The Garage Sale at the Edge of the Universe
grappling with self-motivated creation

If you create something, but no one sees it, does it really exist?

Well, it does, in a way. But there’s a difference between something existing and someone acknowledging its existence. And it seems that we as humans value the acknowledgment more than the fact of existence.

I mean, if everyone suddenly ignored you and everything that you do, do you feel like you exist?

You could say that yes, you still exist in reality, but when anything that you do leads to no impact, it can be easy to question whether or not your existence even registers with other people. Imagine pushing someone over in public but they get back up without even acknowledging you—almost as if a gust of wind toppled them over and not a person. It would feel strange. And if everyone reacted to everything that you do with the same indifference, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that you may start having some thoughts about whether your existence is really existence to begin with.

The attachment to our creations means that this idea of others acknowledging our work is something that we tend to adopt subconsciously. The urge to share what we create goes all the way back to when we were children. And while some kids can be a bit shy sharing at first, I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to share, but rather they’re afraid of the possible consequences that may result from doing it.

This made me ask the question: is it enough for ourselves to acknowledge the existence of our own creations without anyone else? Is it even sustainable?

To be honest, I don’t have the answer. I don’t know. I want it to be, but that simply hasn’t been reality for me.

I’m ready to admit that social-oriented rewards drive me more than it should, especially during my teens. Getting good grades not because I was interested in the subjects and wanted to learn, but rather because I knew it’s something that people valued. It seems that I always aligned what I did with what people wanted to see, and I knew how to capitalize on that, perhaps too well.

The horrific reality of this is that often I’ll have periods where I’m not even sure what exactly I wanted out of this. I don’t know whether I did this thing because I wanted to do it, or because everyone else wanted me to do it except myself. As a result I started questioning reality and it led to plenty of depression spirals.

This way of thinking inevitably permeated its way into my hobbies. Things that I say I do “for myself” end up feeling like things that are done for other people instead. It often makes me miserable, but the thing is: is there such a thing as self-motivation that does not involve any social influence? Should I even be miserable about something that is so innate?

Shouldn’t it be possible for self-motivation and social incentives to coexist without one overthrowing the other?

When we create things in a vacuum, there’s this inherent fear that we’ll be seen as delusional. I don’t think there’s many people that likes the person who thinks they’re hot stuff when their work isn’t particularly good; their sense of what is quality work is stunted by the fact that they haven’t seen any other work beyond their own.

However, for me it’s way too easy to question my motives when I’m not completely in a vacuum. The moment there’s even the possible chance of social influence, I end up losing the way, getting confused as to whether I was even self-motivated in the first place.

It’s why things like “accountability” can be a detriment, for me personally. It almost always turns into a case where I’m driven entirely by social goals instead of personal ones. And while the end may justify the means, I start to question whether the end was something I was even aiming for, regardless if at the start that was entirely my intention. The dread that occurred after the realization usually ended in self-implosion and giving up, since I couldn’t trust that I wanted to do it out of my own volition.

I don’t know if there will ever be a solid compromise that will suitably get the best of both worlds—both being able to publicize my work without going crazy. I’ve tried for many years and I always end up leaning towards shutting myself in.

In any case, I guess I’ll just sit around in the meantime, selling things in my garage sale that no one knows exists, because that's all that I can seem to handle now and possibly forever.

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