Was Robin Williams a Hypocrite? A Lesson from a Sad Comedy Genius
If you ever feel like a hypocrite at work (or even in your personal life!), you know how that feeling can completely kill your motivation, scare you away from taking risks, keep you from promoting or advocating for yourself, and create distance between you and the people you work with, serve, or even love. The passing of Robin Williams might teach us a few lessons, including one about hypocrisy.
Williams was once dubbed the funniest man alive. In countless movies and TV shows and hours on stage, he cracked us up. His humor was strange and creative and totally out-of-the-box, and whether or not he was your personal cup of tea, it’s hard to argue against his being an amazingly talented man. His dramatic roles were my personal favorite, but much of the world fell in love with him because of his comedic talent.
And he gave with that talent, too. He helped launch Comic Relief, which has raised more than $50 million since its inception, and he circled the globe performing standup for nearly 90,000 US troops.
All the while, he struggled with depression. While he made faces and did voices and acted like a nut on the outside, he suffered deeply on the inside. Does this make him a hypocrite?
The obvious answer is no, Robin Williams was not a hypocrite. We didn’t expect him to be cheerful all the time just because he brought us cheer. We knew there was a difference between the performer and the person.
And there’s a difference between the professional you and the personal you, too. There’s a reason why sometimes the shoemaker’s children have no shoes, and why the best healer is often the most wounded. Of course, we want to be the best versions of ourselves so we can be happier and more productive and serve people better. But you know what’s NOT okay? To decide that because you don’t have it 100% together 100% of the time, you’ll hole up and hide your real and perceived flaws. That’s definitely not okay.
It’s easy to imagine examples of people we’re glad serve in spite of their imperfections: the nurse who’s a smoker, the professional organizer with the messy garage, the business consultant who keeps messy records, the landscape architect with the overgrown backyard.
What about you? Are you living smaller than you should because you’re afraid that if people knew about your flaws, they would judge everything else about you? Are you avoiding the spotlight and dismissing praise because you feel unworthy? Are you passing on the chance to get that huge contract, that big promotion, that cool assignment, or that game-changing gig because you can’t stop focusing on everything you’re doing wrong?
Newsflash: you’re not perfect. And everybody already knows it. Everybody also knows that you’re a little bit weird, because we all are. And your special brand of weird is what the people around you need. Robin Williams said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness, and if you lose that, you’re nothing.” Don’t try to be perfect and normal and boring. Take what is uniquely yours, including all the weird and bad and embarrassing stuff, and do the best you can with it NOW. Because now is all you’ve got and later isn’t guaranteed and your gifts are needed by people who may never tell you so but who will always be grateful you used them.