Updated: Feb 25
Over the years, I’ve worked with a dense rolodex of celebrated and influential personalities. Multi-time bestselling authors. Internationally-known mental health experts. Top podcasters. Reality TV stars. Spiritual thought leaders. Generation-shaping entrepreneurs.
And, time and again, I've noticed that most of them typically fall into one of two categories.
The first is led by service. This person will lean in for a conversation or share their wisdom generously, even when there’s no money in it for them. They’re drawn to others who harmonize with what they believe is their unique purpose. When their head hits the pillow at night, should they feel they haven’t shown up as their most authentic and compassionate selves, they might be haunted by the ways they could be more attentive, caring, present or thoughtful.
They aren’t entangled in a quest to prove that they’re “rare” or “special.” Instead, they’re driven by the desire to improve some aspect of society. These are the people who often show a lot of emotion (perhaps, tearfully) during interviews, because they’re truly living out their heart’s work. Their aim is impact.
The latter is quite different. This person might cheat or pay for their accolades, then live out a facade for their audience without a second thought. They don't have to earn their success fairly per se; their hot button is the dream of basking in glory, even if it's fake.
This person is notorious for chasing likes, shares and rankings because of the attention and applause that they believe those things will bring them. They might boast about themselves during interviews or attempt to micromanage the entire process, all the way until the end of its production. They're obsessed with their public image. They're transactional. There’s an energy of hustling–mostly to convince others (and, almost certainly, themselves) of their awesomeness. Their aim is influence.
A few years ago, one of my colleagues and friends, Christina Mirabella, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Mirabella magazine, said to me, in response to a feature subject’s tantrum, “I think a person’s heart should grow the more successful they become; not their head. That’s the test of a person's true character.”
I’ve never forgotten those words, and have continuously used them as a gauge for two things: one–checking in with myself in order to be transparent about my own motivations and, two–feeling out whether or not it would be wise to work with someone, based upon the intention I feel radiating from them.
The more authentic and cracked open and emotionally healed and spiritually hungry I let myself become, the more I know that I can’t authentically illuminate a subject matter or a person if I can't set an intention that feels expansive and nourishing.
If I don't trust an editor's, an expert's or a feature subject's motive(s), I can't offer the best of me. Because I know that, without a pure intention, the impact won't last. And, if it does for any stretch of it, it’ll eventually turn sour. Perhaps, destructive.
Fame is a funny thing. I’ve witnessed a lot of people chase it. I’ve seen stars rise and I’ve seen them fall. And, in full transparency, I, too, have been seduced by fame’s fraudulent promises.
But I’ve never once known anyone to be fulfilled by it, at any level.
Not by the accolades or the rankings. Not by the follower count. Not by the adoration or the praise. If anything, they’ve painfully confessed the opposite to me.
Once the fame or the followers come, they often feel disheartened because it’s not at all what they anticipated that it would be. Confused and disenchanted, they might think to themselves, “If this doesn’t fulfill me, then what will?”
Until, hopefully, they realize that, all along, it was connection, contribution and service that had been tugging at their inspirations, skills and talents, offering them the kinship and love and creative alchemy and sense of wholeness they may’ve been chasing in all of the wrong places.
It was the things they would’ve done, the knowledge they would’ve shared and the people they would’ve joined forces with, even if there was never any dazzling collaboration or shiny opportunity in it for them.
Because, here’s the inescapable truth: No matter how many people you’ve got hanging out on your lawn, fan-girling over you or swooning over your posts and stories and reels, convinced that you’re living the dream everyone wishes they could live, you still have to make a home inside of your head.
Every single night, all alone, for the rest of your life.
If your life appears way cooler and dreamier on social media than it feels in your actual reality, that’s a heinous crime against yourself. Because you’re the only one who’s been assigned the task of living it.
If someone doesn’t love their truth enough to live all the way inside of it, even when there’s no data or wifi connection, and is, instead, enslaved by the idea of being influential, their life will always feel lonely and sad and spiritually famished. No amount of photo ops or accolades can take away the inevitable pain of being human.
Which is also to say that, if someone is living most of all for their audience, their life is a betrayal of itself.
In turn, the majority of their relationships will feel artificially sweet. The right people will sense their agendas and, in turn, will shy away in order to protect their own space and resources. They’ll never discover the freedom and joy and peacefulness that their soul absolutely deserves to experience within its own authenticity—and that others would truly benefit from witnessing, too.
In a world of ulterior motives, intention tells the truth. In an era where influence is always trending, the real sauce–the one that'll never lose its sustenance and flavor–is impact.
©2022, Lacey Johnson, LJ Media, LLC
**No portion of this content is to be used without credit to its owner, and a link back to laceyjohnson.com.
For a deeper exploration into the transformative freedoms of living an authentically empowered life–one you never have to hide from, shrink within or second-guess, grab a copy of Lacey's soulful, interactive book, Radical Life Renovation: A Guided Program to Heal the Past, Reclaim Your Power & Build a Future You Love.