I’m a wallflower.
Always have been. Probably always will be. At any given party you’re most likely to find me drifting along the outside wall, making friends with the host’s dog or pondering life, the universe, and whether to make Italian chicken salad or tacos for dinner the next day.
It’s not that I don’t like people (although some days that’s true) or even that I’m shy. It’s just that I naturally have a soft-spoken and introverted personality that abhors competition in general (just ask my sports-loving brother) and competing for people’s attention in particular.
I’m okay with that. As a Creative, I’m happy with a few close friends and long walks in the country, punctuated by bursts of creativity spawned by copious alone time. I love people, but I love being alone to let ideas–those fragile, delicate flowers–fully coalesce before sharing them with the world.
Here’s where the problem hits.
Thanks to social media and the internet, our world has turned into one massive popularity contest – especially for authors and other Creative types.
The irony, of course, is typically most Creative types are introverts, which means interacting with other people (no matter how much you love them) takes emotional energy. Interacting with acquaintances or strangers takes exponentially more energy.
Guess what else takes emotional energy? That’s right. Creativity.
Am I the only Creative to sometimes feel like the “Real Me” is getting sucked down the swirling drain of social media popularity contests and the unspoken pressure to “build a platform,” “connect with your audience,” and create picture-perfect Instagram posts?
Somehow whether the words written (or art created) becomes less about the message or workmanship and more about who knows whom, or how many Twitter followers they have. And that makes me sad.
Shouldn’t we care more about crafting the story we were given by God than crafting the wittiest one-liner Tweet?
I’m not hating on social media, by the way. I actually love blogging (obviously) and have a rather love-hate relationship with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. They can be effective ways to connect with other people who share your passions and interests.
But in such an overwhelming flood of voices clamoring for attention (since attention means followers and followers means sales and sales means food on the table), it can be so easy to lose our voice in the crowd.
And that would be the real loss. Not the loss of social media followers or fans, but the loss of my authentic voice.
After all, God gave me that voice. Not anyone else’s voice. He didn’t make me funny or witty or quippy. He didn’t give me an out-going personality that attracts followers like wasps to a peanut-butter-honey sandwich.
He made me a nature-loving paradox who loves my people and is happy to be a Creative hermit for days on end. He made me quiet and thoughtful and filled my head with deep and at times angsty thoughts about life and culture and creativity and how to keep loving God and seeing the beautiful in the hard days.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” And in perhaps no other field is that more true than the sphere of the Creative businessperson.
If I focus on what other people are doing – their fan clubs and follower bases and Share counts and street teams – I’ll just get discouraged and wonder what’s wrong with me. Why am I not more like them? How do they get everyone to love them? Why didn’t I take up something less painful – like acupuncture – instead? (Yes. I hate needles.)
But if I focus on who I really am, who God made me to be, then I once again feel the safety I need to be Creative. To experiment and play and try new things. Interestingly enough, this also gives me the confidence to connect with others and share what I’ve been given to say – without worrying who’s Retweeting me.
How have you coped with the “popularity contest” mentality? Tips for overcoming and keeping your authentic voice? Go!
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