I’ve always loved the planning stage of an idea, loved making to do lists because there is so much promise, potential and perfection in ideas. That moment of conception in your brain when from seemingly nowhere a beautiful idea is born bursting with potential. Its tidy, there is no messy reality to it but therein lies the rub, reality isn’t tidy, its far from perfect and challenges inevitably arise. For me that’s when the paralyzing thought comes in, what if I get it wrong? What if I make a mistake?
That’s what I wanted this blog to be about, my struggle with getting it wrong because honestly I don’t believe I am alone in this. At home, as a child I was abused, punished for being too happy, too sad, too naughty, too loud, too quiet. At school, as a child I was bullied for being too thin, too boyish, too weird. I learnt that, to survive, I must be invisible, I must camouflage myself, a mistake meant discovery, discovery was catastrophic. So it has been my entire adult life, I was once told I viewed the world with too much romance, the reason being, the reality is messy, full of imperfections and mistakes and that gives me a headache, I mean literally, it has gotten to the point were the reality of mistakes cause me physical pain. I associate mistakes with mess and my brain troubles to function. So I am constantly searching for a fresh start, a new page because the last one had a mistake on it and I MUST NOT MAKE MISTAKES, PERFECTION IS THE ONLY OPTION. This disease has infected every corner of my life, I want to have the perfect body, make up, clothes, nails and be the perfect mother, the perfect friend, lover, actor, daughter. If I see someone beautiful, I feel instantly insignificant and ugly, someone thinner/fitter than me, I feel fat. My childhood conditioning has left me feeling less than because I’m not better than. I want to be called at 2am by a friend in crisis, I want to meet my husband by the door in nothing but a smile, I want to be the craftsy, home-bakes everything, always got a smile on her face and song in her heart mother, I want to be the full of inspiration, knows the answer to every question, always gets the job actor because that’s what my brain tells me is perfection, that’s what you are ‘supposed’ to do, and what you are ‘supposed to do’ is acceptable to society, which means you fit in, which means you blend in and this is camouflage and camouflage is survival. EXCEPT IT IS NOT. CAMOUFLAGE IS DEATH.
I came to this conclusion recently after 4 things. 1. An email from my agent listing acting theory books that he refers to and goes back to as a source of inspiration, 2. Reading a book on that list, ‘Audition’ by Michael Shurtleff, 3. A meeting with Ben Cogan and 4. Writing a speech that covered my experience with a charity that helped me and my son through a very difficult time. The email was significant because as always my beautiful gift of an agent spoke realistically and eloquently about the industry and the work and constant training and self education that is necessary to give yourself the best chance and of course it led me to read, ‘Audition’ by Michael Shurtleff. This book was nothing short of a revelation to me, in the first few pages Michael said something that really resonated with me,
‘Actors, who should pride themselves on their singularity, are forever trying to be someone else. It isn’t necessary for you, the actor, to like yourself – self-love isn’t easy to come by for most of us – but you must learn to trust who you are. There is no one else like you’ – Michael Shurtleff
That idea of singularity, of being proud of being different, of not blending in, in fact positively standing out was something I always admired in other people and wished I could be just like them (somewhat missing the point of singularity) was defined in a way that for the first time actually permeated my brain. I am me, I can’t be anyone else because everyone else is already taken, so why try? The book then goes on to say over and over again, be different, stand out, be brave and be bold. It was the first time I understood the idea instead of just knowing it. Then my amazing chat with the beautiful man that is Ben Cogan, his words so full of compassion and kindness. He said to me,
‘You need to believe you are in that room because you deserve to be there, that you are worthy. You have to get rid of that baggage’
He went on to tell me that I should never try to change how I look or who I am for a role or any reason other than for me because
‘If you chase that, when you get it, the role’s gone, another ones come up and you have to change again, it’s a race you just can’t win.’
So I had all of this buzzing around my head when I sat down to write my speech about my life and my experience with the charity that had helped my family and all of a sudden as I wrote, the pieces came together and created a picture in my head that I understood at a visceral level. Perfection is false, camouflage is death. I realised that while there is nothing wrong with wanting to ‘be better’ or ‘to be the best version of yourself’, if you can’t love yourself now, how can you have the self respect that is needed for such improvements? So that’s my quest, to embrace who I am, to learn more about myself, to throw away the idea of perfection because mistakes are beautiful, bold and brave and to love myself. I’m pretty sure it’s a life long quest (and much, much easier said than done) but honestly it seems a pretty worthy one to me.