Most of my clients are reticent to take action that will run the risk of compromising their strong value(s) of connection. I get it. Fully and completely. So when they feel called forth to step into their starring roles, they tend to look at a belief that when they start to gain a bigger audience -- a wider platform or generally become more successful (in whatever metrics that support their vision) -- their time will be strained, they’ll be required to be less accessible and they’ll become more disconnected. This can be an unsettling place to look. Because their fear isn’t JUST about losing connection with others (which is more than weighty enough, thank you very much.) It’s also about what happens when people disconnect from us. Take the following narrative, played out on the cover of any tabloid, at any time, in any grocery store.
A Hollywood starlet begins her ascent as her talents are noticed and appreciated. Then she starts to become revered. Maybe even adored. Possibly worshipped. And then, something begins to shift. The tides turn and she becomes the target of mean-spirited gossips. Fat-shaming. Lies and scandal. The bigger the star, the more vitriolic the attacks. Mean sells, after all.
The message is clear. The greater the heights, the more popular you become, the greater the risk of being cut down to size.
In the blink of an eye, you can go from revered to reviled.
From worshiped to condemned.
And the fulcrum point between canonization and demonization may well be disconnection.
Who wants that? It’s not just the fate of Hollywood stars, though, is it? Academics, entrepreneurs, blog stars, artists…we see it all the time. Pushed off of the stage that they have earned, or shoved off of the pedestals onto which they were forced. They become too popular and then they are attacked by the critics who fling their assaults from the safety of anonymity. For their weight. For going mainstream. For not staying in a box. For evolving. For celebrating. Like Brené Brown shares with Oprah about her experience with reading the comments about her transformative TED talk (on VULNERABILITY, no less)::
People were saying things like "Less research, more Botox" and "Maybe you'll be 'worthy' in 20 pounds." And they all were anonymous, which is such—well, crapola! I'm not going to cuss, but it's chicken. So one day I sent my husband, Steve, to work, I sent my kids to school, and I sat on the couch in my pajamas and watched ten hours of Downton Abbey. I ate some peanut butter. I was like, This is not worth it, man. I'm not doing this anymore. I didn't want to go back to my world, where all that hurt was. So instead I started googling to find out what was happening in the United States during the Downton Abbey period. That's when I found the Theodore Roosevelt quote. He said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs.... [And] if he fails, at least fails while Daring Greatly." In that moment, my life changed. You know when you hear something and you're just ready?
Yes. Yes I do. (You too?) (BTW:: Alexandra Franzen has done the most magnificent job of smacking down hate-blogging cyber-bullies.)
But you and I, we’re NOT those anonymous insult-slingers…how does this relate to us?
Well, if you’ve read this post, you may have seen yourself where you disconnect from those you admired. Part of the reason this happens is due to the fact that we may have projected our desires onto them. We see someone doing something that we admire we may feel an affinity towards them, possibly because they are so relatable. And they model something that we deeply want. Mastery, excellence, authority, or talent. And we may feel a gap from where we are to where they are. A gap that wants to be filled by connection and proximity. But when that’s not available to us, we try to fill the gap with projections. Beliefs about that person. Stories. “What would ______ do?” can be a powerful question to hotlink you to the value that the person represents for you, but it’s not TRUTH. It’s still story. And it’s not connection. It’s projection. Which is the genesis of disconnection. The very antithesis of what we were trying to achieve in the first place. Because somewhere along the line, we start to believe that story. And rest assured that said story won’t align with the subject of our admiration’s actions. So, the bloom falls off of the rose. What happens next depends on the cast of characters involved.
So if we see tabloids doing it to stars, and we see ourselves doing it, then it stands to reason that we can expect our people to disconnect from us too, non?
Ah. Connecting the dots between how we can perceive and treat others and how we expect we’ll be perceived and treated is the objective here. Once we can see that clearly, then we are free to see and heal the fears we have about stepping into our own starring roles.