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The Endless Battle Between Good and Popular

The Endless Battle Between Good and Popular

Have you ever watched an awards show and wondered how the judges reached their decision? Specifically, is it really the most talented artists who receive accolades, or is it just about popularity? Some argue that it doesn’t matter how accomplished you are – if your work is not popular, it will never be perceived as “good.”

Let’s take the Grammys as an example. The Best New Artist, Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year, and Album Of The Year categories could theoretically be won by an artist of any musical genre. However, no classical work has ever won one of these awards.[1] Year after year, the Grammy judges seem to reward musicians who are popular, as opposed to those who are “good.”

Looking at the numbers, Taylor Swift’s “1989” won the 2016 Best Album award, whereas Adele’s “25” has been nominated for the 2017 prize. Both these albums have sold in their millions – “1989” sold five million copies by July 2015, and “25” sold over nine million copies in 2016. It would appear that there’s a clear split between “good” and “popular.”

How does this split come about?

At the beginning of an artist’s career, they use their creativity as a means of expressing their feelings. When they make music or create a painting, their aim is to work through difficult emotions and restore a state of contentment and calm. If the result isn’t to their liking, they work hard to make it as good as possible – perfection is the end goal for beginner artists. Popularity isn’t their first priority.

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    However, as someone learns their craft, they start to crave more attention, and to let others share in their work. Unfortunately, because art is subjective, their audience might not understand what they are trying to achieve, which can be disheartening. At this point, they have an epiphany – if they want to gain popularity and a wider audience, they need to tailor their art to the masses.

      The typical artist will then work around other people’s tastes. Their first priority is no longer excellence. Instead, their focus has shifted to increasing their personal popularity.

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        Good vs Popular

        People who focus on producing good work instead of popular end to strive for excellence. They do not care what other people think, and they know that it isn’t always a good idea to follow the crowd. In fact, the masses may not actually care what is best for them, and simply want them to churn out popular works. People who place “good” over “popular” are also free to be more creative.

        At the same time, people who do not care whether their work is popular runs the risk of ignoring constructive criticism. They can become too single-minded, and may also become depressed if only a small minority of the population enjoy their work.

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          On the other hand, people who cater for a wide audience create pieces of work that take into account multiple perspectives, because they are concerned with the opinions of other people. Popular works are more commercially successful, and these people can gain a lot of satisfaction when they achieve a wide audience.

          The downside is that people who try to appeal to the majority will lose their personal creativity. They might even develop a reputation as a predictable, “boring” person who produces a string of similar works. When you create things primarily for others, rather than yourself, it can become impersonal and bland.

            Those who strive to be popular turn into people-pleasers. When your identity is tied up with your reputation, it’s a constant battle to keep up with the latest fashions. People who try to live up to others’ expectations will run into problems, because the whims and tastes of the public will change over time. A popular person may succeed in changing themselves to suit the majority of their fans, but this could come at a cost of their personal development. They might shift over time, but perhaps not for the better.

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            However, people who strive to simply produce good work and be the best of themselves can also stall in their development. They may stubbornly refuse to listen to others, and might never evolve beyond the present state.

            Why not have both?

              When you aim to be either good or popular, you will run into trouble. The answer is to make great stuff, but also takes the perspective of others into account. You need to remain true to your vision, yet remain open to comments and criticism from outsiders. When you combine your vision with the needs of your audience, you have a winning combination.

              Let’s look at how this can work in practice. The Japanese lifestyle brand MUJI upholds the principle of minimalism. They take pride in producing high-quality products that come with few features. However, they also cater to a wide market by offering shoppers functionality. For example, they strive to create items that fit with their minimalist aesthetic, but they also take the average person’s needs into account, offering everyday items such as pens and notebooks that fit their philosophy.[2]

              Just because our culture tends to divide us into these two categories doesn’t mean that you can’t balance both in you. The trick is to get clear about what you are trying to achieve, and stick to your principles – yet at the same time remaining open to new influences.

              The next time you create something, work until it’s the best you can make it, be the best self you can be. Once you are satisfied, ask others for their opinion. Listen carefully, but don’t automatically assume they are right! Keep your integrity intact, and be what makes you happy. It’s great to bring joy to other people’s lives, but your self-respect is important too.

              Reference

              More by this author

              Leon Ho

              Founder & CEO of Lifehack

              Habits and Motivation: Master Both for Big Results How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive Stop Waiting For Your Dream Job and Go Ask For It How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

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              Last Updated on May 21, 2019

              Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know

              Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know

              People who have low self esteem are always hard on themselves. Sometimes they even cannot truly accept compliments because they would second guess people’s intentions.

                In this article, we’ll look into the symptoms of a low esteem person and what you can do if you find yourself having self-esteem issues.

                Symptoms of a Low Self-Esteem Person

                Common Symptoms

                • Unable to trust your own opinion
                • Always overthinking
                • Afraid to take challenges, being worried you wouldn’t overcome them
                • Hard on yourself but lenient with others
                • Frequent anxiety and emotional turmoil

                Lesser-Known Symptoms

                Being a workaholic

                At work expectations are set clearly. Even if there’s pressure in the workplace, compared to relationships or the social world where so much is unknown and uncontrollable, work is more straightforward.

                It’s easier to meet the expectations and perform well at work. Therefore, some people with low self-esteem would shift their focus to work and put all their energies there.

                Overachieving or underachieving

                Many of us have already heard that people with low self-esteem tend to be under-achievers as they’re too afraid to take new challenges and not confident enough to fully utilize their talents.

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                However, there’s another extreme. Some of them are too anxious of failure and being rejected, so they will try their very best to be outstanding to prove their worth.

                Causes of Low Self-Esteem

                Most of the time it stems from our childhood. Here’re some negative early experiences that lead to low self-esteem:[1]

                • Frequent punishment
                • Frequent neglect
                • Chronic abuse
                • Harsh parental standards
                • Being bullied/boycotted
                • Being on the receiving end of someone else’s stress or despair
                • Lack of praise, warmth and affection
                • Staying in a family or group where other members are prejudiced towards

                Childhood is when we form our “Bottom Line” and “Rules for Living” which affects the way we think, that’s why all the negative early experiences can have a very long-lasting effect on our adulthood.

                How “Bottom Line” Affects Your Self-Esteem

                “Bottom Line” is how you usually feel about something, based on your early experience. For example, “how you felt when you first left home becomes the emotional bottom line for when you leave other things in your life.”, according to therapist Robert Taibbi [2].

                When we talk about self-esteem, the bottom line is about how people around you treat you, as we grow up taking the voices of people who are significant to us. Did they say you’re adorable, or you’re always not good enough? Did they neglect you that made you feel worthless?

                That largely affects the way you view yourself and hence affect your self-esteem.

                How “Bottom Line” Determines Your “Rules for Living

                Based on the “Bottom Line”, we would form our “Rules for Living”, which are the strategies for dealing with life. For example, if you have the belief that you are always inferior to others, your Rules for Living would be “better not to speak up and to keep a low profile”.

                How Low Self-Esteem Affects Every Aspect of Your Life

                So what are the consequences of having low self-esteem?

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                It Makes You Confuse Love with Low Self-Esteem

                Having a low self-esteem, you expect people to treat you badly.

                When people are being just quite nice to you, you feel overjoyed and have unrealistically good feelings for them. This can be easily mistaken as love and also scare people away who might be just interested in being friends with you (at first).

                It Makes You Have a Lower Hand in the Relationship

                As you think your partner is too good for you, you bear things that you shouldn’t stand for.

                Sometimes you even confuse love with self-esteem. Are you giving in really because you love him/her so much or you just dare not to speak up and bargain?

                It Makes Your Employers Feel That You’re Not Talented

                People with low esteem sometimes are actually gifted. But they don’t know how to show it and “sell” themselves.

                During meeting, they keep quiet, during presentation they speak weakly, during daily conversation they say “sorry” and “maybe” too often…As a result, employers and other colleagues perceive people with low esteem as people without much talents.

                It Can Lead to Depression

                Over time, low self-esteem can lead to depression according to a study done by University of Basel researchers.[3] Psychologist Dr. Lars Madsen added that low self-esteem is “a key factor in both the development and maintenance of depression”.

                How to Improve Self-Esteem

                As we can see, low self-esteem is a deeply rooted issue and leads to lots of consequences. To solve it, it’s not an easy task, but it’s possible. The key is, to use the right ways.

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                1. Ignore All Those “Positivity” Advice

                Very often, we hear people say “Stay positive”, “Hey cheer up!”. People with depression know all these do not help. It just makes them feel worse.

                Same for low self-esteem, simply telling people “To me you’re wonderful!”, “You’re actually awesome”, “Why don’t you appreciate yourself more?”, or even worse “Hey you should be more confident” does not improve their self-esteem. Instead, they would feel inadequate or even guilty of their behavior.

                2. Focus Elsewhere

                “Healthy self esteem needs to emerge subtly.”[4]

                Same as happiness, you don’t immediately feel happier when you tell yourself to be happier. You need some concrete ways to do so like pursuing a goal that truly matters to you, like spending quality time with your loved ones.

                When you want to improve your self-esteem, don’t try too hard on thinking of ways to do so. There’s no direct way to improve it. It should be a by-product of our overall life’s satisfaction.

                According to psychologist Abraham Maslow,[5] to live a fulfilling life, you should take care the 5 levels of human basic needs. To help you understand more about this psychological model we made a video to explain it:

                Or you can refer to the graph below:

                5 Levels of Human Basic Needs

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                  To focus elsewhere, we’ve summarized the above items and put them into this list for you:

                  • Deep connection with loved ones
                  • A healthy body
                  • Sense of control
                  • A meaningful life purpose
                  • Recognition and respect from others
                  • Sense of security
                  • Creativity

                  As you gradually equip yourself with the skills to fulfil the above needs, you’ll forget about self-esteem and suddenly you’ll find that you just feel proud of yourself when you know so much that others don’t.

                  Resources to Help Increase Your Self Esteem

                  To help you gradually build your self-esteem, here’s a list of the best self-help books that can help you fulfil the goals:

                  1. How to Win Friends & Influence People
                  2. Outliers: The Story of Success By Malcolm Gladwell
                  3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
                  4. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
                  5. The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health
                  6. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Busines
                  7. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
                  8. Thinking, Fast and Slow
                  9. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
                  10. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

                  The Bottom Line

                  If you find yourself having low self-esteem, don’t be hopeless. Have faith in yourself that you can regain self-esteem and become a confident and successful person.

                  How?

                  Understand the root causes of your low self-esteem and overcome these causes with the advice in this article.

                  Featured photo credit: Joe Gardner via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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