Updated: Mar 9
Many of my clients are in the public eye and I often wish that people had more insight into the kinds of unique (and also universal) challenges they face.
When an artist paints, the finished work of art is viewed in a second. What took hours, days or even years is condensed and consumed in a split second. However, it is only in the process of creation where we encounter our full human experience.
The trap of our capitalist society is to assume that the outcome / end product is the most important thing.
Outsiders see ‘achievements’ and make assumptions to fill in the blanks around the person and their process. The most harmful assumption I have come across is that successful people don’t have needs or pains; they are somehow bulletproof - hence their success - so how could they possibly need anything? And if they encounter challenges - well they are rich (another assumption), or they have powerful friends who will help them (another assumption), and money fixes everything (let’s not even bother going there), so why the long face?
By focusing on the outcome / the end product / the result, and by skipping over the humanity of ‘successful’ individuals, outsiders can maintain unrealistic fantasies. To state the obvious, someone who can create a work of art can also experience loss, pain, relationship issues, parenting issues, trauma, shame, stress, exhaustion, frustration, impatience, impostor feelings, feeling invisible, disrespected, misunderstood, confused, jealous, the lot.
Imagine the pressure of everyone assuming you “should” constantly be happy, sunny, kind, perfect, GRATEFUL. Imagine being expected to meet giant, invisible, never-agreed-to standards that people you've never met hold you to forever. Imagine if every time you had an issue, people thought you were actively UNGRATEFUL, or demanding - simply for appearing unhappy, tired, stressed, sad, or irritated. Or worst of all, imagine they just didn’t ask, because they resented you for breaking the spell of perfection they had been so enjoying, or they just assumed you didn’t want or need help at all.
We hear about power going to people's heads. It’s true that with success and fame comes distortion. But it’s not only the “star” who is at risk of losing touch with their human reality. When someone is in the public eye, or has built an industry-wide reputation, the people they come into contact with have exactly the same exposure to fame’s shadow. Other people's success is a big trigger for people who feel unsuccessful. Issues with self-worth, money, attention, respect, status etc can easily become heightened and begin to play out interpersonally, and often subconsciously. Many of my clients have battled sexism, racism, passive aggression, diva-level demands (from their team members), rivalry, jealousy, greed, manipulation and more. They have had to learn (often through our work together) how to advocate for themselves in a situation where they are being objectified and viewed as an asset over a human being.
On top of this swirl of other people's shadows and society's expectations, comes a layer of uncertainty around trust. It is rare that we exist in a neutral space. There is so much noise around each of us - people telling is what to do, what not to do, or telling us to do things for their own (selfish or misguided) motivations. Imagine the loneliness of worrying that what you say or do might be shared (by your supposed nearest and dearest) with the media e.g. for money or notoriety. This is even more intense for those who don't have the safety net of available, solid relationships already in place.
When I started this work, I found that those same toxic traits were ones I could recognise in the corporate world, but that’s for another piece. What I wanted to end on here is to highlight that like every other human, the creative, successful people I work with both need and deserve a grounded, trustworthy, neutral space for them to be their full human selves, and explore what that means for them in safety.