Who you are in the privacy of your home has to find a way to coexist with who you must be in public. This uneasy alliance plagues anyone who finds themselves moving between a public and private world. For some people, the donning of a public persona requires little effort because the differences are small. For others, and I fall in this category most of the time, it’s a battle.
I didn’t realize an offhand question to Chris Brogan on this subject would spark a discussion. He and Tris Hussey both address the issue of whether they get tired of being their public-facing selves. Their posts got my thoughts stirring about the concept in general. I’m not at a point in my career that people seek me out at conferences. So I spend a good chunk of time at conferences watching people around me and observing how they interact. Within a matter of minutes, certain individuals become their own sun with other people orbiting around them. It’s fascinating.
The people with the most genuine public personas are in it for more than adulation and ego stroking. They’re looking beyond that initial meeting into the future, towards something bigger than them. Chris captures it perfectly:
I love being helpful. I never get tired of helping someone get from one end of something to the other. The best parts of helping are knowing that something I know or someone I know was useful to someone else. It makes all this effort of connecting worth it.
I struggle in public because I hate to intrude on people. This part of my private self carries over into the public self and makes parties where I know few people a small hell. However, I love conversation and exposure to new ideas, so once I push past the reticent private self, things are fine. This battle seems to take way more energy than it should. And, within a small world, the addition of fame make things even more daunting.
But as Claudius said, “Acquaintance lessens fame.” (link) That’s why I was disappointed to read of Robert Scoble’s recent break from blogging/social media. Through the introduction of a common friend, he has shown me nothing but kindness and a willingness to share his expertise. However, it sounds as though even Robert’s seemingly boundless public self has its limits. I wish he and his family all the best in the coming weeks.
I found Gnomedex and most conferences incredibly exciting, but as Tris puts it:
Odd isn’t it, I can get completely charged and excited from being around all my friends and cool people, but also tapped out at the same time.
It all comes back to this uneasy alliance. At some point, you have to find a way to coexist with your private and public self, staying true to who you know yourself to be. While I have little patience for the antics of so-called public figures, I do sympathize with the reality they face. What would it do to your alliance if you never got to turn the switch back?
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, perhaps one of the most hounded public figures in her time, stated simply, “I am a woman above everything else.” (link) Maybe you can declare peace by acknowledging, at your core, such a simple truth.