For all my aspirations to be a conscious business owner, all the ways in which I believe in something I might call “slow business” (i.e. taking the “urgency” out of growth, for example), I have this gripping drive to be “famous” as soon as possible.
It is this area within which my patience can grow thin most easily.
For example, I desire to be known in my field. To have my reputation precede me. To be sought after for speaking engagements. To be treated to the perks of fame. In essence, there is a part of me that wishes to be a minor celebrity.
Now, all these possibilities might be quite lovely and wonderful someday. But I’m compelled to question where they’re coming from inside me, and why my frustration leads me to believe “I should be there now!” or feel entitled to fame that “ought to be right around the corner.”
Why this fantasy?
The documentary Searching for Sugarman explores the real-life delayed celebrity status of a musician named Rodriguez, recorded in the 1970’s and not recognized by fans until decades later. Reflecting on this story, journalist and writer Rian Malan says, “Isn’t this all our great fantasy? That one day you will be recognized and your talents will become visible to the world. Most of us die without coming anywhere close to that sort of magic.”
But I can’t see it. I can’t see dying without coming close to that magic. So why do I want this celebrity status so badly when it seems only available to so few?
Is it simply to receive a kind of love from others that I haven’t given to myself? Is there a message I have within me that I believe must be shared in order for me to die in peace? Do I fear failing the mission I believe I’m here to fulfill?
(in some ways, yes, yes, and yes : )
On one hand, being famous and having a recognizable and respected name should mean that my requests are given more weight—i.e. people would more likely do what I asked. This could be useful if I were trying to get something done like assemble a team or start a movement or get a message out to a larger audience.
What drives my desire for recognition?
On the other hand, I believe this desire to be “known” by others says a lot about how I relate to myself. In my case, there’s a narcissism in me—sometimes healthy, sometimes not.
One part says, “Go into the spotlight, you’ve got something important to say.” Let’s call that the healthy part. Another voice says, “You’re valuable only if a crowd of people turn up to hear you speak. You’ll never make a meaningful impact unless you make a name for yourself. Why haven’t you become famous yet?”
I’m guessing you can hear the difference…
One voice compels and the other belittles. One voice instills importance in my very being as I am—the other takes it away.
This dynamic of two (or more) voices lives within most of us, especially when we face doing something that requires change and growth, like sharing our deeply personal message on a larger platform. One voice says “go ahead, at your pace” and another voice says “not fast enough!”
These voices have a wisdom of their own
Ryan and I have seen this pattern in ourselves and in many of our clients. As we’re supporting ourselves or others, we don’t wish to simply let one voice win over the other, or even to try to let go of the voice that seems less healthy. Instead, we acknowledge that both voices have a wisdom of their own. Playing the role of internal mediator, each of us can discover what these voices want and then find alignment so they can co-exist at their best.
After some self-exploration, here’s what I discover about my desire to be famous…
The voice that invites me to “be out there” is a voice that believes I’m ready to expand my outreach. This voice I call my Inner Warrior is strong and driven. He says, “go, take a step forward” with grounded conviction and then the other voice kicks in.
What I learn about my other voice surprises me. Underneath her pushy disappointment, this Nagging Witch that says “hurry up!” is actually afraid. Listen to this complex (and effective) tactic: she pushes me because she thinks that if I move faster, I’m more likely to fall and stop short. And if I fall, I don’t have to face the “dangers” that accompany being in the spotlight—such as getting criticized, or making a fool of myself, or worse yet, succeeding and becoming so uncaring and self-centered that I can no longer relate to others.
As I listen and inquire, this quieter voice admits that what she really wants to say, now that she has my full attention, is “please don’t become famous. I don’t feel safe.”
This is a critical moment. My common impulse may be to override the quiet voice with affirmations—positive statements that redirect my attention, but can gloss over what else she has to teach me.
I’ve just learned that the second voice is actually attempting to sabotage my effort and ensure that that forward movement does not happen. She does this by berating me and pushing me with words like “why aren’t you known yet?” and “hurry up!” This voice knows that I will pay attention when it comes to getting what I want faster. But the voice is also not being direct with me. If she truly wants something other than faster results, but disguises her words out of fear, I wonder “what else is going on for her?”
What I learn is crucial. This voice that I might have dismissed as some kind of inner critic has a tremendous gift for me. It is this berating voice that, all along, simply wanted me to listen. Now that I’m listening, what seemed before like a Nagging Witch has become like a Wise Elder. Same voice—only difference being that she now has my respect and attention.
The Wise Elder is a guide for me. It’s not that she doesn’t want me in the spotlight, it’s just that she wants me to stay in integrity as I move in that direction. This voice holds me to my center, caring deeply about my message and not wanting to see it tainted by efforts that are out of alignment for me.
My Desire to Be in the Spotlight :::
One example of this desire is that I see myself giving a talk to an audience of over 5,000 people about gender expectations and my experience as a male in our culture (this is a personal passion of mine—so much so that I wrote and illustrated a graphic novel about it a few years ago). I sometimes find myself strategizing how to make this speaking vision happen “as soon as possible”. All the while, my inner Nagging Witch is saying “hurry up, already!” and I’m barely conscious of being driven primarily by her fear. From that place, I leave myself.
It may happen one day that I speak to such a large audience about my personal experience, but if I’m honest with myself, I’m not ready today. Even if I got invited to do it next week, I still need a certain level of conviction and practices in place first, like the ability to receive such an honor, to stay grounded in myself as I address such a large group, and generally a deeper trust in myself. Without a more natural progression (like starting with smaller groups for now) and trying to take a short cut, I effectively try to take a bigger bite than I can currently swallow.
This formerly nagging voice has become an important ally for me. She has transformed into a guide when I choose which events to attend, when I consider who to partner with, which clients are a good fit, and when I plan my creative actions. Alongside that Inner Warrior, together they allow me to tap into a Guardian Chief part of me—this integrated, sovereign, grounded, patient, caring, strong, visionary that watches over his village to ensure everyone is being heard and we’re using resources for what matters most.
Getting the attention I wanted
With this richness in my inner world, I’ve actually attained an aspect of the celebrity status I was seeking in my outer world—i.e. attention. The very recognition I was seeking—I give to the parts inside me, all of them aspects of my psyche. I now have a team inside me that keeps me in integrity. I have a team within that is on board with aligned actions in my outer world. They feel valuable now in ways they were not before.
Their talents are sought after,… by me! Together, we care less about “success” outcomes that others use to judge us and more about “who I am being” along the way. In other words, I recognize that as my message is about practicing internal alignment, “I am my message.”
Gradually, as I keep in contact with these inner parts, I know there’s no need for pushing forward from a fear of never making it to the spotlight. Or striving for fear of never having my talents recognized by others. As I listen within, I have regained the audience I’ve felt has been missing.
Should a larger audience appear in the outer world around me, that would be lovely too. But now, perhaps I “need” it less. Now I’m more able to welcome the listeners and speak from my true self, rather than conform to become someone that I think people will listen to.
Gathering an audience and increasing my outreach may take some time. It also may never happen at all. While I deeply care about my message and having an impact on others, I do what I can to accept both of these possibilities.
Let me leave you with this message, from a source I can’t quite name, through me, to you:
Have faith in the value of your message. If recognition from others seems to elude you, it may be that you’re learning the deepest of lessons so you may teach others from the depths of your being—such as the lesson of what it means to accept in the face of that which feels unacceptable. From that place of internal peace, perhaps before peace appears more commonly in our surroundings, may you play your part to change the world in ways that need not be measured.