Early last week, I wrote a blog post about authenticity as part of my BASIC NEEDS series, only to have gotten a very negative review almost immediately afterwards. I took a whole different approach to writing it vs. the other posts of my series thus far on BASIC NEEDS. I was looking forward to writing about authenticity when the Academy Awards came along; the contrast caught my attention. What better challenge than to try to apply the topic of authenticity at the very place where fake gold, fool’s gold, and perhaps too much gold altogether abound?
I didn’t necessarily plan on watching the Oscars. I don’t follow the award shows of the entertainment industry. Honestly, this past week, I had to re-remind myself that the “Academy Awards” and “The Oscars” were synonymous. Most of the time, I find the drama of the Hollywood elite very ho-hum, but every couple of years I watch ceremonies like the Oscars to catch up on who’s who.
Watching the awards, I didn’t expect too many of, but hoped for, the moments I most enjoy–the ones when the recipient wells up in waterworks and directs the flood of joy at their loved ones down in the audience or to someone/something that lives high above the clouds. But there was plenty of that this year at the awards, especially amongst the lesser known (to me, anyway) folks who dedicated their lives to some less glamorous aspect of making films. I was touched by their emotion and mindful of what a wonderful thing it is to do the work that you love. Not expecting it, I found myself writing a post about HOW MUCH authenticity there is in Hollywood.
The writing was fun and easy. I quickly wrapped up my posting with a “do what you love and don’t let anyone or anything hold you back” message. And shortly after, it triggered an inflamed rant from someone who expressed genuine disdain for my message–my opinion based on what was on my mind in that particular moment within the context of what I was writing about. More than that, the ranter went a step further to suggest how selfish and self-absorbed I am (and/or people LIKE ME) to have that opinion. It was the “no matter what” aspect of my opinion that apparently struck a sour chord and led to a whole ton of suggestion that I was promoting people doing what they love even if at someone else’s expense. Afterwards, they presented a litany of attributes that “good people” have that speak to levels of honor and integrity that apparently I and the folks I “support” in Hollywood don’t (and that the ranter apparently does). It was so opposite the innocent thoughts I had at the time of writing that I couldn’t even begin to address how far off the ranter was from my intended message. It wasn’t so much the ranter’s better-than-you stance that struck me, as it was the slinging of mud that meant to hurt and did.
Generally speaking, I am NOT an opinionated person, as in pushing my opinions on others. I am not that kind of a person because I know something about myself: I am not thick-skinned. There, I’ve said it. I am not thick-skinned nor have I ever been.
I am a physically and mentally strong person, but thick-skinned? No. Will I ever be an opinion columnist? Heck, no! I don’t have the stomach for it. I am far too sensitive. I’ve worked my whole life to be less sensitive, but there aren’t enough therapist hours in the day to strip it from me. These days I simply try to embrace it.
So, I learned something this week. I was reminded of why I’m not inherently opinionated. It’s simply not in my nature to be so. I prefer to be open-minded and am highly likely to be won over by a well-presented contradictory point of view. Also, I find it very hard to make a blanket statement about anything because on any topic I’m likely to want to talk for hours about the myriad ways to view that statement than to simply say it is so. I don’t often express my opinion because I always feel compelled to have to qualify all the nuances that led me to that opinion in that moment or risk being misunderstood, and who has time for that? But the absence of qualifiers can sometimes send readers on an attack. We see it all the time across the internet–people not just giving counter points of view but attacking others with angry, inflamed responses.
The fact is I can put myself in anybody’s shoes–even the ones who hurt me. I know there are reasons and experiences behind their words that I’m not aware of, and that makes it difficult for me to judge them–even when they are lashing out. When someone lashes out at others, the issue is not usually about the one(s) being targeted but about something of issue within the one who is lashing out.
Watching the Oscars this week reminded me about authenticity, about how important it is to know yourself and to do that which brings out the best in you. I gained a bit more clarity on that this week–about myself and about the kind of writing I should focus my attention on. I think it’s important to listen to ourselves and pay attention to what[/who] heals us and what[/who] hurts us. I’d love to say more about that–perhaps in another post.
When I wrote that post last week, I most enjoyed the writing. I enjoyed piecing together the “gold” metaphors to pull a little idea together. I enjoyed making the paragraphs flow from one to another. I enjoyed not knowing where my thoughts were going on the topic and then discovering it in the end just as you, the reader might have when YOU got to the end. I simply enjoy writing. I’ve only in recent years realized the joy there is in writing. It is perhaps the most authentic thing I’ve done in my life so far.
But being blasted by someone as a result creates a dilemma because what I share is always only a tiny part of me–a small part of my bigger life story that only I know–and the lack of details leads to judgment. Yes, sharing my thoughts makes me vulnerable, but I share because I care about my readers.
Consider this: actors who are sensitive are often the best at bringing out emotion from their viewing audience; they are capable of putting themselves fully in others’ shoes when playing a part. It’s a gift and a curse, because these actors are also often highly sensitive to criticism and can react in any number of productive and unproductive ways–either by rising above or by seeking escape with odd behavior, substance abuse, or suicide. Some get so absorbed in a part that they become that character (or all their characters) and lose themselves in the process.
And on the flip side . . .
I’m not saying that Hollywood is filled with an endless source of role models or heroes of the day; the town probably has its fair distribution of admirable and not-so-admirable folks, as any other sampling of society does. What I am saying is that they are human, just like you or I. At times, we are all actors, playing parts and putting on masks. Sometimes, the angry mask to warn others to not get too close to the vulnerable parts inside. Sometimes, the stoic, unaffected mask when inside you feel misplaced or entirely misunderstood. Sometimes, the happy mask when inside you are crying. Sometimes, the psycho mask when inside all you want is some attention. Sometimes, the male mask when inside you wish you were female and vice versa. Sometimes, the hateful mask when inside you have been harmed by others and are full of pain.
Personally, I won’t let the opinion of one person stop me doing what I love to do. I will stand tall and say that I don’t think it is a crime to pursue what you love, to surround yourself with people who are supportive of you and what you do, and to be as authentic as you can possibly be. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. This is who I am.
Stay tuned for more postings in my BASIC NEEDS Series and feel free to visit any of the past postings through the links below:
This was the first post that started off the series:
The following postings further explored the topic: