I was visited by a clown again today. I have been working out in my imagination gym and this time, to my surprise I handled it much better than previous visits from clowns – it must be all that new muscle. The clown arrived carrying in front of her, a life-sized cardboard cutout of a sparkly new friend, looking successful and smiley. The real world friends gathered round, excited to welcome the new friend and, as friends do, wanted to know more. That’s when we started to realise there was a problem. The sparkly new friend read from a script, was stiff, and the lips didn’t move from a permanent smile. Then we began to notice things; our sparkly friend had rather unusual footwear – exceptionally long shoes.
The real friends began to investigate, trying to find out more about cardboard cutouts and what they might mean, especially when they were carried by people who wouldn’t reveal themselves and who wore suspiciously clown-like footwear. One friend gained the trust of the cardboard cutout but discovered they were incapable of holding a normal conversation – almost like someone else had told them what to say. She peered behind the cardboard and found a vulnerable new circus recruit, dressed in a clown costume several sizes too big. Not yet a full-grown clown and unsure of her own identity as one, she began to kick, spit, bite and scream hysterically. Growling and hurling insults and abuse, she dropped the cardboard cutout to the floor and then proceeded to try and take the spotlight off her real identity by making wild accusations. Offers of love and kindness were hurled back as though she’d been handed a rotting cabbage. She picked up the pearls of wisdom she’d been offered, and looked into them as though they were crystal balls and in the swirling mist inside the ball she just saw judgemental faces, contorted and mocking, telling her what in fact she was really telling herself; that she didn’t have what it takes to be in business, she didn’t have what it takes to be the happy, smiley, successful person that she was trying to be by carrying around the cardboard cutout. She was unable to receive the love and support she’d been looking for, and found, because she believed the lies told to her by the clowns at circus school. She was one of them, she needed them, anyone else who told her differently were just idiots and following the herd, only clowns could be trusted, the clowns were wealthy and they had photos to prove it, what more evidence did she need that they were right and we were wrong? The lies flowed thick and fast. The clowns were her best friends, of course she needed to give them her money, why wouldn’t she if she really trusted them? After all, they were going to make her wealthy beyond her wildest dreams, just like they’d become wealthy. It seemed to never have occurred to her that they’d become wealthy by exploiting vulnerable people like her and that in order to become wealthy using the same methods as them, she too would have to exploit the vulnerable, or fail at becoming wealthy. There lies the real shame, not in friends telling you an uncomfortable truth, but having to become someone you don’t like in order to become like people you really wouldn’t like if you looked behind the cardboard cutout.