As long as you stay true to who you are, you will be rewarded in ways you can’t imagine.
How do you give yourself permission to be more than one thing, to share your WHOLE self with the world?
Here’s what I’ve become aware of in the past few months: As we learn to accept all facets of ourselves (the good, the bad, the unexpected, and the “ugly”), it’s wildly empowering, not to mention an incredible marketing tool. Think about it. When we separate and divide ourselves, we never feel good enough, because we only share a fraction of who we really are, and only find certain parts of ourselves worthy or exciting or valuable. No more. We are all so much more than the 2 or 3 things that take up the most space on our internal pie charts.
A little history: I fell in love with performing at age 11. From that age until I graduated college with a B.A. in Musical Theater, I defined myself as “performer”. I was known at my elementary school, middle school, high school, and college mainly as “Katie the Theater Girl” or “Katie the Singer”. I won Drama and Music awards and scholarships throughout. I was voted “Most Likely to be a Rock Star” my senior year of high school. I am incredibly proud of this part of my life. It will always be a huge part of who I am.
But wait, there’s more! At age 19, at the start of my senior year of high school, I was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder along with depression and mild OCD. This caused me to define myself as “imperfect human with anxiety and depression” for the last 10 years. Combined, I was “performer/anxiety ridden failure.” Can you see how those two things might not go well together? I’d fling back and forth between the anxious mess and smiling happy performer, never allowing for anything in between. If I wasn’t a performer, what was I? That’s what defined my worth. But if I had anxiety, how could I succeed? How could I not let down friends and colleagues? My brain could not reconcile the two, so instead I was like two separate people. I was not proud of this part of myself–I was ashamed. Friendships and relationships suffered as a result, and so did my any career momentum.
After graduating at age 23, I then spent the majority of the next 6 years feeling this way. And without the safety net of my teachers and friends surrounding me, anxiety started to win out over performing and everything else. I’d beat myself up daily–I got my degree in musical theater, shouldn’t I be out auditioning and winning American Idol (before it wasn’t a thing anymore) and sing sing singing everywhere I went??? Everyone said I should be! But instead I’d talk myself out of going to any audition I’d get excited about. As time went on I joined forces with a college friend (who then became my boyfriend–hi Billy!) who was forging his own path making a theater and film company, Surging FIlms & Theatrics. Was this the solution I was looking for? I could be his right hand (wo)man! That would solve my quandary!
Except it didn’t–I still didn’t give myself a chance to have my own thing, because I didn’t feel like I knew what that was anymore, so I went along on project after project both happy to be a part of things and also increasingly unsatisfied. What was I supposed to do? I’d been known as “the performer” since age 11. Wasn’t I disappointing everyone who believed in me if I wasn’t pursuing it and like, making it to Broadway and selling out arenas like Adele?
Finally, after realizing how long it’d been since we connected, I reached out to my college voice teacher on a whim for some lessons when our company put on a production of Big Fish the Musical last year. Anyone with a wonderful mentor knows: they have the power to make you see yourself in completely new ways, even when (especially when) you think you’d hit a dead end. During one of our lessons, I had a bit of a meltdown. “The last time I felt truly connected to an audience was my senior recital.” I told her through tears. “That was 6 years ago and I’m scared I’ll never feel that way again. I don’t want to perform just for the sake of performing. I want to give something, share something, connect with people. I feel like I’m disappointing everyone. But it needs to be more.”
She looked at me and said a most magical sentence: “Nothing you do will ever disappoint me,” she told me.
I was stunned. “I’m always afraid of walking in here and letting you down,” I replied through tears.
“You will never walk in here and disappoint me,” she said. “Never. I look up to you. People WANT to hear what you have to say. There is so much more to you than just singing. Things that could really help women who feel the same way.”
What?! I was honestly shocked. It is a very powerful thing to be told you don’t need yourself to be perfect. That someone you deeply admire admires you back. That people want to hear what you have to say. That they wait to hear what you have to say. That they need you not to isolate yourself, they need you to show up even when you’re scared or unsure or anxious and speak your truth. That it might be the most important thing you ever do.
So, here are all the things I am owning in myself as of right now:
I’m a singer, performer, writer, proud female, take-charge little girl, I have anxiety, I have depression, I love naps, I take too many naps, I am Billy’s girlfriend, I am my own love, I am silly, I love sci-fi, I am a Hufflepuff, I am loyal, I don’t call my friends enough but I think about them every day, I love brunch, styling my hair drives me crazy, I weigh more than I’d like but I am going to love my body the way it is now, I love cats, I love funny animal videos, I’m an okay cook, I spend too much money, I love cheese fries, I have a procrastination habit, I like comfort over style, I want to write a children’s book, I can be too harsh, I was on a math team once and it was so cool, I really miss college (like way more than normal, I think haha), I’m messier than I’d like to be, I don’t hate doing the dishes like I used to (but I still kind of hate it), and anxiety makes me appreciate the little things, it helps me super-plan, and it has taught me to be in the present moment–and oh so much more!!
Calming Action Step: GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION
Okay, your turn: What parts of yourself will you own right now? What will you stop hiding behind? What will you stop beating yourself up for? All of the things that make up who you are are worthy of being seen. All of them make you stronger. Someone is out there waiting to know you exactly as you are.
Nothing you do will ever disappoint me.
People want to hear what you have to say.
You have the tools, now remember to use them.
You have no idea how far you’ll go.
I really hope you enjoy the result April’s creative challenge, my cover of Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go”. If you enjoy it, let me know, and give it a share!
Miss the other posts in the Trust Yourself Challenge? Don’t worry, here they are:
Learn How To Listen To Your Inner Voice
Why You Should Celebrate Your Journey 5 Years Ago to Now
Create Your Calming Creativity Manifesto
Performance Challenge: How Far I’ll Go (from Disney’s Moana)