For a part of my life I mistaken popularity with success. Luckily, it wasn’t a big part, just a few years, but enough to understand some things about how people perceive other people. And why I was making a mistake by believing that popularity can have any advantage at all.
People think of other people in terms of utility. It’s just a basic survival skill. It’s interwoven deep down in our unconscious mind, in the limbic brain in which we have to identify, very early on, if the other person is an enemy or a friend. Any other attitude, like friendship, or intimacy, is built after we decided what utility the other person may have for us.
So, when you’re moderately popular, you become useful. Other people look up to you not as a human being, with emotions and needs and goals, and ups and downs. They look up to you as someone to associate with, to milk your image for their own benefit. On top of that, your public persona and your real personality are more often than not very different. Which can only add to the cognitive dissonance you’re experiencing.
It took me a while to break up with this train of thoughts. It took me a while to extract myself from the circles I was moving in before and leave behind the image I already had there. And in this process I learned that very few relationships are still worth maintaining long term.
And the most important one, is, surprisingly, with yourself. Being accountable to yourself first. Listening to yourself first. Accepting who you are, as the first step, and drawing very clear boundaries around yourself, second.
Only from this space, from this point of balance, you can start building something long term. Only after you realized that the public persona didn’t even exist, that it was a figment of imagination that your fans were projecting relentlessly, you can finally start a meaningful conversation with the person looking at you from the other side of the mirror.
It may be not a very spectacular conversation, but it will be authentic.