Fame, pedestals and power

As we approached the top of a mountain, my fear of heights surfaced and I froze. He encouraged me to feel the fear and move forward. I backed down from the challenge, opting for safety and survival, in spite of his reassurance and guidance.

by Scott Kalechstein — 

Hello and welcome to my narcissistic fantasy world. Lucky you, finding the words of this famous writer, a self-realized being and expert on the deep subjects that have somehow eluded you till now, you poor sap. I know secrets about living life fully that you would do well to learn. I enjoy perfect health, unending love and oceans of prosperity.

You are a reader, a seeker, one who is — let us face it — less evolved than I. It is my good pleasure to expose your insecurities, exploit them and then sell you my products. Generally speaking, I am fully together; I merely write to help you get a life.

But there is hope for you, dear reader! By purchasing my amazing new book, you will feel empowered, achieve total success and never suffer again.

If you take my workshops and tithe to me regularly, you, too, might eventually become “all together.” One day, you and I might do lunch and chat at length about our perfect lives. My advice? Read my work religiously. It is gospel. Obey it faithfully, and you will be well on your way to lunch with me!

But enough about you. Let us get back to me!

I am a superior human, an authority on spiritual matters, a pillar of strength, without weakness. I do not have bad moods or defeats or ever lose my temper. Even my stool smells great.

Yes, you have just been along for the ride during my ego trip. If I were to deny that a part of my psyche has ever been tempted to take such a ride, I would be in danger of being driven unconsciously to act it out in real life. Acknowledging my shadow makes it much less likely to take command of me. Being honest with myself about my egotistical tendencies and the wounds behind them will help me keep them in check.

I did not always have this awareness, and I used to act out my ego trips. I had relationships with women who admired me with adoring stars in their eyes. They handed me their power, and I took it. Wondering why I kept attracting this “teacher-student” dynamic, I eventually had to look within and admit the truth about my own insecurities. I enjoyed being propped up like that because my self-image was secretly very low. Many years passed before I was willing to attract (and be attracted to) a woman who had her own power and didn’t put me on a pedestal.

Power trips, whether I act upon them or not, provide me temporary relief from a lack of authentic self-love. They cover up a sense of unworthiness and mask my sense of powerlessness.

Years ago, a spiritual teacher entered my life, a special man with special powers. He lived in a special place, and I had the special privilege of staying with him and his family numerous times over a five-year period. Although I hoped that by just hanging out with him, his specialness would rub off on me, I often felt extra-insecure in his presence, comparing myself (unfavorably) to him.

Once he took me hiking. As we approached the top of a mountain, my fear of heights surfaced and I froze. He encouraged me to feel the fear and move forward, anyway. I backed down from the challenge, opting for safety and survival, in spite of his reassurance and guidance. I remember silently shaming myself for choosing security over the adventure of overcoming a fear. I imagined him judging me for staying in my comfort zone and I felt badly about disappointing my teacher. I remember hoping that someday I would be as spiritually evolved as he was.

Five years later, I ran into him in San Diego. He had suffered some kind of breakdown and his wife had taken their son and left him. He told me he had been in a mental institution for a while. Lethargic from medication, he confided to me that he was steeped in self-hatred and severe loneliness. I was shocked. This was my teacher, someone I had looked up to!

That evening I took him to a healing group where he was saturated in love and support, and I felt grateful for the chance to give something back to this man from whom I had received so much. I also experienced the encounter as life’s sober wake-up call, cautioning me about separating myself from others by putting them on pedestals.

I wonder how prevalent that is — putting others on pedestals. Perhaps it exists in epidemic proportions. Maybe many of the self-help gurus and experts that speak at conferences and fill the best-seller lists are all in the same boat with you and me. What if every human being you have ever excessively admired has been just as human, imperfect and vulnerable as the rest of us?

A few years ago, a popular guru was caught with his yoga pants down after it came out that he had been sleeping with several of his disciples. Thousands of his followers became heart-broken and disillusioned. People were forced to see inconsistencies in the one they had thought was weaknesses-proof. Although many simply found someone else to look up to, some of them used the experience for empowerment and gave up idolatry altogether.

Seekers evolve into finders when life strips away the security blankets, such as the illusion of a Perfect Human Being in whom we can blindly and wholeheartedly trust. The stripping away may initially invoke a sense of despair, but a descent into darkness can be precisely the tunnel we need to stop us from habitually giving our power to others. Facing despair can leave us face-to-face with the God within, and end the game of seeking forever.

Our culture promotes idolizing heroes — beyond ourselves — which is a sure way to keep our own golden natures hidden from sight. Fame glitters, and it certainly catches many eyes in this culture, but it is not gold. Placing another human on a pedestal is a quick way to hide your personal power and magnificence. Likewise, pretending to be small is just as much an ego trip as inflating yourself above others.

I will never be comfortable on a pedestal unless there also is room for you, my mother and the entire human race. There we will worship and praise and learn from each other equally, with everyone acknowledged as heroes and stars, teachers and students. This may cause a wave of gurus to hang up their robes (as well as sending the sales of entertainment magazines plummeting), but the true gurus will retire in celebration, knowing that their purpose, which was to render themselves useless, has been served.

I am not the giant of my fantasies, nor the dwarf of my fears. Somewhere in between those extremes is my humanity, and my acceptance that there is enough peace and happiness to last for a lifetime.


Scott Kalechstein is a modern-day troubadour and inspirational speaker. He travels through the United States, Canada and Europe giving concerts, talks and workshops, as well as presenting at conferences. www.scottsongs.com, scott@scottsongs.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 2, April/May 2006.

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