The Celebrity Guide to Your Hopes and Fears

The Celebrity Guide to Your Hopes and Fears

This new Beyoncé album is messing with my head. Or more accurately: My head is messing with the new Beyoncé album.

(Bear with me: This is not about Beyoncé per se, or her album. It’s bigger than that, and you don’t need to like or care about Beyoncé to get this.)

Here is a performing artist at the peak of her powers, writing and singing about feminism, sexuality, motherhood, marriage, perfectionism, and the beauty myth. The album is amazing. She is on fire. I am in love with her, with what she’s done, with the fierce brilliance of her stealth-bomb launch.

And still, as I watch and listen, cheering and “yes”-ing along to each track, part of me is thinking:

How many hours a day would I need to work out to get a waistline, legs, body like that? 

I ought to feel this passionate about my man, all the time. (This is what real love looks like.)

I wonder if I’ll ever produce anything this good. 

Her confidence is otherworldly. “I woke up like this?” Damn.

And so on.

This isn’t just perfectionism. I’m not beating myself up, exactly. What I’m doing, rather, is constructing a bunch of stories and wrapping them around Beyoncé rather than asking myself what they have to tell me.

Eventually, I notice what I’m up to. Golden shadow, whispers a voice in my head. You’re projecting again. 

In Jungian psychology, the Golden Shadow comprises the parts of us that we disown by admiring them in others. It could include any quality you feel you don’t embody: Nurturing and empathy; intellect; athletic ability; business savvy; responsibility; playfulness; sexiness; adventurousness; and so on, and so on.

Just look at those thought patterns I mentioned. Seems my Golden Shadow includes physical fitness, romantic passion, raving success, and unapologetic self-assurance.

Are those things easy for me to embody? No. Is it much easier for me to sit comfortably in my status-quo existence and admire them in other people? Hell, yes.

We do this constantly with celebrities – though it’s not exclusively a celebrity thing. Role models, heroes, and idols are available everywhere, not just at the upper echelons of public visibility – and we’re very talented at hanging our hopes and fears on them.

But what happens when I stay stuck in this me-vs-Beyoncé (or rather, self-vs-other) dynamic?

I put all this goodness over there, with her: Beauty. Fitness. A passionate marriage. Crazy-amazing business acumen. Fierce confidence.

And where does that leave me? Well, missing a few things I’d sure love to have, for starters.

So how do I re-integrate these things, call them back into myself? I start with this:

First: Take the time to notice what it is I’m projecting onto someone else.

Next, for each quality I find I’m projecting, I ask myself:

  • Is this something I would like to embody?
  • How do I embody it right now? (Sometimes I need to invite my kindest self to step forward and answer this question.)
  • How would I like my relationship to it to change?
  • How might my version look different from this other person’s?
  • Where have I made agreements in my life (with family members, friends, colleagues, past selves, etc.) to keep this quality from being fully expressed?
  • Am I ready to release those agreements?

That’s the How. But here’s the big, wild, hairy Why: When we get caught in our Golden Shadows, we let other people play out the joys we want to experience. 

I’ll put this back in the first person: When I get stuck in excessive admiration of Queen Bey’s performance of the things I’d like to have, I lose my ability to embody them in my own life.

What’s your Golden Shadow up to right now? Where does it linger? What does it have to teach you?

We’ll be exploring more about the Golden Shadow in Worship Wisely, the program I’ve designed with the remarkable Tanya Geisler (she of the killer TEDx talk on Imposter Complex). Join us for a free preview class and get your copy of our Worship Wisely starter kit by hopping over here and subscribing to the Worship Wisely list.

2 Comments

  1. So…I’m open to your comments on a similar but slightly different experience I have with this sort of thing.

    I don’t exactly exalt those that put out great work. But when I experience a piece of work that I love and that feels like genius, particularly by people I admire in my field, I have the following pattern: a rush of excitement and validation followed by plunging despair that there’s no point to my work at all since someone else just did it better than I ever could.

    It’s happened a number of times lately with books I’ve read or interviews I’ve seen where the individual so eloquently and beautifully articulated something that I’ve been trying to say a million different ways…And I feel so pumped – “Yes! See? That’s exactly what I’ve been talking about!” And then I feel sad and sullen because what’s the point of me carrying on with that line of thought. It feels so redundant and uninspired then.

    And I know, I know, everyone one of us is a special star with our own unique voice and the world needs lots of people repeating the good things in a million different ways, yadda yadda.

    It still feels pointless sometimes. On the one hand I realize there are no original ideas, only original work. On the other hand, it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm and inspiration in the face of towering genius, seemingly all around us, all the time, hyperlinked and aggregated.

    You’ve posted this particularly salient article on a particularly blue day for me. Sorry if I sound like a whiner or a downer. I really would love to hear your thoughts.

    (And I’ve been enjoying the prompts leading up to Worship Wisely. Thank you!)

    • Hi Carmen,

      Yes – what you’ve described sounds very familiar. It’s all part of the habit of looking outside ourselves for validation that our ideas and direction are worthy. And of course we seek validation; that’s totally human and normal (and is healthy, even, because it keeps us connected and grounded). The mistake our minds make is to jump straight from “Hey, I have a community!” to “Wait, no – they’re doing fine without me.”

      And I think this happens particularly when we are interacting with media (books, websites, TV, etc.) rather than in-person events (where we might actually have a chance to talk to the person and tell them what we’ve been working on). All we see is the finished product – the book, the polished interview – and not the years leading up to that where they may have been in exactly your shoes, hoping to god someone else out there is going to think their idea holds water.

      You’ve articulated exactly why this topic matters so much to me. I hear so many people talking about how overwhelmed they feel when they get caught up in what others are creating.

      I think there are a few practical ways to tackle this:

      First, and always, ground and centre yourself. Come back to your body. Remember that you are whole, and supported by the earth beneath you and the air around you. Connect to your self. Try and release the stories swirling in your mind about what other people are up to and focus on the present moment, the here and now.

      We can also ask ourselves what our closest communities need from us. If there are world-famous leading experts in your field, that’s great – but they’re probably not going to show up at your monthly book club or business event. What are the immediate opportunities – the low-hanging fruit, if you will – available to you to explore and share your work?

      And I’m also a big believer in citing your sources – so if there’s someone who’s said something so perfectly you can’t improve on it, use it and reference them. Doing this actually strengthens your authority.

      I have lots of thoughts on this (which is why we’ve created a whole course about it), but these are a few. Hope they are helpful – and above all, please know that you are not alone and this is big, universal stuff. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  1. Curiosity Experiment: What Your Heroes Can Tell You About Yourself | Lauren Bacon - […] Carl Jung suggested that we all carry what he called a Golden Shadow: a propensity to escape our fears …