Recently, I watched best-selling author of The Signature Of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow-up presentation on TED talks called Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating.
In this seven minutes talk, she provides examples of the pitfalls of pursuing a creative life and a sure-fire remedy to keep on track and maintain your equilibrium during the inevitable ups and downs.
She explains why both success and failure can wreak havoc on your life:
“For most of your life, you live out your existence here in the middle of the chain of human experience where everything is normal and reassuring and regular, but failure catapults you abruptly way out over here into the blinding darkness of disappointment. Success catapults you just as abruptly but just as far way out over here into the equally blinding glare of fame and recognition and praise.”
The solution to both of these extremes, Elizabeth states is:
“. . . you’ve got to find your way back home again as swiftly and smoothly as you can, and if you’re wondering what your home is, here’s a hint: Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself.”
“You’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it. So addiction and infatuation don’t count because we all know that those are not safe places.”
I would add that along with addiction and unbalanced relationships another unsafe place to build your home is people pleasing. It’s just as destructive to the body and soul as any street drug out there.
I came to be the consummate people pleaser as a way for a child of five to keep myself safe and protected while growing up in an abusive home. It made sense as a little girl with no protection to adopt this strategy, it was the only tool at my disposal that would secure a small measure of safety.
Focusing on pleasing others meant I was constantly putting my energy into someone else’s dreams, needs and desires. In essence willingly giving away my power and energy in the hopes of securing love, security, safety. This destruction of the soul is very seductive because I could convince myself that I was being noble, helpful, a good girl, a great partner whenever I would drop what was important to me to please others but at the core of it, this behaviour in an adult is a cop-out because I could always use it as an excuse to never fully invest in myself and thus never really have to fail or succeed.
So a strategy that kept me safe as a child morphed into the most unsafe place on which to build my own dreams of being a writer. I had placed my home, my desire and dreams on an ever shifting trash heap of pain and unloveableness. What is more, I willing kept abandoning work on my own house of dreams (usually when I just started laying the foundation) to put all my time and effort into building someone else’s.
So I recently moved my home onto safer ground with a clearer understanding of how to set boundaries in a loving way and to refocus my attention on myself.
This process of reclaiming who I am at times can be both exhilarating and frightening but I am determined now that I have found a safe place to begin building my home, I will not budge. And when old habits crop up and I am tempted to abandon my writing to give energy to someone else in an unhealthy way I will do as my favourite author suggests:
“And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then you job is to fight your way back to that home, the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next.”
Thank you Elizabeth.