One of my former clients, a comedian, once told me about the dilemma he was forming into a show. He said “if you tell a joke in a forest, is it funny.” I thought, of course not, if you tell it and nobody can hear it, find it humorous, of course it isn’t funny.
I was reflecting back on my past year or so of life when I began to realize more and more how much I like attention. I was shamed for it at the very young age when I convinced myself that becoming a doctor or doing something worthy is better than being famous. I didn’t suffer from wanting fame, my mother was fairly known while I was growing up and she raised me alone so I had a chance to meet many artists, musicians, actors and politicians then. In fact, being VIP was the way things were, I didn’t have to worry about my fake ambivalence to fame.
When I moved to NY after my high school, I slowly began to understand what being a nobody was like. In some ways, it protected me; I didn’t have to live up to the standards imposed by the people I knew. I had total freedom to be myself and also, to define what that was going to be. Luckily, not being able to travel frequently to my home country allowed me to create myself over and over again. On another hand, it began to feel slightly weird to always have to think about getting tickets for something in advance, to not be just “let in,” to have to know I can pay for everything I spend, to find my own way and spend my money where my mouth is.
I slowly began to desire to be seen for who I thought I was – worthy of attention and VIP treatment. However, my pattern of pretending that I didn’t really want that was still going strong. In fact, even during the transformational leadership course, when I got to be the first one to breakthrough and qualify as a leader, I spent time helping other people get qualified instead of mastering my game of leading. My game was leading, no question about that, but it took me suffering for months to recognize and fully own it.
It seemed to me that wanting to be seen was just not a cool thing to admit. I even read a Huffington post article a few weeks ago written by a psychologist who was defining narcissism. I was shocked to see that I was nowhere near being one regardless of my Facebook and Instagram activity that I sometimes worry about would make me seem lame. But the actual change happened in one of the courses for women that I took over a year ago.
As other women were owning their desire to be seen, taking attention when they could, occupying the space, I began to feel the grudge inside. I was hating them, hating their power, wanting so badly to diminish it so that someone, out there, would see me instead. It seemed so clearly to me that for as long as they shined, nobody could ever see my light. I felt deep pain, I was miserable. I kept thinking how much I have to offer, how deeply I wanted to contribute to people, how much I am wanting to write, to create art and know that what I do makes at least one other person happy. I was looking for validation outside of me, and, it didn’t work.
So, after crying to my husband, who is also a coach, and to a couple of my closest friends who I thought knew me deeply, I realized, my hate came from envy, but my envy came from pain, the pain that I felt so deeply as a new mom, as a double mom in fact, for missing out on life, for not living it fully, for not sharing all that I truly wanted to share.
Don’t get me wrong, I had to get over the: “who am I to do this?” and “I am not good enough” and “people will laugh” and “I don’t want to be hurt!” But the truth is, I was already hurting, deeply, from letting my talents and passions go to waste, for killing possibilities before they could ever be realized.
Finally, this is what I learned, “is the joke funny if you tell it in a forest?” Well, that depends on who is telling a joke and why they are telling a joke. Being heard cannot be a guiding light, it is only a bonus. Finding the light, humor and passion inside and then doing the work, that is the game. So if you do tell a joke in a forest, and you enjoy it, you find it funny, I would say: it is funny.
It is not wrong to want to be seen, recognized and even famous. I just think that being driven by that desire alone is not a mighty cause. But I do think that people have a lot more to offer than they are offering. At the end, I don’t write because I want everyone to read it, although I appreciate every single person that does so. I am writing because I don’t want what I have to say to die with me in a case it will matter to someone who may read it.