Kanye, Gurus, and the Problem with Acclaim

f3e20b94356546036f51f55d66b7cc01-1When you think about it, musicians and Yoga teachers have a lot in common. They both work tirelessly to promote themselves and the venues at which they appear. They both express themselves through a method that speaks to them. Luckily for Yoga teachers, we have not yet begun a process of actually giving awards to one another based on our job performances. Hopefully, we never will. This could aggravate the already present ego in the doing of what we do. After last weekend’s Grammy awards, there’s been a lot of talk about Kanye West’s criticism on long-time artist Beck’s win of Best Album of the Year. West claims that Beck did not indeed deserve the award, and that it should have gone instead to his friend Beyonce. This week we, the people, have argued about West’s behavior and who should have won that award. But the real problem is not the institutions that give awards, our unfair society and the standards we uphold, or even the inappropriate behavior of an artist. The problem is that which we all possess: the ego, and it’s desire for acclaim.

No matter what you do for a living, we all appreciate acclaim. Compliments, pats on the back, awards, and money show us that we are doing a good job and signify that we are in the right place, and doing the right thing with our lives. Everyone seeks approval. How will we know if we are doing a good job without verbal praise, a raise, or a high-five? This is Kanye’s problem. He’s angry because he feels that a piece of medal is equivalent to this approval, and that without it, the world is an unjust place. He can’t stand this. But then, neither can the rest of us. We’re all prone to succumb to fits of “unfairness” in our adult lives. Being passed over and not being given what we deserve is felt as great injustice. And yet, we continually perpetuate this cycle, yearning for the praise and feeling utter rejection the moment it is not given.

In an age when the words, posts, pictures, and thoughts you share can gain “likes” and “followers”, our need for approval is at an all-time high. And I do mean, HIGH. Studies have shown that your brain is actually becoming wired to seek likes and constantly check your feed. We’ve never before in any generation had the ability to be self-fed approval at such a high rate of frequency, on such a massive scale. I wrote an article recently that gained over 1,000 likes. It also had about 100 negative comments about me and my writing. What struck me as really amazing was the fact that I couldn’t feel it. When I say I couldn’t feel it, I mean I COULDN’T FEEL IT.  I realized in that moment, how much of a choice it is to take criticism and praise seriously. They really are synonymous. They are equally inconsequential.

Being a celebrity must be tough. You have no clear gauge of who likes you, and for what reason. Acclaim feels like the real reason do anything. With this need for approval, the ego can dominate, causing one to publicly outburst, as Mr. West did on Sunday night. The same is true of all artists, but they aren’t alone. Another career that is gaining popularity in the 21st century, is that of the Guru. The Self-helpers, Yoga Teachers, Healers, of all sorts, who want nothing more than to help you heal. But…a little acclaim doesn’t hurt. Like celebrities, Gurus can become ego-dominant as well. Seeking money, acclaim, and followers to help them promote their careers also sometimes referred to as “paths”. The desire to help people is noble indeed, but it may be a counterproductive goal to have as a wellness practitioner. Seeking to “help” can be another way of finding acclaim.

When someone tells me that I’m good at my job, it means a lot. But I can’t feel it too much. Nor can I feel when they say I’m bad at my job. Because it ultimately doesn’t matter if I’m perceived as “good” or “bad”. I just love what I do. Some days I feel like I’m doing a horrible job. Some days I feel like I’m doing powerful work. Some days I get a Kanye-style sense of insecurity. I pound my chest when threatened, drop the mic when I’m killing it. It’s just the boost of ego I need to propel me forward. It causes me to ask for what I need, to take time for myself, and to know that I am worthy. But if I allow this Kanye “I’m a genius”-ness to overcome me, I lose my center, and I lose the best part of what I actually do.

I believe that we are not in charge of when we do good things. I for one, am a tragically flawed human being. The part of me that emerges when teaching, creating, or being my most compassionate and present self is a gift for me as much as it is for anyone else.  The greatest compliment someone could pay me is to say “You’ve helped me.” or “I feel better now” and even this is not something I can take in. Because all I’ve done is show up, and be present, and allow. When I hear this, it means the world to me. And the best I can think to say is the truth which is, “I’m so happy that you feel better.” Because it’s the connection between me and the student that caused that healing, not me. It’s the work, it’s what they bring to it, what they seek from it, and what they see in me is what they actually see in themselves. Therefore, the compliment is not mine, nor is the criticism. I do take both seriously. I work to improve, and I accept what’s working. But it’s still not mine. What IS mine, is the love. The love I have for what I do, the love I have for who I work with, and the love I have for myself. That’s the one thing I can consistently rely on.

In this life, there are no Gurus. AND, we are all Gurus. We all bring light to darkness. We all help each other out. We all inspire each other to healing, or to destruction. We all clarify paths for others, whether or not we piss them off. We all have a choice about how we interact in the world. What Kanye forgot is that acclaim doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone, somewhere, is inspired by your music, your work, your teaching, your art. Someone, somewhere is having an easier time because you showed up to work today. It might be your boss, or that last customer, or your client, or your audience. It doesn’t matter. If love is felt, and there is a connection is present, you are doing your life’s work. You are in the right place, at the right time. What better acclaim is there than that?

 

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