by David McElroy
For just a couple of minutes, I was on stage. It was a small audience, but I was in tune with them and I was tailoring my lines to what they responded to.
They laughed. They smiled. They seemed genuinely appreciative. I felt warm and satisfied — as though I was being fed something incredibly nourishing — because they seemed to like me. I felt happy.
And then I walked off that stage. I left that checkout counter where two employees had been my audience. I walked out of the grocery store where I had given my impromptu performance. And as I walked alone to my car in the cool October night air, I felt really good.
I reflected again on my need to be fed by other human beings — and my need for their approval, love and understanding — and how I can be briefly satisfied even by such brief and insubstantial interaction when what I truly need isn’t available.
It’s a terrible thing to need other people’s approval.
There’s a lot of psychology behind that need. Many things seem to go into creating such a craving. I’ve spent the last 10 years thinking a lot about where that emotional hunger in me came from and how to deal with it in emotionally healthy ways. I’m not ready to talk publicly about that personal psychology, so that’s not what this is about. This is about the ways in which my personal needs — some of them healthy and some of them unhealthy — intersect with so much in modern media.
Even though I struggle with feelings of creative inadequacy, I’ve accepted internally that I’m an artist. For the last year or so, though, I’ve been struggling to accept my need to be a performer — and I trace the unhealthy branch of that struggle back to my need for approval.
Perceptive women in my life have noticed this and we’ve talked about.