Before I talk about “selling out”, I want to talk about the two sides of creativity, process and product.
Process: the internal work of uncovering something personally meaningful through creative output.
Product: a finished, cohesive work that other people can access and find value in.
Process and product are two sides of the same coin, and yet if you focus just on one or the other you lose something.
If you focus exclusively on process, you won’t produce something that others can access – your creation will hold personal meaning, but not universal meaning. The packaging is the bridge that lets others access it.
If you focus just on product, you will lose the heart of why you were creating in the first place. You will be selling just for the purpose of selling. You will be creative in order to be liked or rewarded, but your creations will be empty.
The fear of “selling out” is a fear that success will create a pull for product over process–and you won’t be able to stay true to your work.
Imagine if your internal greed or other people’s needs and desires pulled you from your authentic desire to serve or create. Imagine if you lost touch with the “process” side of creativity–the heart of what you have to offer.
That’s a scary thought.
For some people, it’s so scary that they never learn how to package their work and market it. They view all packaging as “selling out”, and have no discernment about which is serving the work by making it more widely accessible and which is hollow.
They solve the problem of having to be responsible with power by not having any power at all. In doing so, they fail to reach the audience they could have. The world doesn’t see what they had to offer.
That’s a real loss, for both the creator and the world.
The fear of selling out is a fear of owning your power in an ethical way.
Fear of selling out is one form of “fear of success” – the fear of losing touch with oneself. For people who have big hearts and big visions, this fear can be especially poignant.
It can also be unconsciously limiting you without you realizing it.
How to not be afraid of selling out:
Admit that there is part of you that is greedy, and afraid. There is part of you that wants to be liked and needed and rewarded, and is afraid of not having enough. It’s there. Be aware of it. Don’t make it wrong. But don’t pretend it’s not there either. Denial leads to unconscious behavior.
Make a conscious decision that you are going to work with your inner greediness, need for approval, and grasping when it comes up. Decide that you are opting for conscious awareness, not avoidance. Take time with your dark side–get to know it. Have fun with it. Laugh about it. Be OK with being human (and grounded in the knowledge that you have values). Having an ongoing and healthy relationship with this part of you means you’ll be in no danger of it taking over.
Discern greed from the desire to grow. Humans want to grow and create and serve in ever-expanding ways. It’s natural. That’s not greed–it’s your heart reaching for the stars. Learn to discern the difference between expansive desire and constricting fear-based greed. Cultivate that expansive desire–that comes from an abundant place of pure love for creating. It’s magnetic.
Package your work in ethical ways. Examine your marketing decisions both in the light of who they might reach, and if they are truthful. Base your business on openness and respect rather than fear, hoarding, and competition. Opt for developing quality and eschewing hype. Forget what other people do with their marketing. Decide that you package your work so people will be able to access it, not so they’ll like you and make you rich. Don’t market some way just because other people do it, if it doesn’t feel right to you. Create ways of speaking about what you do that feel right to you.
Don’t undersell yourself. Show up fully, honestly, and authentically in what you do. Cultivate a solid center in yourself that you market from–a center that knows your worth and doesn’t need to either undersell or oversell.
Relax. You are a good person. Trust yourself.