I'm Suspicious Of Anyone Who Idolizes Me, And You Should Be, Too.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Rain DeGrey wrote an awesome post  over on FetLife called Take It Down A Notch, Rock Star, about how community leaders need to not accept the adulation given them. She talks about how it’s bad for the community; I’m gonna talk about how it’s bad for you, buying into your own hype.
Read fast. I’ve got five minutes to write this before my therapist arrives.
The thing you need to realize about people loving your shit hard enough to follow you about is that in many cases they don’t love you, they love the idea of you. They want a world where someone has it all perfectly goddamned together, where mastery of a technique or wisdom in an area spreads out to touch all other areas of life. They make you perfect because they want to be perfect some day, and if they can put you on a sufficiently high pedestal, then they can believe that some day they too will never make mistakes.
You made perfect art == therefore you must be perfect == therefore, I will one day shed this annoyingly inconsistent life.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s an honor to have someone love your stuff. There’s a core of you-ness at the center of it that they genuinely resonated with, and you did the hard work of transforming that you-ness from an internal to an external state. I demonstrate my being with words; others do it with rope, or guitars, or video productions, or what-have-you, and learning to translate your inner thoughts into a form that others can appreciate takes time and effort that should be appreciated.  What you did was awesome, and many of the folks who stick around to see what you’re doing next are doing so simply, and rationally, because you make good stuff and they are eager to see your next…stuff.
So I am not, repeat not, saying that nobody should compliment you or like you or want to follow you. But I am saying that this compliment often inflates into a “She’s so good at rope, she must be perfect at playing in the dungeon, she must never hurt anyone,” and that chain of logic inevitably meets a messy end somewhere.
I’m really, really good at not accepting adulation. And I think that’s saved me from some pretty horrendous fates at times in my life. It’s a toxic drug, because you want to believe that life has quick-fixes where you’ll never have to feel lost or stupid or uncertain again, and here’s someone telling you that you know the answers.
When you know the answers, you stop asking questions. And it’s the questions you don’t ask that fuck you up the most.
Buying into your own hype stops your development as a person. And I think if you’re lucky enough to get any kind of fame, even a small one like “Having a C-list blog” fame, you need to learn how to shake off the idea that this means anything beyond the fact that you connected with someone, and that’s awesome.
Doesn’t mean you’re skilled in other areas beyond communication: some of the greatest writers were completely dysfunctional in their real lives.
Doesn’t mean you’re incapable of making mistakes: some of the best magicians still fuck up.
Doesn’t mean you’re a nice person: God hands out talent with one hand and kindness in the other, and you’d do well to remember that.
It means you succeeded as an artist. That’s wonderful. That’s killer. And if someone tries to bring more to your table, your best bet is to push it away with a pleasant “No thank you” and return to the hard and confusing and often completely dissatisfying work of improving your life.
And if you’ll excuse me, my therapist has arrived. Time to improve mine.

2 Comments

  1. Skennedy
    Sep 25, 2013

    So how do you tell the difference between someone adoring you because of assumed perfection, and someone who adores you for what they know of you?
    And moreso, how do you know when someone already perceives you as a flawed individual, but loves you anyway?
    I guess the answer might be, does it matter?
    I know far more people who have a very hard time accepting that other people think well of them than that have a hard time remembering that they are flawed human beings.
    All of that said, I once dated a woman who was pathologically afraid of confrontation, and it was agreed universally that this was … pretty bad for me. My best friend liked me much more after she and I broke up, because without someone propping up everything I ever did, I was more realistic about my own successes and failures. So there’s that.

  2. Alexandra Lynch
    Oct 18, 2013

    …and then you get people using various really bad coping mechanisms because they can’t stand the weight of the glamour their fans have thrown on them, and they don’t know how to get out from under. Yep.

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