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Masks and Mirrors

When we hide behind masks or mirror the personalities of others, we trap ourselves in a “looking-glass” world, where we are destined to never become our authentic selves–our True Self.  At some point in your life, like it or not, you wind up wearing a mask–a false face that you put out to the world that isn’t really yours–or becoming a mirror–taking on the personality traits of those around you.  Maybe you do it to fit in; maybe you do it because you feel that the real you won’t suffice, or please the people around you; maybe you do it because someone else in your life (a mother, a father, a mentor; a friend) imposes it upon you because it is what is “expected” of you (as their child, student, friend).  Regardless of why, the fact remains that at some point, we all do it.

Most mask-wearing and personality-mirroring goes back to a seemingly simple question: “What will people think of me?”  Now, that may be a question that you actively ask yourself, or it may be a question that people around you (mothers, fathers, mentors; friends) keep asking of you.  Either way, the question gets asked, and for whatever reason, the simplest answer seems to be to don a mask or be a mirror.

What do these behaviors look like–wearing masks and mirroring?  The masks we wear that cover up the “real us” are as myriad as those one sees in a Mardi Gras parade, or at Carnavale in Venice.  Each is especially designed for whomever you’re attempting to please at that particular moment.  If you’re really the little Goth girl and pagan attempting to fit in amidst a gang of Southern Rednecks, it probably takes the outward appearance of a t-shirt and jeans, and a sudden hankering for Classic Rock (because at least that’s easier to stomach than Conway Twitty).  It goes deeper than the clothes you wear or the music you listen to in public, though.  That wardrobe and sudden change in musical taste is accompanied by what you do and don’t talk about in certain circles–and by this, I don’t just mean the usual there are certain people with whom you don’t discuss religion or politics!  What I mean is that there are entire areas of who you really are that you simply pretend don’t exist once you’ve donned the mask.  Suddenly, bisexual Goth girl is the devoted heterosexual, for example; pagan Goth girl is a Jesus freak; paranormal-involved-and-interested Goth girl is suddenly a psychic brick.  This is where mirroring enters the picture.  Of course we all adopt a certain amount of the personality traits of the people we hang out with on a regular basis (picking up catch-phrases, common parlance; that sort of thing–little quirks of another person’s personality that actually integrate with yours, and become a part of you just as much as that person or those people are a part of your life and your heart), but the mirroring I’m talking about here is rather different from that.  The mirroring I’m talking about here is decidedly fake–i.e., unlike what I just explained, this particular mirroring in no way, shape, form, or fashion actually integrates with your true personality. In fact, it may go against the grain so much that it actually hurts when you do it, but it’s viewed as necessary, so you do it anyway! In this form of mirroring, you begin to adopt the personality traits of whomever it is that led you into this circle (in which you decidedly don’t fit in!) in the first place, because you know that person fits, so if you emulate them, so will you.  Maybe the little Goth girl has followed someone who puts across the personality of the demure Southern Belle into this Redneck dive, so she begins to mirror that demure-ness; that Southern Belle-ness, even though it couldn’t be further from the truth of who she really is!

Of course, there is a certain amount of “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” which we must do in life in order to not feel like a total fish out of water in certain situations we might be placed in.  But we must be very careful that the “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” attitude doesn’t become a trap that we fall into–a trap that eclipses your authentic you. Living a lie like that not only ultimately damages you, but it eventually will damage your relationships with other people as well, as they come to realize what a complete fake you actually are.

Ultimately, both masks and mirrors come down to questions of self worth.  The lower your self worth, the more likely you are to be ready, willing, and able to don a mask and/or become a mirror.  What is self worth, you ask?  Basically, it is respect for and a favorable opinion of one’s self.  It is not the same thing as self esteem, although the two things are also not mutually exclusive from one another.  You can actually have a pretty high self esteem (opinion of how you look), and a very low self worth.  On the flip side of that, if your self esteem is in the toilet, your self worth is more than likely swimming there right alongside it–hence my saying the two are not mutually exclusive from one another.  Self worth, basically, is being not only perfectly okay with who you really are (comfortable in your own skin, and by skin, I don’t just mean this shell you’re walking around in right now; I mean your soul; the luminous being within’s skin), but being respectful of who you really are as well.  What does that mean?  That means you are unwilling to compromise who that is for anyone, including you!

If you are living a lie, the chances are grand that your self worth is in the toilet.  How two-faced (or even three- or four-faced) are you?  Are you one person with your family, another person with your friends, and yet another person at the Country Club?  Are you “doing as the Romans do” to the point that the Romans don’t know who the hell you are anymore, and neither do you? Maybe even to the point that the “Romans” are strongly considering coming after you with pitchforks like an angry mob because they’ve realized there is a total fake in their midst?  Are you wearing the mask and/or mirroring others to the point that you find that half the words that come out of your mouth are actually bald-faced lies at this point?  Then it’s definitely time to check your self worth!

How do you feel when it’s just you and you?  Do you dread being alone, to the point that you’ll do almost anything (including watching stupid things on television just to have the background noise) to drown out the you of it all?  Do you constantly need to be the center of attention (to the degree that you always know more, can do more, can do it better than anybody else or constantly create drama that puts you at that center when you’re not already there)?  Do you have issues with needing to control other people in your life (this also goes back to the whole center of attention thing)?  All of these are signs of a faltering self worth.

You desperately need a date with you–sans masks and a mirror!  Planning a date with yourself may sound like the most ludicrous idea in the universe, but trust me, it works.  Only when you spend some time with you will you be able to figure out what you don’t like about you so much that you’re willing to do anything to avoid yourself!  This will also give you an opportunity to listen to some of the feedback that’s raging through your head from the outside world–those folks who actively encourage you to don masks and be a mirror–and decide how much of it you’re actually willing to listen to anymore.  Your you-date may be something as simple as a bubble bath alone, or it may be a day spent shopping or reading or birdwatching, or even just sitting and thinking.  Whatever it is, you need to do it, and you need to do it ASAP!

Once you’ve got you all to yourself, you might want to practice a different sort of mirroring–instead of being one, look into your own!  (No, I don’t mean literally stand in front of a mirror and stare at yourself, although if that works for you, by all means, go for it!)  Imagine yourself as someone you’re just getting to know (because, honestly, that might actually be the truth).  If you just met this person out in the real world, why wouldn’t you want to hang out with them and be their friend?  What is so grating about their personality that you avoid them at all costs?  What are the good things, that made you give them a chance in the first place?  Those grating things are things you should seriously consider losing; getting rid of, once and for all (now, that might mean going over some rather painful personal baggage, so be warned, but it’s worth it, I promise!).  And those good things–focus on those; build them up; foster them.  Most importantly, put them out there for the world to see, rather than hiding them behind masks and mirrors!

Most people would agree that there is nothing worse in this life than fake people.  Even when we are trapped in a cycle of being fake ourselves, we still hate it when other people are fakes to us!  Take off the mask; shatter the mirror; be authentically you!

Masks and Mirrors

 

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Leading the UNstressful Life…As An Artist

I’ve recently started trying to change my lifestyle, from my thoughts downwards.  I’m attempting to adopt an overall view of the world that is more positive–what I’ve recently termed in the new volume I’m writing as the “awe-filled” perspective.  The instant I made the decision to do this, all hell literally broke loose in my life, as if the Universe at large was waving a finger at me (the way we do with naughty children) going “uh uh uh”.  On the heels of that, someone very young and yet very wise said something very important to me. She said:

“You’re an artist and a writer. You shouldn’t hate what you do; you shouldn’t have to stress constantly about what you do.”

I sat there, gobsmacked, as she said these words to me. Why? Because she’s not wrong!

The things I create should be about passion, about infinite possibilities, not about my bank account.  Is it stressful to live broke every minute of every day of your life? Of course it is!  But instead of focusing on my “broke-ness”, I should be focusing on the gratitude I feel to all of those people who perpetually lighten that load (y’all know who y’all are!), and I should be emptying out that gratitude, and that passion, and those infinite possibilities into my art and my writing–constantly!

Think of it this way: you cannot put a fairy in a bottle (or a muse in a cage).  How do most people react in that one scene in Peter Pan when Hook puts Tinkerbelle in a lantern and locks her inside? Most people are irate when that happens, no matter how old they are when watching that scene.  There’s a reason for that: because we know she should be free!  When we bottle up our creative energy within the parameters of deadlines and dollar signs, we are putting our own personal fairy in a bottle (our muse in a cage).  And that is precisely how I have lived my creative life for the past year.  For what?  What have been the results of my having done that?  Am I making more money by doing that? Am I enjoying the creative process more, having done that?  The answer to both questions is absolutely NO!

So I’ve made the conscious decision to unleash my personal fairy (my muse): no more deadlines; no more “what can I make that will sell”.  I am going to create based on my passion, and I am going to lace everything I create from this point forward with gratitude and infinite possibilities. Otherwise, why write fantasy fiction? Why create fantasy art? Anything less than passion, gratitude, and infinite possibilities, and all fantasy literature and art is a lie!  Don’t believe that? Why did Barrie create Peter Pan in the first place?  Did he write that play so that he could make money off of it? Did he have a deadline that he needed to meet? No!  Barrie created Peter out of a place of dealing with his own grief over the death of his brother, and as a gift for children (whom he eventually adopted) who were also dealing with grief.  Peter Pan was created out of a place of passion, gratitude, and infinite possibilities, and that is why it still rings true to us, no matter how old we might be when we first arrive at its discovery. Fantasy gains a purpose in our lives only when it comes from that place, and nobody is going to read fantasy, or want to own fantasy unless it has that purpose!

Has my life actually changed since I began developing this outlook? Absolutely! 

For the first time in a year, I get up in the morning and cannot wait to plop myself in front of the computer and go to work!  I turn on my iTunes radio (Katy Perry’s Roar has become my favorite song!), and I bounce along to the beat as I write and contemplate my next artistic creations.  I set myself a deadline last week to produce shareable, free Facebook banners and avatars, but I am throwing that deadline out the window in favor of writing the new book I’ve started (those sets will come when they come; right now, I’m riding the wave of my passion!).  And I feel free!  Not only do I feel better, I’m finally making connections that are worthwhile, and seeing some “action” on my Facebook Page–connections and action that I hope will eventually turn into real relationships, but, even if they don’t, they make me feel rewarded, and that’s worth more than all the money in the world!  I am fulfilled in a way that I haven’t been in a year, and am quickly discovering that broke isn’t so bad, so long as you’re fulfilled!

My life is becoming a Kelly Clarkson song (Breakaway), and I am unbelievably okay with that!

If you’re out there, and you’re living life as a struggling artist, consider doing what I’ve done:  release yourself from deadlines; stop doing all that product research and trying to put your finger on the pulse of what people want to buy, and just create!  Every second you’re spending on product research and marketing research you could be using to make the world more beautiful, by adding your creative voice (through art, through music, through writing, through whatever it is you do) to the tapestry!  Stop worrying about how you’re going to pay for this or that, and ask for help from those who truly believe in you–trust that they won’t let you down, because they won’t.  And then watch the stress disappear!  Let your fairy (muse) out of the bottle you’ve been imprisoning her (him) in, and I promise–she (he) will fly! And so will you!

 

Kasey's Smile

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On Turning Trust Into Money…..

I just read this fantastic blog post by Cherie Roe Dirksen (and watched the video from Amanda Palmer within it):  http://cherieroedirksen.com/2013/09/04/how-trust-can-bring-you-abundance/

This was on the heels of watching Chad Calek’s Blood Red Sky last night (which everybody should see–trust me on this): https://www.facebook.com/abloodredsky

I have issues with trust. There, I said it, up front, and for all the world to see.  Why do I have issues with trust?  I come from a great family, full of people who have been there for me through thick and thin; people who have literally carried me when I couldn’t walk.  I have great friends–friends who have been there for me, through thick and thin; people who have allowed me to come into their homes and their lives and turn them upside down, but with fantastic results after the initial topsy turvy, for me and for them.  So why do I, of all people, have trust issues?

Because, unfortunately, that’s not the full picture of my life.

I went to school in a town where some of my very best friends–in fact, most of my very best friends–totally turned their backs on me, betrayed me, and did despicable things to me when I was homebound for developing psoriasis at the ripe young age of 16.  Prior to that, I was labelled a witch by some boys in my class, and they honestly threatened to burn me at the stake–that was the year before the psoriasis happened.  And that was because they heard about me doing “spellwork” and reading Tarot–from some of my very best friends (or, so I thought), who I had asked not to tell anyone that I was into that sort of thing in our largely Southern Baptist town.

Post psoriasis, my mother was told by the minister of our church that either she or I must have “done something horrible”, to warrant the Good Lord striking me with such an illness (because psoriasis was often misrepresented as leprosy in the Bible, in case y’all didn’t know that going in….).  In college, the wife of our college pastor (at a Presbyterian college, no less) told me the same thing–that my outward disease was a sign of my inner sin.  She later went on to divorce said pastor, who we asked to officiate at our wedding, because he always seemed like an incredible man–he declined to officiate at the last minute because he felt our planned service was too pagan: because I wanted to include a tradition from my husband’s Cherokee heritage in the service, the wrapping of the bride and groom in a blanket by the matriarch of the family, my Mema.

I have a history of befriending the wrong people, who then cut my heart out, stomp on it a few times, and walk away. (Luckily, I also have a history of befriending a few of the right people–and you all know precisely who you are! )

Don’t even get me started on my Father…or my Grandfather….

So, a couple years ago, I took the plunge and actually self-published two of my written works.  I put my “babies” out there, and I trusted the Universe; I trusted discerning readers; I trusted my family and friends to at least purchase a copy.  Around the same time, I set up a Facebook Page on my original account, advertising not only my books, but also my art (then available solely at Cafepress), and I likewise trusted the Universe, the discerning customer, and, again my family and friends to share, like, and get me out there, by hook or by crook, that I might start to earn a living off of my art as well.  So, want to know how many books I’ve sold in two years, trusting to all of that? Precisely TWELVE.  Want to know how many sales, shares, likes and everything else I’ve gotten for my artwork, trusting to all of that?  Quite a few–the vast majority from the same TWO PEOPLE (thank you, Sharon and Suzanne!).

I decided last spring to start fresh with a new “marketing campaign”–I set up this blog, and I set up a new FB profile and page, and I dusted myself off, and tried to start trusting AGAIN.  When I first decided to do all of that, a very wise New Englander suggested that I put “more of myself” into my marketing–into this blog, and into FB and Twitter, and everywhere else that I’m presently networking. I scoffed at that notion: how in the world could I possibly TRUST enough to do THAT, after all I’ve been through, in life, and in my business thus far?  So, for the past year, I have NOT done that.  I’m doing it now.  Let’s see what happens….

In the aforementioned film, Chad Calek performs an experiment wherein he attempts to prove that the microcosm (the individual mind) can potentially affect the macrocosm (the condition of what’s going on in the world–in the case of the film, the fears of catastrophe leading up to December 21, 2012).  He wonders whether if we all would just “stay positive”, we might actually see an end to cataclysmic changes in the environment, etc.  Waking up this morning and reading the aforementioned article by Ms. Dirksen just confirmed in my own mind that I’m on the right track when I’ve decided to test this hypothesis myself, with my business–with the most precious thing I have to offer the world right now, which is a peek into my soul, via writing and art.

When I set up the previous FB Page, I spent a ridiculous amount of time looking at how many likes I had, versus how many shares I was actually getting; at how many people had liked the page, versus how many people had actually shared the page or the posts from my page, and/or  purchased either my book, or my art, or both (and to those who did, thank you for keeping me from having a complete nervous breakdown).  In the end, the pain I felt wasn’t in my pocketbook (although, yeah, that, too)–it was in my heart.  I felt betrayed; I felt like I didn’t matter to these people who had always said, to anyone who would listen, that I mattered to them.  The near-nervous breakdown that sparked is precisely why I have the new page (https://www.facebook.com/Iaconagraphy).  It reached a point that for my own mental welfare, I honestly could not even visit the other one anymore.

But the film last night and the article this morning raise the questions: What if, instead of focusing on all of the bad that was going on in that situation, I had instead concentrated on those few people who were doing good at that time in my life?  What if, instead of focusing on the fact that I am desperate at this point in my life to make a living (no kidding), I instead focus on what I do have, and trust you guys, and the universe, to pull me through?  What if I actually got over my trust issues, and, like the overplayed Disney song advises, Let It Go?

So, over the next few weeks, I’m going to be trying some new and different things. I’m going to make some freebies available on my website (http://www.michelleiacona.com), and trust that folks who find and enjoy them will come back to maybe purchase something down the road.  (I may even figure out how to create the magical “donate” button!)  I’m going to keep posting blog entries, and trust that folks will enjoy reading enough to like, share, get me out there, and maybe even comment to the blog itself–and maybe, in the process, find some art they just can’t live without.  And I am going to pour my blood, sweat, and tears into my art as I always have, and into this blog, as I should have done all along.  In short, I am going to change the way I do business; the way I present myself to the world–and we’ll see what happens next. I’ll keep y’all posted…..

STAY POSITIVE!

Djinn