This past week, as a part of its Keynote, Apple announced it would be automatically installing U2’s latest, and likely last album, Songs of Innocence onto users iTunes for free. Despite it being a free offering, the public backlash was swift and brutal. The feedback ranged from social media feeds railed against the violation of privacy to homeless people holding up signs on the street offering to remove the album from phones for $1! What happened to U2 to take them from the beloved rock band of 1991’s Achtung Baby to one the most reviled groups in America?
Slate’s Niko Lane summed it up best when he theorized that, ”U2 might have thought they were getting in on the surprise album bandwagon, as everyone from Beyoncé to Skrillex is doing it, but the biggest surprise is how little it mattered. Bono has spent the last three and a half decades trying to get everyone to like him, but the greatest PR coup he could ever pull is to finally stop caring.”
Society is chock-full of conditioning that teaches us to care about what others think. We naturally want to have a sense of belonging and often we will do anything to acquire and hold on to it. Yet, more often than not, as we fall all over ourselves to be loved by others, we find a cold stare of indifference looking back at us.
I clearly remember a young girl in my class who had struggled to be a part of the popular school cliques. Try as she might – no matter what she wore or how she behaved – she was ostracized time and time again. One day in the middle of our Sophomore year she showed up to school not wearing the default, preppy clothing everyone else wore, but in an all-black Victorian dress – complete with combat boots, a mohawk, and black fingernails! She didn’t wear these clothes to shock us, she’d simply stopped caring about what people thought and went in the direction that felt best to her. By the time we got to senior year, and seemingly without effort, she eventually collected such a large grouping of friends that, as students swapped senior photos like baseball cards, just about everyone clamored to make sure they collected hers!
At the time, her reversal of fortune was shocking and confusing to me. Looking back however, it’s obvious that the students started treating her with more respect because she respected herself without need of external validation. By showing up authentically, the students had something real and concrete to interact with. It was as if the facade she thought everyone wanted to see was the very thing that kept them from knowing her.
It can be quite a challenge to escape the conditioning that we all have to fit in, be liked, and belong. However, it’s in the areas of our life where we find the most struggle and resistance that we typically discover we are not acting towards our true natures. Those areas of life might not be working because we’re attempting to live through our faux-selves and not our real-selves.
The gift we have as adults is that we get a chance to stop caring about what others think, and simply live as we choose. The trick is reprogramming our minds to be unafraid of what others might say, think, or do. As a mentor of mine once said, “when people react poorly to you, it’s them telling you that they are too small to fit into your big story.”
How different might your life be if you put away your faux-self, and started being expressed in your truth? What fears show up for you when you contemplate such a shift?
For the bottom quote: “Nothing, everything, anything, something: If you have nothing, then you have everything, because you have the freedom to do anything, without the fear of losing something.” ― Jarod Kintz