MJ Taught Me: It Doesn’t Matter How Great Everyone Else Thinks You Are If You Don’t Know It Yourself
Last night I caught Michael Jackson’s concert film “This Is It” for the first time. Despite being the last person on earth to see the documentary, I was still moved by the movie as if Michael had just died yesterday and I was in the theater watching it back in 2009. Aside from being reminded, and subsequently moved, by just how uniquely beautiful Michael’s voice was I couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming sadness I always feel when I think about Michael. He never realized just how great and how loved he was.
Despite the rough media coverage and the nickname Wacko Jacko that haunted Michael in his later years, there has never been an entertainer who was so beloved by millions across the entire globe. King of Pop doesn’t even adequately some up what he symbolized to people who would pass out at his mere presence on stage and who have labeled him the greatest entertainer that ever lived, and have tried to emulate his moves for generations. And though on some level Michael knew he was a really big deal, it was clear deep down he always worried if he was enough.
When I observed Michael’s meticulous attention to detail in the 2009 documentary, I was in awe of his perfectionism. But I also noticed the apologetic tone in his voice when he slightly missed a mark or wanted to change something or wasn’t giving 100 percent vocally. You could tell deep down that even as a man who hundreds of entertainers have named as their ultimate inspiration, he still simply wanted to please people and win their affection and approval. Those moments took me back to scenes from the ’90s film “The Jackson 5: An American Dream” when Michael had candid discussions with his mother about his doubts as a performer, mostly because of his physical appearance. He obsessed over acne, which is a normal stage of adolescence, and wondered whether his fans would be able to accept him. After the Pepsi commercial fire and losing some of his hair, he questioned whether he would receive the same adoration as he did before, and he was awkward about growing into manhood in front of a slew of pre-pubescent fans. Looking at Michael’s life as he grew older I was always saddened by the fact that I don’t ever think he grew out of that stage of worry.
If there’s anything I could say I have in common with Michael I would think it would be our obsessive insecurity. I certainly don’t elicit the type of fandom Michael did but even in the small instances of a friend, an old acquaintance, or even someone I don’t know personally congratulating me on an achievement or giving me positive feedback on something I wrote, or even saying they admire my hustle, the usual reaction is shock, a brief sense of satisfaction, and then a lingering cloud wondering did they really mean what they said? Was it good enough? Are they right?
It’s such a cliche saying, but it’s so spot on when people break down the importance of the word “self” in self-esteem. No matter how many compliments you receive or how much praise someone gives you on a day to day, if you don’t believe the positivity coming your way, it has no bearing on how you live your life and how you see yourself. The only one that can make the decision that you are enough is you.
I’m grateful that I can see that misstep in Michael, although still saddened that I don’t think he ever realized just how amazing of a singer, performer, humanitarian, and all around person he was. But when I come across introspective glimpses into his life, I use it as a opportunity to give myself permission to pat myself on the back and remind myself to not waste so much time obsessing over what I haven’t yet done, what I’ve done wrong, or even what I can’t do, and reflect on all that I have done and the good that is being me. There will always be critics and someone to point the finger at what you could have done better, but as the saying goes, “what other people think of you is none of your business.” Besides, if the accolades aren’t going to be enough to make you feel like you’re enough, you definitely shouldn’t let the criticisms make you feel as if you aren’t enough. My goal in life is to not follow the same fate as Michael and appreciate the beauty that is me without worrying about who does and does not agree.