The good thing about aging for me, is that I’ve finally understood that being ‘liked’ and being ‘accepted’ are two completely different things. But that wasn’t always the case. Not by a long shot.
I too confused the two until I finally had mustered enough personal acceptance and courage to live the life I wanted, as my best self, regardless of whether or not people accepted me.
Over the years, I learned (by trial and a lot of error) to navigate the art of social interaction and the ability to prefect my “likeability.” After all I was a very public figure for a long time and had been a good actor and performer, plus the head of my own marketing firm. So, I was actually hired to refocus (and in many ways) actually change public perception. During my years on daily TV, I used these skills to carefully shape my own on-air persona. As a result, I managed to enjoy a “mass” popularity, which equated to strong ratings.
Yet, for a while, when fame hit like a sludge hammer, I struggled with it. I could not understand how people (fans, press etc.) could make sweeping assumptions about me (good and bad) without actually knowing me personally AT ALL. Exacerbating this was also the new world around me to which, I was plunged into. An entire industry so blurred the lines between being liked and being accepted, that it was virtually impossible to distinguish the two. As a result, I watched so many performers around me, start to believe their own press. They’re whole identity was soon based on their ratings and reviews which, were continually reenforced by their managers, agents and handlers who set a very high financial price tag on likeability and drew no distinction between it and acceptance let alone SELF acceptance.
Luckily, I was the creator and executive producer of my show(s). Therefore, I could more easily control my own narrative. So, soon I realized that being liked, meant that when out in the world as my own brand ambassador, I had to be polite, ingratiating, inclusive, patient and as tolerant as absolutely possible to a very diverse audience. And if (for some reason) I wasn’t, well, boy…did I hear from folks who felt I hadn’t lived up to their presumed expectations. So, when I was out in the world, I know without question, that I could not be my full (dimensional) myself and therefore relieved myself of the drama of being “misunderstood.” In the limited time I had with people, I could only be the “heightened” version of the self I played on TV and I was at peace with that.
If not for this odd fame experience, knowing the difference between being liked and being accepted would have probably eluded me a lot longer in my life. In fact, when I saw reality TV begin to dominate the airwaves, and social media quickly changing the landscape of how we would communicate, I got the hell off national TV ASAP. No matter that I was at the height of my career. I knew the world was about to change. So it was easy to muster the courage to say goodbye. I knew full well, that being as opinionated as I am (and a habitual educator to boot) that I could so easily ruin all the good will I’d worked so hard to establish. The same good will I’d planned to take with me, back into my quiet pedestrian life, intact.
So, in today’s social media age, I take great solace and confirmation in that decision as these same blurry line parallels are in fact, very much the norm now. Increasingly, I see a generational confusion as ‘friends’ and ‘likes’, ‘counts’ and ‘page view’ numbers seem to have a direct baring as to how a new generation regards themselves.
Add to this the insatiable appetite to be ‘famous’ that I see around me amongst the young who have none of the skills nor maturity to actually handle it, and well, I feel justified to share what follows:
Being liked is a skill set.
One can, over time, learn a vocabulary and social style that makes people like having one around. Listen more than you talk. Be kind and fair. Be quick to laugh and stay clear of anything that smacks of your insecurity to be “understood” or trying to recruit other people into your own “your tribe.” No matter what you do, that will never be successful and people will disappoint because and the acceptance you really need is from yourself.
Being accepted is a trap.
If being an “accepted” member of something is all you want, soon you’ll find yourself causing division, splitting hairs, hurt feelings and end up surrounding yourself only with those who agree with you. Soon, without you even knowing it, you yourself will stop growing.
In your need to be “accepted” and search for only those who believe what you do, you automatically cut yourself off to new ideas and possibilities. Instead, you now have assembled a clan that encourages separatism which breads arrogance, ignorance, inflexibility and intolerance. And let me tell you, if you’re not all that crazy about your life at the moment, any chances of it changing into a more positive one you can be proud of…just goes out the window. Buh-bye!
When the s**t hits the fan (which it will) you’ll then have to fight and claw your way back to true freedom of choice, lifechanging spiritual growth, and all the deepest human essentials one needs to be truly happy.
The only person you need to accept, is you! Sounds simple but it’s hard especially in this day and age where privacy often gets eclipsed by a new world who feels entitled to not only know everything but you but are compelled to comment on it as well. Our once glorious ability to be self-contained, has atrophied to the extent where it’s even judged or pitied.
Being truly comfortable in one’s own skin and with oneself, however, is not for the faint of heart. It is a process.
It evolves more “alone time” then people are comfortable with. And by “alone time,” I mean the exclusion of social media too—and especially. We think that being physically alone but scrolling social media 24/7 is alone time. And it’s soooo not. Alone time is space to begin thinking from the heart, not the head; about everything one has learned till now. It’s about taking stock and asking oneself, “Knowing what I know now, what do I really believe…now?
We can’t let go of ideas that trap us until we figure out where they came from in the first place. Only if the origins are still relevant can we decide whether or not to carry them forward.
One has to be brave enough to be alone long enough to transition from the “lonely” stage, to the blissful “alone” place where one not only enjoys their private time…but craves it. When we put a real value on our alone time, it’s far easier to then create the necessary boundaries required to preserve it.
Getting creative is ideal for getting one through this transitional time. In the act of doing something solo-creative, the true heart opens up and what was considered ‘boring, or self-pity time’ is suddenly full of accomplishment and discovery, which is why I’m forever preaching about it and it’s amazing powers! LOL.
If you’re like me, you’ll soon realize that so many of the things you thought you believed in were actually fragments, bits and pieces and only shards of truths that were taught you by people you’ve already evolved past. ---People whose life experience today are quite far from the truth of your own life experience now.
Self-reflection especially without self-recrimination, is hard for many to embrace, since without our beliefs (truth or lies) we feel rudderless. So instead of rethinking what it is that we truly believe now, we hit social media looking for approval of the very things were too scared to let go of. We run everything up the social media flagpole not realizing that we’re inadvertently setting the “acceptance” trap for ourselves without even know it! We begin to curate only the information that we currently agree with, which is dangerous.
I know from many of your recent emails, that COVID has been the first time where imposed isolation has forced a lot of you to hit the ‘pause button’ and begin the inward journey of questioning what real quality of life means to you now. I hope you keep that going and I’ll do my best to give you some fuel to do that here.
What I won’t do, however, is subject myself or you to social media comments on my site. So, in answer to many of you, I intentionally turned off the comment boxes, the viewer counts, the likes and page views for all the reason’s stated above. This is a safe place that I hope will feel empowering to you and free of unasked-for “public commentary.” This was not a decision that came lightly. It meant that I had to forgo potential approval, ego strokes and monetization opportunities, which is in direct opposition to my historic marketing skills. But times have changed. My quality-of-life lays in my ability to stay as drama free as possible so that my true human optimism can lead.
It was once foretold to us that we are to be “in” the world but not “of it”. Considering it was written 3500 years ago, its accuracy is rather astonishing. The weight of the world man creates is not ours to shoulder. The best we can do is be the light in the world that comforts without motive or agenda and encourages personal faith (whatever that individually means to each and every one of us).
PS: You can still write me a private note in the boxes provided and still comment amongst yourselves on Face Book. Just not here.