Circa 1986, I found myself in a recording studio in the Valley, where I witnessed a hugely successful musician unable to let go of his fear of not being good enough. It was Billy Joel, who’d persuaded his idol Ray Charles to do a duet on a song Joel had composed in the style of Charles' hit, "Georgia on My Mind." Take after take, Billy’s neck grew increasingly tight, his pulsing veins refusing to release his vocals. Each time he’d walk out of the booth looking downward with clenched fists and shaking his head like he’d just been slapped across the face. Joel blamed his headphones, the track, the lighting. Finally, he approached Brother Ray like a shy boy. “I don’t know what it is — I’m just trying to think about —" Ray stopped him and chuckled. “Man, don’t think about it. Just do it!”
Haven't we all felt a fool when our admiration of someone caused us to lose touch with ourselves? You see someone you idolize, admire or have a crush on, and suddenly your beating heart overcomes your capacity to think, and you lose yourself to your longing. Your awe turns to nerves and you become so disconnected from yourself that you can’t think straight and wind up saying or doing something stupid or self-effacing -- or even insulting -- to the person you love and want to impress. That’s the problem with worshipping others rather than letting them inspire you to discover yourself.
The Cult of Culture sets us up to doubt ourselves enough to buy soap for places that aren’t dirty and cars that substitute for personal power. We are groomed to follow artists religiously and turn them into our personal gods, in which case we can only be their subjects, or more appropriately, their objects.
It can be terrifying, but if you want to be seen by the person in front of you, you have to be who you really are. So, the next time you feel intimidated, take a breath. Don’t let those emotions stand between who you really are and your ability to express yourself. Take it from a master of self-expression: “Man, don’t think about it. Just do it!”
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Who You Really Are - Your essential humanity and sense of self after you remove the established beliefs imposed on you by family, friends and the Cult of Culture.