Did you know that if you surround yourself with douchebags, the magical fairy dust of douchebaggery will spread onto you and you will become a douchebag as well?
In that same way, if you surround yourself with people who value loyalty, faith, kindness, love, and creativity, that light will also shine on you?
Throughout my wild adventures, I've noticed one thing that always remains consistent: you are your friends. If you hang out with the pigs, you'll get dirty. Fly high, and you'll be up in the sunshine with the wings of a pegasus.
Here's my story on this concept:
I'm super shy in big crowds, contrary to what you might think, and when I turn "on," (I'm mainly referring to meet and greets, interviews, and performances), though my personality and conversation is completely genuine, it takes a ton of energy out of me. It's difficult. I have always been incredibly quiet and ever-observant. I like to learn and take things in, and when I meet people, I don't usually meet people in large groups. I do well in a one-on-one situation with minimal sensory stimulation. If there are too many sounds going off or too many things happening, my anxiety - I guess you could say social anxiety here - will kick in. I acknowledge that it's there and can usually reign it in, but there have been times where I spazz out and need some air. I know, I know. I'm a pansy. But it's very real and FYI, ANXIETY SUCKS. It doesn't mean I love my fans any less, though. I'm blessed enough that the majority of my Muse Mafia understand where I'm coming from, as several of them who have contacted me privately suffer from anxiety on a daily basis as well (Anxiety Warriors, UNITE!).
When I was on a particular reality television show, I met this young girl. She was incredibly timid and shy, and her quietness actually exceeded mine, which is what made me notice her. In a bubble full of people who flaunt and brag and sing as loud as possible in every corner of the room, the quiet ones tend to grab the most attention. She wrote a lot of her own songs, both music and lyrics, and I listened to it intently when she performed. I admired her strength, because the lyrics were gorgeous, deep, and told such a bittersweet story. They were vulnerable and raw - the way a heartfelt tune should be. I remember walking up to her after her performance, telling her how awesome she did and how much I supported her in her endeavor from that point forward - how much respect I had for her as a songwriter. She meekly replied, "Oh my gosh. Thank you so much."
Throughout the show, she grew as a musician and a person. I observed quietly, and I noticed how the show changed every single individual involved, including myself. Everyone took the experience a different way. It makes sense, though, because life isn't necessarily about WHAT happens - it's about how you react to it and what you do with your experiences. Some people shut down. Being in the national limelight is rough on your psyche. Damn, it's rough. People are constantly judging you, usually from the safety of their homes, behind their computer screens, where they can remain fairly anonymous. I remember, I would sign on and immediately see comments of how "that Jess girl should have gone home last week," or even as petty as "Her nail polish is flaking off. What a piece of trash...can't even take care of herself." There were also several times I personally received both public and private messages telling me how "overweight" I was. Look, if I wanted you to bully me, I would just go back to high school (side note: this experience/these experiences actually gave purpose to my teenage hell. I truly believe I was being emotionally and psychologically prepared for my future. If I hadn't gone through so much as a young adult, I don't think I could have handled the unbridled jealousy and anger of rabid people on the Internet during my time on TV).
Several of my peers were getting these messages. As contestants on the same show, even when production would try to turn us against each other (like when the theme was to pick songs for one another, we had ample opportunity to sabotage each other...but none of us did), we stuck together. We were all going through the same thing, all being critiqued by America - Every. Single. Day. And we asked for it by being on the show. You know why? Because we all absolutely love what we do, and we loved that show. It was worth it, even if some of what we went through was unexpected.
Anyway, I digress like I normally do. So I watched people as they evolved (like Pokemon!) throughout the course of this show. When one person went home, we still talked to them. We all supported one another. We all asked for and gave advice. HOWEVER, there were still cliques. People always find their tribe and go with it. Me? I was the lone wolf. If I wanted to be with people, I could, but I often would go have that "Me Time" I told you about in a previous blog. I needed that balance, because, when I wasn't alone, I was in the press tent, filming, rehearsing, blocking, memorizing new songs, arranging with coaches, wardrobe, etc. I needed the shut off time to collect my thoughts and clarify my goals on the show. I even wrote a few songs.
Back to this girl I was telling you about. She was constantly surrounded, and I noticed she was always with the same group of people. Now, this group of people consisted of some GOOD humans, but I wouldn't necessarily call them a good influence. I looked at this chick like my little sister, and I felt obligated to look after her. I don't know why, but I was protective of her and, bluntly, I just wanted her to do well and keep writing her songs. She started smoking a lot of pot with this group. She'd be really high at rehearsals, and she'd drink when she probably shouldn't have. She was hanging out with a bunch of boys, and I noticed how her choice of words gradually became more and more vulgar. I, myself, have zero filter, but I am what I am, and I have always been that way. To see someone go from 0 to 100 and lose innocence completely kind of blew my mind. I, personally, don't smoke anything at any time, and don't give a rat's ass if you personally do. I do think, however, that if habits like smoking pot start affecting your JOB and ability to do it well, you might want to at the very least reconsider the frequency of your - what I would now call - BAD habit. It's damaging, and it sort of shows lack of gratitude, in my opinion. We had this amazing show with a massive platform, helping us out. Take it and run or abuse it and lose it. I acknowledged being on the show, having this giant monster platform, as the temporary thing that it was, and I soaked in every second. It actually bothered me to see a few others throw it away for "good times" and pot.
She became "one of the guys" and burped and farted and laughed with the rest of them. I still liked her as a person, but I couldn't hang out anymore. After that, I didn't really have anybody on the show. I focused solely on working and establishing relationships - relationships that I still maintain and appreciate to this day.
So, this is a great example of how a person becomes the person or group they hang out with. This chick, in my eyes, has such amazing, untapped power to write and perform. Instead, in her youth and that typical human need for instant gratification, she hung out with the partying crowd and became just like everyone else.
I don't do everything right, by any means. I mean, I love Jesus, but I drink a little bit of wine... I cuss like a sailor, but I have some pretty deeply-rooted values that aren't shifting or disappearing any time soon - or ever. I don't think I'm perfect, and I openly acknowledge my flaws. My fans know that. My not-fans know that. I don't deceive. You either like me or you don't.
I know exactly who I am, and I have a clear vision of what I want in life and who I want to be. I also have steps to get there, with a little bit of wiggle room for the unexpected. More than anything though, I surround myself with successful people. I establish friendships with them, respect them, and am beyond grateful for them. If you surround yourself with success, you will achieve success. You DO take on the attributes of those you surround yourself with. If you hang out with party animals, chances are you'll party (waste time!) when you're with them. There's a happy balance, and successful people have that. Find your balance. Find someone you look up to and admire. Talk to that person. Stick with that person. Find a mentor. Learn. Grow. Succeed. HUSTLE!