You may have heard of musician/singer/writer Amanda Palmer. She recently published a book called “The Art of Asking.” I haven’t read it yet, but I would like to. The subtitle on the book cover reads “Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.” Besides her creations, she is famous for being a queen of crowdfunding. It was how she was able to release her own music after leaving her record company. She did a Ted Talk in which she described her time as a street performer and made her living off people’s willingness to give her money. She talked about being criticized and harassed for not having a “real job” and for begging on the street. But she wasn’t just sitting there with a cup. She would stand frozen as a beautiful statue that would come to life and interact with whomever gave a dollar or two. It was those brief moments of connection that she was providing in return for whatever people were willing to pay for them. No matter what the critics thought, to those customers, what she was providing was worth paying for. The image of her and her patron in this bubble of satisfaction surrounded by negativity and criticism really stuck with me. Especially as I started exploring the possibility of reaching out to find my own patrons.
“Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.” I really need to get this book because the cover alone speaks volumes to me. Note that it doesn’t read “how I learned to stop worrying and ask people for help.” It reads “let people help.” How many of you suffer over something in silence because you can’t bring yourself to ask for help? How many have rejected offers of help when you really could have used it? How many of you would need less than a second to consider if you would help a friend in need, if only you knew they needed help? Our egos frequently keep us from allowing others to help us, but at the same time, we jump at the chance to help them. Because it feels good to help someone in need. So why are we so quick to deny that good feeling to others for helping us?
Money is something that has become very attached to our egos. It is a precious commodity and has turned into a unit by which too many measure their self-worth. Because money makes the world go round, as they say. And if you don’t have money, it can feel like the world is going on without you. Like you don’t matter. But it’s all made up. The pieces of paper and metal we carry in our pockets and purses do not make us more or less. How much others are willing to spend on us should not affect our self-worth either. Here is where the latest struggle between me and my demons comes in. Learning to stop worrying…
I learned about Patreon through Amanda Palmer actually. She started a Patreon page and very soon, the website crashed from the overwhelming number of people trying to sign up to be her patrons. Currently, she has 4,758 patrons contributing a total of $31,606.65 per creation. No joke. Like I said, queen of crowdfunding. I browsed the site off and on for months. I always joked with Teacher that I would do all the competitions he wants, as soon as he finds me a rich benefactor. I joked that I should have sponsors like the pro dancers have. But I was putting up a front. I didn’t really believe I was worth anyone’s patronage. Support by words of encouragement, support by showing up to see me perform, sure. But financial support? Now we’re getting to a whole other level.
I know from experience – you campaign for a cause and ask people to sign a petition or simply take a flyer. You’ll get lots of enthusiasm and response. But ask for money? Those same enthusiastic people start backing off and finding reasons they can’t support the cause. It’s understandable. I work my butt off for my money, and it’s hard for me to part with it. I have donated to causes in the past though and felt like it was money well spent. So after looking at Patreon again and again and thinking maybe and then thinking no no, this funny little voice inside me, different from the demons, started questioning my reasoning. Why not, it asked. Why shouldn’t you see if you could find some patrons? Instead of one rich benefactor, you could reach out to many potential patrons. You can afford to support someone else with $1 a month, so there is no reason someone in your same situation couldn’t support you.
Yes, but why would they want to, I replied to the voice.
Because you’re worth it!
I scoffed. I was very skeptical. I’m just me. What is that worth? Sure, some people seem to like reading what I write and people tell me they enjoy watching me dance. But they’re not going to want to pay me to write and dance. I’m not that significant.
I must be growing stronger than my demons because this funny voice persisted. I started to think more concretely about this Patreon thing and writing down ideas for the rewards I could offer people for signing up to be my patron. The demons took on a guise of watching out for me. They asked what if no one signed up, how was I going to feel if no one wanted to give even $1? Maybe I shouldn’t expose myself to that kind of perceived rejection, I’ve been through so much already. Clever devils, acting like they just want to protect me.
My “screw it” mentality won out. I’ve been exploring so many different ways of funding my dancing, Patreon was just one more to add to the list. If it panned out, awesome. If not, well, I keep telling myself that my self-worth is not dependent on other people being willing to pay for what I have to offer. I am no less of a dancer and no less of a writer. I work hard to find validation for what I do from inside, instead of depending on others’ opinions to validate my worth. It sounds positive and healthy, but man, it’s tough! In this world full of instant gratification, it’s so easy to get that external validation. Post a picture or a status update on the social media outlet of your choice and get a “like.” Bam! Acknowledgement. Validation. It’s so much easier than self-reflection or mental growth or depending on only yourself to confirm that you are worthwhile. Looking inside can be scary! I admit I have been more successful at finding internal validation for my writing than my dancing. I still carry a lot of doubt in regards to my dancing, but it’s ok. That journey is far from over.
So in the end, I stopped worrying and just threw the opportunity out there to let people help. Let’s see what happens!