The danger of believing your own press

Fish head - Split, Croatia - Travel photography by Lola Akinmade AKerstrom

Thoughts on how we navigate an industry which operates from a place of scarcity when in fact the sky is big enough for all birds to fly comfortably.

I’m an observer. Most creatives are observers. They watch how the world flows around them. They watch how relationships and alliances are forged and built. How they grow, expand, and retract.

They watch how they themselves or others rise within their fields. They watch the accolades and praise start flooding in. It is natural to applaud and recognize one’s achievements. Humans love to be idolized and elevated by others. After all, you’ve worked hard so you deserve it, regardless of how subjective others may feel the admiration may be.

You’ve finally arrived in your own eyes and then you turn around and look at others coming up the same path. The problem now becomes when your sense of self tangles itself up with your accolades and your achievements. Every comment or piece of advice is filled with some level of snark. After all, others need to know how hard it was for you to get there.

You’re confident in what you do. No one needs to really question your skills at this stage because, like you always say, you’re confident and you’ve got the backers and audience to prove it.

This is where the danger of believing your own press starts to creep in because you see, confidence…true confidence in yourself…doesn’t always feel the need to seek out affirmation from others.

As natural beings, we of course love and thrive on adulation. We grow closer to those who constantly “like” us in every sense of the word – both on social media and in life. We draw assumptions about others that aren’t necessarily always throwing pom-poms in a glorious chant whenever we post or write something. We start mentally forming enemies out of nothing. Subconsciously reading undue meanings into whatever someone says, always trying to fish for snide remarks that aren’t there and in turn, matching them with snark.

We let ego reign and rule our lives because we fully believe our own press.

To combat unnecessary ego that can creep in when we look at our accomplishments and start comparing peg markers with others, we need grounding forces in our lives. Grounding forces like faith and belief systems that pull us out of our self-involvement and put us in context within something much greater than ourselves or even family and friends who point out those flaws and areas for improvements when everyone else seems to be praising you.

I love catching up with good friends of mine who are also writers because we can commiserate. Though we’re paddling different boats along different trajectories, we’re still navigating and bobbing atop the same raging sea. So we share the same frustrations. I rarely vent and rarely take rejections personally but I shared one particular frustration about freelancing with a friend where it feels like you’re chasing people who won’t even acknowledge you met in person, while they willfully chase others.

And then I quickly put that little voice in check.

The danger of believing your own press is that when people reject you, it’s often taken personally instead of parsing out and understanding that the rejection often has absolutely nothing to do with you. When people ask you questions or challenge what you believe, your natural defensive “I’m an expert on this!” bubbles up to the surface.

Ego steps in. How dare they? Can’t they see “my” track record?

It’s the same reason we cry foul that we aren’t on some irrelevant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things  “Top 50” list for various reasons. But when we see ourselves included on those lists, then everything is okay regardless of the original cause we were championing in the first place.

We’re constantly seeking validation from others. Always comparing ourselves to others. Always wondering why good things seem to happen to them when we’re working twice as hard without ever knowing their full stories. It is human nature to feel all these things but handling them is how we can measure our spiritual and mental maturity as individuals. There’s always a higher version of yourself you can aspire to and it has nothing to do with your skills and talents.

While I understand how important Facebook is for connecting, networking, and building relationships and definitely won’t be closing my account any time soon, I also admire people who aren’t on Facebook for these very reasons.

Why not aspire to be that better version of yourself and be your own competition? Why not let those grounding forces within your life play an even bigger role?

Sure, networking within your field and hanging with “key influencers” can be important in getting you further along your own path, but try not to lose yourself even before true fame has reached your door.

And what is “fame” anyways but this arbitrary feeling that pigeonholes you into that big fish playing in a small pond mentality. Why not aim to move to an even bigger pond where you can find even bigger fish that inspire you and still give you space to swim around and be your own fish?

When talking about confidence, I always share this statement with people: Self-confidence and a true sense of self comes when you can comfortably share space with others without feeling the need to suck up air and draw attention away from them.

For me as an observer, this is what I observe in others and in myself.  Verbally proclaiming confidence tells me absolutely nothing and doesn’t make me bring out those pom-poms in joyful cheer either.

I observe how – you, I, we – share digital and physical space with others. Regardless of your press.