I read something a singer/songwriter wrote about staying true to herself by writing the songs that expressed her heart rather than just writing songs she knew would be hits.
A contemporary rumination for me, the idea of selling out, or not, along with all the ways selling out manifests itself.
Defining the word sellout would be something like abandoning your authentic self expression for a false behavior in exchange for a commodity from others, such as kudos, adulation, fame, money, whatever.
Bob Dylan was accused of selling out when he wore a leather jacket. He just liked it, that's all. Disenchanted fans labeled it his 'sellout jacket.' This is the man who repeatedly 'went electric' to the boos and jeers of audiences everywhere, staying true to his creative desires despite harsh criticism and the rude behavior of others.
He's not a sellout.
But a lot of us are.
It's easy to leave our original intention whatever form it may take (writing, music, speaking, etc.) crossing over into pleasing the masses to attain personal praise in its many forms. The loss of authentic self expression is a tragedy, most especially when it's replaced with something common.
What is it about praise from others that is so tantalizing? Why is it that we will alter ourselves, our intentions, behavior, lives for praise? Is it because we need validation? Is it because we deathly fear praise's opposite, rejection, which can be so demoralizing? I wonder.
We start out with a sort of gift or talent, we try our hand at it, we get a little feedback that maybe we are okay at this, and then we have a little success,. Before we know it, we find ourselves compromising. Changing our attitude - maybe puffing up - changing our behavior to please more people, for more praise, and why? Again, why? Why do we lay our validation in the hands of others, when in actuality, our validation comes from God, comes from within ourselves. Each of us is a complete entity, the one and only, truly known by our choices not by what others have to say about us.
I had an sobering experience a few years ago, and I'm so glad I did because it was a revelation. I was speaking before a large group of people. I was on a roll, had the crowd roaring with laughter, then nodding in thoughtfulness. It was all off the cuff, spontaneous, one of those right place, right time sort of occurrences. After wrapping it up, I exited the room with applause ringing loudly from all around the auditorium. Wow! Elation. Later, in the lobby, I was surrounded by a mass of strangers wanting my e-mail address, wanting to shake my hand and hug me, telling me how I'd helped/touched/inspired them, pushing to be near me, praising me. I heard people talking to one another about ME, and wasn't I funny and wasn't I great, and "Oh look! There she is!" It was surreal.
"They love me! They accept me. I could get used to this!" Sweet validation.
But when I got home I quickly assessed the situation. I could pursue this avenue, but it felt too heady. It wasn't an aspiration of mine, but the rush was fantastic. No, this was going to be a one time thing. I actually recognized the line between my own self and that false self that I could so easily become - for the attention. The 'fame' had been thrust upon me too quickly and I had a bad reaction to it! Thank God for the eyes to see what was going on, and fast.
It soon dawned on me that to sell myself out for the attention of others would be the rejection of my true self. Self-rejection! What emptiness! Better to remain anonymous and authentic than to sellout for something I can give myself anytime, anyplace.
And I'm not talking about a leather jacket.