Almost invariably, the answer seems to be that, after an initial step or two, these gifted individuals somehow seem capable of putting the audience out of their mind and treat their current performance as if they were simply undertaking their routine for the umpteenth thousandth time alone somewhere in the gym.
I will tell you that, as a Pastor and a public speaker, I learned long ago to remember that seeking the approval of a fickle crowd can be a futile undertaking. One’s biggest fan this week can often be one’s biggest critic next week.
That being said, I was reminded in all of this of a piece I had come across recently by Jesse Rice. Jesse is a gifted communicator whose website (which is located at https://churchoffacebook.wordpress.com and which I highly recommend), describes as “a writer, speaker, and musician, who lives in Seattle-ish, Washington, with his amazing wife, Katie, his fresh-out-of-the-oven son, Ryder, and his Yellow Lab puppy, Boone”.
The article I refer to is titled “Dear Fear-Of-What-Others-Think…”: An Open Letter To My Imaginary Audience. This blog post, dated 11/23/2011, speaks powerfully to this business of overcoming the fears that can so readily cripple or otherwise impair us.
In it, he writes:
I am sick of you and it’s time we broke up. I know we’ve broken up and gotten back together about a bazillion times, but seriously, Fear-Of-What-Others-Think (or FOWOT, for short), this is it. We’re breaking up.
Because I’m tired of over-thinking my status updates on Facebook, trying to sound more clever, funny, important. And I’m tired of wondering which Tweets might drive the most traffic to my blog, as though my value as a human being were truly numerical.
I’m tired of wondering which picture to post online so that my in-danger-of-over-expanding gut doesn’t hang out too much and cause others to think I’m a normal late 30-something male, God forbid. Or that I vacation not in Hawaii or Paris or rural Vietnam, but in central Oregon, if I can afford to go on vacation at all.
I’m sick of feeling anxious about what I say or do in public, especially around people I don’t know that well, all in the hope that they’ll like me, accept me, praise me. Those who already like me, accept me, and even praise me; those are the ones I’m constantly trying to keep happy. I run around all day feeling like a freaking Golden Retriever with a full bladder. Like me! Like me! Like me!
And I’m SO tired of feeling bad about myself all the time. Bad about how I look. Bad about my job. Bad about my net worth (which is currently quite RED in color). Bad about my 12-year-old car and my one-fashion-season-behind clothes. Bad about my prospects for wealth and fame and Nobel Prize-winning ideas. Bad about my community, or lack thereof.
Because of you, I go through my day with a cloud of shame hanging over my head, blocking the sun, keeping my throat sore and my nose consistently runny and my eyes all squinty like a newborn. And I HATE that.
Because when I’m afraid of what others think, I never stop acting. The spotlight’s always on and I’m center stage and I’d better keep dancing, posturing, mugging, or else the spotlight will move and I’ll dissolve into a little meaningless puddle on the ground, just like that witch in The Wizard of Oz. I can never live up to the expectations of my imaginary audience, the one that lives only in my head but whose collective voice is louder than any other voice in the universe.
And since I know I’m acting and since I know the spotlight’s always moving and since I know that in the bigger picture none of this matters a rat’s patootie, I’m never content to simply be myself.
And all of this is especially horrible, terrible, evil because if I really stop and think about it, and let things go quiet and listen patiently for the voice of the God who made me and delights in me, it turns out I’m actually – profoundly – precious, lovable, worthy, valuable, and even just a little ghetto-fabulous.
When I listen to that voice then your voice starts to sound ridiculous again. You turn back into the tiny, whining little wiener dog that you are.
So eat it, Fear-Of-What-Others-Think. You and I are done. And no, I’m not interested in “talking it through.” I’m running, jumping, laughing you out of my life, once and for all. Or at least, that’s what I really, really want, God help me.
All I can say is, “You go, bro!” For at the end of the day, it really does not matter so much what others think of us. It only matters what the One Who created us and Who redeemed us thinks of us. Simply put: we play to an audience of One every moment of our lives! May He, and He alone, be pleased with our efforts!