Charisma, Shyness and the Performer’s life.

Elephant Self-Portrait

Elephant Self-Portrait (Photo credit: Cybjorg)

“… one of the conclusions that really struck home for me was the idea that we all become the thing we are most afraid of.”   Michael Caine in “The Elephant To Hollywood”.

I was chatting with a friend recently about the notion of charisma and how some people seem naturally gifted with it while others develop into the “work the room” sort and still others seem completely lacking in charisma and are either pained by that or accepting.

But what is charisma? According to Webster, charisma is “an exceptional ability to secure other people’s devotion or loyalty.”

Seems like an awful lot of effort of will is required by that definition. Look at words like ability, to secure, devotion, and even loyalty. Maybe that’s why the charismatic person who  “works the room” seems to be involved in a sleight-of-hand act all the time. Pretending not to be doing anything while, in fact, doing quite a lot.

But “an exceptional ability” can describe a gift, too. The gifted charismatic person is, in fact, doing nothing at all, yet people—of their own volition—are devoted and loyal. It’s a mystery how this type of charismatic became gifted in the first place. Ask someone who’s charismatic how they got that way and the answer is usually, “I dunno” or some reference to genetics.

While it might be true that one cannot claim a gift one wasn’t born with, I believe we can learn about and even embody qualities we admire in each other. We’re mimics, after all. Aren’t we fascinating? I absolutely love exploring the inner workings of our humanity. And I suspect if I were charismatic it probably wouldn’t be of interest. That kind of exploration doesn’t seem to be part of the job description of the charismatic.

As my friend and I continued chatting, I observed something further: charismatic people seem unafraid of the world around them. They seem comfortable in their own skin in almost any environment, perhaps because their experience tells them “all will be well.”

For those of us who are without charisma that kind of security must be learned. “I think I was the shyest little boy I’ve ever come across and it could be that I became a performer to overcome that fear of being in front of people.”  Michael Caine in “The Elephant To Hollywood”.

If “all the world’s a stage”, someday I hope to be at ease on it… Until then, I’m so glad my profession let’s me pretend to be!

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