Many, many generations ago, when man existed as wanderers across the land, and hunted in packs, societal acceptance was an absolute prerequisite to survival. Our very life depended on the acceptance of the group, and so we acted accordingly to ensure that we would remain part of that group, and be granted the benefits of the pack. We received food, shelter, safety, and mating opportunities as a result of this acceptance.
There is a distinct evolutionary advantage to being liked by your peers, and a biological leg up to those who were capable of facilitating this. Those outside the norm were more likely to be outcasts and less likely to pass on their genes resulting in a Darwinian urge for the human race to seek peer approval. This has served us well as we have exchanged caves for houses, fire for electric, and brute force with cunning invention. This desire for acceptance is a direct source of the jobs we earn, the relationships we cultivate, and the friendships we enjoy. But, as with just about anything, excess breeds folly.
We have gone past the point of this being a desired evolutionary trait as the need for social acceptance has become a direct hindrance on our lives. We are all artists, and our canvases are the minds of others. The vast majority of our actions are performed in an attempt to paint a favorable picture of ourselves in the minds of others. From what we wear to the way we groom ourselves, what we drive, the way we design our house, and the avatar we create on social media, so much of what we do is done to sway the masses.
This is a source of great suffering for many because ultimately you do not have final cut in the editing room of others’ minds. They will decide how they feel about you, and due to past experiences and the particular chemicals coursing through their veins, biology and history will be the greatest determinants in their emotional response toward you.
Likening ourselves to artists in this regard, we must remember one major concept of being an artist:
Art is more so the artist getting out of the way and letting the art happen. Letting “it” happen.
The more an artist tries to force his craft the worse it gets. The same holds true for the picture we paint in the minds of others. Beloved comedian Jim Carrey gave an incredibly insightful commencement address at the Maharishi University of Management in which he stated, “Your need for acceptance will make you invisible in this world.” I meditated on the beautiful irony of this for days. The more you try to be seen the less you actually are. Using our analogy, the more effort you put into painting that image in someone else’s mind, the worse it becomes.
The universally loved never try to pursue that reaction from others. They simply act according to their nature and their best selves come forth, and we love them for that. Mother Teresa didn’t serve the world because the world would love her. We knew this, and as a result, loved her all the more. Genuine artists act in a genuine way while evoking a genuine response from their audience. Odds are anyone you have admired for the person they were did not have your admiration as the driving force of their actions. They did not pursue that response, but rather it ensued from the way in which they lived their lives.
This desire to paint this picture is the greatest source of loneliness we experience. Deep down when you get in touch with who you really are and you experience that love, and you have a deep, intimate relationship with your creator (or whatever you want to call it), there is no place for loneliness.
Once we get in touch with who we truly are, and we see the oneness of all things, our artist puts down the brush.
We are content to be exactly what we are regardless of whether or not others can see it. This is the turning point where the true painting begins. All great art is a form of inspiration rather than obligation. Once we let go and simply be, our greatest works are created.