You’re an inspiration.
You’ve probably heard this phrase a million times before, or at least a variation of it. There are days that you want to publicly declare that you’re not a role model, or maybe you already have. Perhaps it has come to a point where you feel like a fraud, doing one thing in front of hundred, if not thousands of people, and then be a completely different person behind closed doors. If you could, you would spend a few extra minutes explaining that you career or calling is not always the feel good, glamorous badassery that the media makes it out to be. You miss your family, and have probably missed out on some important moments. Maybe your body aches, and you feel like you’ve aged ten times faster than anyone who doesn’t do what you do.
Perhaps you don’t believe that you’ve done anything worth being praised for. You were just a kid with a dream who was bound and determined to make it happen. You had a story to tell, and one of the few reasons you’ve gotten to where you are is because you were brave enough to be yourself and tell the truth. Chances are, you wouldn’t be where you are if things had gone a little differently, or if you had gone in a slightly different direction. It’s amazing how even the small choices shape us, how in the moment they don’t seem very significant, but eventually come together for a much greater purpose than we can envision at that time.
Regardless of where you’re at, it doesn’t change the fact that you’ve grown tired of feeling like you have to live for everyone else. It’s all about good PR and making sure that you maintain a positive image. Or at least a cool image. And all you really want is just to be you again. Not the superstar or celebrity. Not the poster person for the cause you’re advocating for. Just you.
Expectations should be realistic on both sides, because at the end of the day you’re a human being and imperfect as the rest of us. But telling anyone to think a certain way doesn’t mean that they will; just as you can’t always control who sees you, can’t always control how they see you. Hero worship is most certainly dangerous, but when you’re a little kid or only know somebody through a specific lens, it’s tough to just shut that off.
So what then? How do you honor your fans, your audience, while staying true to yourself?
It’s simple, really: don’t take anything for granted.
When you can appreciate the fact that you’ve been given a gift, and therefore have had opportunities that others would literally sacrifice their livelihood for, everything else falls into place. You don’t have to try to be “good” or “squeaky clean” in order to make healthy choices. It’s fun to indulge in the finer things every once in a while, but excessive substance use or racking up conquests will only satisfy up to a certain point. While it’s true that you only live once, a single poor decision can shatter what you’ve spent your whole life working for.
No, you don’t necessarily owe the public anything, but remember that you didn’t get where you are today by your own sheer willpower. Whether it was your parents, coaches, mentors, teammates, peers, or co-workers, somebody played a role in your success. At the very least, you owe it to them to be the best you can be, and learn from your mistakes when you make them. You’re not above the rest of the world just because you get a bigger paycheck and a lot more attention.
When all of this is said and done, what do you want to be remembered for?
You always have a choice between acting like you’re invincible and living like you understand that you're not. The difference is in consequences.
Whether they know you personally or not, there are many who are rooting for you, praying for you, and ultimately want you to do well. Either you can complain about the pressure, or you can remember what really matters and put your energy toward that.
To start off with, the next time someone approaches you and tells you how much you mean to them, just smile and say, “thank you.” Leave it at that.
It’s enough, and so are you.