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!