Don’t expect appreciation and recognition from others. Celebrate yourself!
A young friend is exasperated that no one reads her poems. To be sure she writes very well. There is clearly evidence of a genius at work when she expresses herself through verse. But her beautifully designed and presented blog hardly attracts any traffic. She is upset because she thinks people don’t like her work. She reached out to me to see if I had a perspective to offer on her ‘predicament’. I explained to her that you cannot and must not live your Life for social approbation. What is important is that you are doing what you love doing. In her case it is writing poetry. That’s all that matters. If you start living your Life for social acclaim and applause, you will lead a very incomplete Life. Because someone, somewhere is never going to like or support what you do. On the other hand, if you do what you love doing, you will end up being truly happy – irrespective of whether others appreciate or recognize your work or not!
I curate a popular Event Series called The Bliss Catchers in Chennai. It is a live monthly conversation that celebrates all those who have had the courage to go do what they love doing. In the April 2016 edition of the Series we had a guest, Sridar Natarajan, the Dean of the Chennai Business School, who is also a music composer. In November 2015, he launched his own music album, ‘Reminiscence’, which is a throwback to the melodious music of the 1980s. Someone in the audience asked Sridar if it bothered him that not many people will know of him and his music. And Sridar replied, non-plussed, “Oh! Not at all!! I love the music I create!” I believe everyone must imbibe Sridar’s spirit. Do whatever you do for your inner joy. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it!
But these are times when people are driven by social media pressure. The number of likes and followers someone has on social media seems to have become the benchmark for whether or not someone is worthy of recognition. The quality of one’s work is no longer the only criteria. So, you need not just be immensely talented, you also need to have a followership on social media. Now, it is also true that social media does not necessarily celebrate talent or world-class quality. So, chances are that even if you have something brilliant to offer the world, you may still not get anyone to follow you, because the followers are all grazing in mediocre pastures. So, how does anyone break free from the tyranny of this social media pressure? Very simply, you stop looking for recognition or reward. Love what you do, love yourself and celebrate yourself.
In Anu Menon’s recently-released, beautiful film Waiting, Naseeruddin Shah asks Kalki Koechlin what Twitter is. And when she explains that it is a ‘notice board where people can share their feelings and their work, and others can follow them, like them, converse with them, critique them and criticize (troll) them’, Shah asks her: “What is the point?” The audience laughs heartily, soaking in perhaps the futility of the entire social media charade. To the lay viewer though it may just appear that the question concerns the pointlessness of Twitter, the platform. But, to me, Shah’s comment was also about the pointlessness of seeking engagement, acclaim and approval from others.
Indeed we are all social animals. No doubt about that. But if we live forever pining for recognition from people who have neither the time nor the inclination to understand us or what we do, we are wasting our precious lifetime. So, the only person who needs to love what you are doing is you. Live your Life this way and see how happily you live!