino.
I really enjoyed learning the the reality of being an American in Italy. I admired that you actually made this big change in your life and wanted to share with others. I love your art, your stories of places that I would not have known about without you teaching me.
On the other hand while I appreciate your sharing your personal struggles,I find , although I try, I cannot relate.
This however does not stop me from following you. I find myself learning and intrigued by your thinking.
you already have the power to set your inner self free… keep living the dream!
Hi Michele, Thanks for writing. Sorry for the tardy response (we’ve been moving to a new home). I’m fascinated that you studied psychology in Urbino. I love Urbino and your comment prompts me to go back to get re-acquainted.
Human struggles vary so vastly and are influenced by diverse conditioning and cultures. I share my journey as one might do in an open forum of sharing——a form of public journaling, as I indicate in my posts. I love hearing about other people’s journeys. It helps me to realize that my view of the world isn’t the only one and truths aren’t always universal! I also love hearing when others aren’t plagued (or stymied) by being too concerned about what other people think. And, I’m a tad envious.
I’ll keep living the dream and navigating whatever life throws at me!
Evolving, loving other and self! Empowerment..translates to freedom! Enjoyed your words Jed!
Bravo, J-ed! Love you!
Love you too, my dearest Maryann! When you come visit…we’ll have tons to talk about (as if we don’t always)!
Insert heavy applause here. Good for you. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” Walsch
I think you’ve been saying this all along subliminally to me and now …. you’ve taken your own advice!!
Great to hear from you, Angela. I love that quote. These days discomfort is waking me up and propelling me from the same-old-same-old. I’m ready to shake things up and see what emerges.
lots of truth there as I know just the feeling…I’m a Southern boy too…so, damn the torpedoes!..Bear in mind had you not been groomed as such when you were young….you might be pi**ed off right now. I know I would be.
Ciao, Bill. I’m glad to know that you, too, know the sense of constriction that can come with being a good Southern boy. Believe me, I’ve had some pi**ed off moments as of late, but I’m also learning to laugh about the craziness of it all.
Oh, boy, that’s a lot to take in first thing on a Tuesday morning, my friend! You are so brave to let it all hang out. So many of us have been cheering you on as you embarked on this romantic adventure. You are sooooo brave to admit that it was this challenging for you, and continues to be. Keep writing!
Thank you, my dear, dear, friend! You’ve known me through so many life passages and now you get to ride along on these more recent chapters. Never a dull moment. Behaving is overrated and boring!
Hi Jed. I love the new direction, or unearthing of the old path, that you are on. I find that age has given me a sense of balance, an internal gyroscope, that rights me more quickly in tumultuous times. Am enjoying riding along with you on this next part of your journey.
Thanks, Susan. I know you and I would have a great time “chewing” on this together with a bottle of wine at hand. I’m grateful for the grace of an internal homing device making itself known at this point in my life!