In a blog post last month I talked about not ever allowing ourselves to grow past the labels we can stick on ourselves at an early age. The other aspect of this personal boxing in is the fatal mistake of comparing yourself to others, and this was really brought home to me at the weekend.
I volunteered to take part in a joint venture between two theatre companies: one the Willow Globe community company to which I belong and the other The Wet Mariners, all remarkable professionals trained at the London Academy of Dramatic Art. The idea was to work together to shape, learn lines for, and perform a show about nature using scenes from Shakespeare’s plays – in just three days. What can I say? I like to terrify myself with a massive challenge every now and then. And actually it was more like two and half days in reality. I felt I should mention that so you could feel just a measure of the pressure weighing down on me……!
My big scene was as Titania, including the fabulous and lengthy speech “These are the forgeries of jealousy”, where she explains to Oberon that the environment is going haywire as a result of their petty arguments. (Shakespeare basically talking about how your thoughts create the reality you experience – just one of the reasons I love him, but this could easily sidetrack me into another post entirely). So even though I’ve got years of stage experience under my belt and am confident in myself as an actress, when surrounded by all this professionally trained and unquestionably sparkly talent I confess that my first reaction was to wilt rather weakly.
I stumbled my way unsurely through the first rehearsal of the scene, feeling not at all in tune with the character. I found myself wondering what “they” would do, and what “they” would think of what I was doing. I was unsure, clumsy and more than a bit lost. I had immediately compared myself to the (very lovely) girls I was working with and felt I didn’t have anything as valuable as they to offer. As a consequence I was looking anywhere but inside for the answers and guidance I needed, and the effect was to give away my own power. At home that evening, as I knew we had such little time to spend when we were together as a company, I determined to get myself sorted out. Breathing deeply and making sure I was centred, I asked myself what could I bring to this scene? What resources did I have to draw on that could inform Titania and give me a path into her character?
When I finally asked that question, the right question, the answers came flooding in. I am incredibly well grounded, I have a living relationship with the earth just as Titania herself is an integral part of it. I care deeply about the planet and the natural world, and I am profoundly moved by the lines where the Faerie Queen mourns for the sadness of the human mortals at their loss of joy as well as their loss of nourishment from the environment. I am, like her, an emotional woman who can shift moods dramatically on a whim! I have the secret weapon of being able to channel energies and archetypes, so I could go straight to the bard himself or the faerie herself for some inside knowledge. My unique experiences and qualities could create a believable character. This time as I began to move with the words everything flowed, felt natural and made sense with no having to try.
It just goes to show that no matter how confident and capable you become, it’s still easy to be thrown off course when you lose touch even momentarily with that calm focus and source of wisdom within you. From Amy’s gentle direction in that first rehearsal, “Do whatever you feel,” to Jamie’s encouragement during a dismal line run, “You know it, you’re second-guessing yourself,” to Brooke’s congratulatory, “You nailed it,” post performance, the message was all the same. Trust yourself, trust yourself, trust yourself.
As my partner George said when I shared the idea for this post with him, “An authentic version of you is always better than a perfect impersonation of someone else.” He’s a yoga teacher so he’ll often come out with a gem. I would also add, “no matter how brilliant ‘they’ might be.”
If you’d like to know more about how to trust yourself and be true to your own inner voice, rather than the influences of others, you may like to check out my “Pure Me” online course.