Has the Personal Growth Industry Become a Popularity Contest?
Recently I had temporary amnesia and a bout of not-enoughness-thinking after a meeting with a manager who questioned the size of my platform based on Twitter followers and Facebook fans. “For as long as you’ve been doing this, you should have more. Why don’t you? Why isn’t your platform bigger?”
All of a sudden I felt like I was back in middle school as a wave of insecurity came flooding forward. Back then I would look at the popular kids with such envy and wish to be like them and to be liked by them. I wanted to be invited to the cheerleaders’ swim parties and have the cute boys on the soccer team crush on me back. I longed to be in on all the notes that were being passed around in class and have a seat at the cool kids’ table. But instead, I was either teased and picked on or totally ignored and left out. You see, I was a super late bloomer (like puberty started for me at sixteen) and a total nerd (I won the national science fair, seriously). I also was just a sweet young girl who really did not know how to stand up for myself. Needless to say adolescence was definitely not a highlight.
I eventually got to the other side of puberty and stopped entering science fair competitions. I got (a little) cooler in college and really thought I had achieved cool status when I moved out to Hollywood and worked my way up the entertainment industry ladder. By twenty-six, I was a successful agent with fancy suits and lunch dates at a top firm.
In so many ways, Hollywood is like the adult version of High School and I felt like I finally had earned my rank in the “in” crowd.
But there was just one problem. A big problem. I was miserable. The sense of fulfillment I thought would come from proving myself in a competitive career was missing. So I quit and eventually (after a massive quarterlife crisis and lots of soul searching) found myself in the self-help field. My current work as an author, speaker, facilitator and coach is deeply fulfilling…except for the times it has felt like the kind of popularity contest I thought ended in High School.
First let me just say that I love how many people there are out there committed to spreading positivity and making a meaningful impact. It is a truly awesome and exciting time to witness so many Lightworkers, which I define as people doing the self-work required to then share and spread consciousness, coming forward. And I’m also noticing that the personal development field is becoming a lot about platform size and profit. Any of you who have tried to sell a book, for instance, were probably asked more about your platform than what your book was actually about.
Part of me gets it. This is a business like any other business. Yet honestly it baffles me that Twitter followers can be bought. Facebook likes can be bought. Email lists can be bought. Even a place on the New York Times bestseller list can be bought.
The question that arises is: are the individuals with the biggest platforms necessarily the best source of content?
I am not asserting that they are not but I do know that some of the wisest and most profound teachers that I have come across do not have massive followings. In fact some of them do not even have a website. There is a certain sacredness to their low profile; however, it often also comes with lower revenue and fewer people that receive the gifts of their teaching.
So where is the balance in this industry? How do we develop our business while remaining a person and not becoming merely an online persona? How do we create business that is not so much based on popularity? How can those who just want to do the work compete with those who are incredibly invested (even obsessed) with sharing on social media, or the super savvy internet marketers, or the strategic PR and business rock stars?
The answer is to realize there is no competition at all. I get there are plenty of opportunities to buy into the misunderstanding that there is; spend just ten minutes on Facebook or Instagram looking at the amount of followers and likes people have and you will end up in a comparison coma. But there is plenty of abundance to go around. There are plenty of people who will resonate with your message and there are plenty of ways to spread positivity in the world.
To me, the heart of this business is not about size of a platform. It is about doing the work. It is about being so committed to one’s own Truth that anything that is created is sourced from that place. It is about being masterful.
It’s about putting in the hours as a writer, coach, speaker or whatever form your message takes so that you are walking your talk.
As I’ve been awakening from my comparison coma, I am inspired to reach out to those of you that may have platform size insecurity. Stop obsessing about it. Stop checking the amount of likes you get or writing the perfect status update. Stop worrying about what other people think of you, there are much better uses of your imagination. Stop thinking there is something you need to do, some course you need to take, or some Internet guru you need to hire to make you popular.
There are many paths to making an impact. You get to chose which one you want to take. @ChristinHassler (Click to Tweet!)
My suggestion is to have tunnel vision. Focus only on your message and the unique way that it wants to express through you. Unsubscribe from lists and get off Facebook for a while if that is what it takes to awaken from a comparison comma. Create and take action based on what truly feels aligned and inspiring.
If what I am saying feels like a relief, good. Now get to work. And by work I mean: stay committed to your own personal development so you are better equipped to be in personal development. Trust me, it is not fulfilling to do things driven by the primary intention to build a list or make money. If your heart and soul are not into what you are doing, are you truly a Lightworker or is your ego hard at work?
Listen, big platforms and social media are awesome because they are a way that a lot of people can be reached. I’m all for it! But what I am taking even more of a stand for is authenticity.
Be YOU instead of a knock-off version of someone else.
Do not make “famous” or “rich” your goal and call yourself a leader in the personal development industry. If those things happen because of the Light you radiate, it is a bonus and becomes a beautiful resource to make a big impact.
Please do not minimize the impact you are currently making. The impact you make cannot be measured or evaluated by a number. The impact you make is something you feel when you offer a piece of wisdom, comfort someone who is suffering, make someone laugh, vulnerably share your experience, or show up at what you judge as your “dead-end” job with a positive attitude. Do not downplay how your love and kindness matters. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you need to be popular to matter. You matter just for being you. Your work matters because it comes from your heart. If you help one person, you’ve made a difference.
If I could go back and tell my middle and high school self something it would be this: “You only feel like you do not belong because you are trying to be someone else. You are only suffering because you do not see your own gifts. Those who you see as popular are no better or less than you, they are on a different path with their own lessons. Be you. Rock that science fair award. Smile! Who cares about the braces?! Trust that your life is unfolding. Shine your light, sweetheart, do not wait for someone else to turn it on for you.”
The popularity contest is an illusion which becomes a trap if you buy into it. Be the Lightworker you are by shining your light. Let that be the beacon that attracts the people you can serve and the opportunities that are in service to your mission.
You are doing enough. You have enough. You are enough.
Christine Hassler is a Life Coach with a counseling emphasis known for catalyzing radical self-reflection while offering practical direction. She is passionate about busting the myth that life is about living by a checklist and having it all figured out. In 2005, she wrote the first guidebook written exclusively for young women, entitled 20 Something 20 Everything. Christine’s second book, The 20 Something Manifesto written for men and women stems from her experience coaching twenty-something’s. Her third book: Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love and Life comes out in October 2014 and is written for readers of all ages. Christine has appeared as an expert on The Today Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, E!, Style and PBS, is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post and Cosmo. As a Gen Y Expert, and is a spokesperson for American Express and the key resource for their women’s and millennial advocacy programs. You can find more info on her website, and follow her on Twitter and FB.