Doing right by yourself can have a pretty heavy price tag sometimes. Or at least it seems that way if you’re stupid, or if you’re a coward trying to justify not staying true to yourself. And no, I’m not exempt from being stupid from time to time, or even from being a coward, because sometimes I am. In reality, that price tag, having an opinion some of your friends won’t like or working a job your friends or family might look down on. Or maybe that you think strangers might even look down on. Saying something that rubs a friend (or in some contexts) a fan the wrong way…
Take the way I talk about Trump for example, or the way I talk about politics in general. Some people don’t like what I have to say; a lot of people who followed me before Trump announced his candidacy really, really hate what I have to say. Fellow fans of horror, atheists, fans of Marilyn Manson, of in your face (occasionally disturbing) social commentary… these are the kind of people I think I mostly appealed to and broke ground with when I started blogging. A fair amount of them either dislike Trump (and usually can’t tell me why) or they like Sanders, the fucking socialist.
The thing is, I don’t give a shit. Not everyone has to like everything I say. I’m still writing and still reaching out, so if I get too detestable for some folks that’s fine, ’cause I’m working towards being heard by more than just them and no one person’s tastes or opinions are going to dictate my own outlook, or my own writings. I do it for the applause – to steal Lady Gaga’s turn of phrase – but I’m sure as fuck not going to be controlled by it. I only have a chance of getting any if I keep being myself and doing my own thing. That’s the only way recognition even means anything.
The dynamics of where I started, where I’m at now, and where I’m going are a perfect example to show what I mean when I say the price tag isn’t as hefty as it might seem. If I say what I think about Trump, will I alienate some of the people who already like reading my brand of madness?
Should I restrain myself, bite my lip and not say anything about him or the presidential race, or worse, should I lie? The answer is in the about page here and it’s in the fucking title. The answer is no, I should not and will not bite my lip. See, a lot of the things I said and wrote before Trump came along would rub plenty of people the wrong way too. In point of fact, they’d rub a lot of fellow Trump fans the wrong way. Think about it. A lot of his supporters are Christians, a lot of them would call me a degenerate if they were to read the kind of stories I write. And yet I’m not going to cater to them, not going to hide or change my opinions to suit their sensibilities.
If you’re not one of them, why should I do it for you? If you don’t like Trump or his policies, that’s fine, but I’m not going to censor myself or hold back, not for anybody. I do that for myself sometimes, out of self consciousness or thinking it might be a little to offensive, and even that is the wrong move, the cowards move. I’ve drawn parallels between “regular” people and serial killers before, and that was a little on the iffy side, thought it might make me seem like a bit too much of a psycho to anyone who took it the wrong way – and taking it the wrong way is easy to do if you don’t actually think about what someone’s said, especially if it challenges your world view.
The thing is, yeah, maybe some people would read that and think I’m off my rocker, or maybe even that I’m sick in the head depending on how they choose to interpret it, but publishing it anyways was the right thing to do. And what’s more, it was better received than I thought it would be. Like I said, I’m not excluding myself when I talk about being a coward. The difference is, I try not to do that at all, I try not to hold back; and when I do, I should damn well know better.
Another striking example, though not my own, is the progression of Marilyn Manson’s career and fan base, especially from 1996 to 1998, and a few of the following years. The high contrast in the style, the messaging, etc. between Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals was jarring. Some of the original fans loved the ’96 album and hated the one in ’98. Those critics talked a lot of shit, called him a sell out, and decided they weren’t fans anymore. Others stuck with him though, seeing it as purely Marilyn Manson regardless (or maybe because of) the differences between those albums. The fans who were still around post-1998 are the ones I want to point out.
Mechanical Animals wasn’t to well loved by a big chunk of his early fans, but many of them liked it, and (here’s the important part) it expanded his fan base, his reach, his message, to a whole different set of people. Plus it exposed those people to his previous albums, albums they might not otherwise have given a chance. Not all the new fans liked his older stuff, but that was fine too, ’cause they had Mechanical Animals. He just kept chugging along, creating art on his terms, in his own way, and the overall effect despite the high turn over was a massive net gain. That’s pretty much how it goes if you do right by yourself and do things on your own terms.
There’ll always be turn over no matter what you do, and not just in terms of art, writing, or audiences, but in terms of family and friends. The difference isn’t in whether or not it happens, but in what kind of people are left, and for what reasons. You provide those by your choices, by being a coward, by hiding who you are and what you think, by people pleasing and accommodating everyone… or by standing tall, by showing people where you stand, and by living this fucking life on your own terms. Whether it’s a net gain or net loss, I believe that’s up to you.
In my experience, staying true to yourself usually yields the best results.
You might lose a few fans, readers, or friends in the short term, but in the mid to long term the ones who counted for anything will stick around, and newcomers will show up if you keep at it.
What’s more, they’ll be there for the real you, rather than some pussified, cowardly, confined version of yourself. Being real and authentic has a high turn over, being true to yourself every step of the way does have a cost, but I’m telling you, it’s worth it. The sea of faces changes constantly throughout life anyways; wouldn’t you rather control the tides than be controlled by them? I know I would. There’s plenty more I could add, loads more, but for now I think I’ll leave off with this…
Never compromise yourself, not for anybody.
If you take nothing else from reading this, hopefully you can take that. That’s really what this whole post boils down to; the rest is just a longer winded way of trying to get that across.