We say things such as this all the time:
“One day I’m going to write a book.”
“I’m going to start a business that is going to become the best in the industry.”
“That next promotion is going to give me people to lead.”
“I’m going to write something the whole world reads.”
“This video is going to inspire millions of people.”
I am sure you have said a version of one of these to yourself, at some point. The version I told myself was that I was going to start a business that would be successful. Later, I told myself I was going to write something that went viral.
These sort of goals are often an invisible desire to be known. We think it feels good to be known and that it is a worthy cause.
I mean what could possibly be wrong with being known for something or influencing people in some significant way?
I got to start a successful business and write a viral blog post. Both happened without me thinking they would and the result is not what you’d expect. I became known for entrepreneurship and for writing.
This led to speaking opportunities, online courses, career opportunities, side-hustles, extra income, tons of emails/messages and new friends. All of these sound like nice things to have and I should be grateful for them.
Being known for something, though, has its downsides.
These are the joys you have when you are unknown:
- You can say what you want
- You can walk the street without anyone recognizing you
- You can open your email and have no new messages
- You can not have to think about what’s next
- You have no status to maintain
When you are known, the opposite of these dot points occur. You are given these huge weights to place on your shoulders and carry around with you, everywhere you go. People have an expectation about who you are supposed to be and what actions you are supposed to take.
The whole world is judging your results even when you are not.
It can be nice, at times, to have no goals.
It can be beautiful to write something that reaches one person and not millions but touches that person so deeply that they will never be the same again.
Downsides of being ‘known’
Having lived this ‘known life,’ there have been 3 obvious downsides:
You have to learn to develop a thick skin. People will find the smallest of faults with whatever you do when you reach a large audience.
I had a lady the other day rip me to shreds in front of the eyes of the internet because I used a photo on a blog post of a man in a suit. This article, fortunately, or unfortunately for me, went viral.
Her argument was that my last three articles didn’t have photos of women in them. What she didn’t realize is that over my blogging career, about half the photos I’ve used have women.
I had another person rip me apart because I didn’t represent enough of their ethnicity in my articles. It got to a point where every photo I used, had to represent every religion, race, and gender to please everybody. There are no such photos like this on image sites that I’m aware of.
The moral of this story is not about whether you are right or wrong; it’s about the mental energy taken to address this type of criticism. On some level, you can’t ghost critics forever as much as I’d love to.
People will judge you a lot for things you didn’t even know you did.
Once people see your face enough times, strangely, they start to see you in places you’ve never been.
I’ve had many people say they saw a post I put up and then gone to their phone to show me and realized it wasn’t me.
You can be pigeon-holed easily.
- “He always writes inspirational stuff”
- “He thinks you have to start a business”
- “Easy for him to say, he lives in the Western World”
These are some of the ways I’ve been judged and none of them are true.
It goes out of the window. You have to be used to walking down the street in your underwear every day and having people know more than you’d like them to know about you.
For me, especially, this has occurred — because I’ve shared a few vulnerable stories in my time that inherently, also, eat away at my privacy blanket.
4. Constant asks
Being known means that other people who may want to be known, want to spend time with you. They have constant asks, which they hope will lead to them being known too.
Every email, event invite or introduction often gets followed by an ask. You get asked to do things all the time and it’s not always easy to say no.
It can feel as though you have a million-dollar cheque attached to your forehead that everyone wants to grab.
When I compare the known life to the unknown life, I prefer to be unknown. It feels like it should be good to be known for something until you are.
Often our biggest goals feel awesome in our head until we get to touch them and feel that they are not so awesome after all.
There is something so cool about being able to say what you want and not have everyone care because you are a nobody.
Leaving a comment on a strangers blog post and having no one reply, care or want something in return, can feel awesome. It can even make someone create an alias of their online life just so they can feel that joy once again. I know you might want to be known, but consider the downsides. Consider what it really means to be known before you become obsessed with it.
Sometimes plain vanilla ice cream that is just like every other ice cream is the best feeling in the world.
You can exist and be happy without being known.