A Big Life: Encouragement for People in the Arts –
Lately I’ve been feeling unsuccessful.
Yet the thing is, a whole lot of things are happening which some people would consider success.
Which people? People in my head?
No, real people.
Then there are other people who are jealous of what I’ve achieved or been given.
I too can be jealous.
The thing to remember is when you’re feeling a little cocky, or maybe uterine–or is it “henny”–these gender derived words for confidence have caught me in a loop here–is: Don’t let the lack of compliments from others get you down when you’ve won something big. Or the change of subject from them which sometimes happens when you actually tell them what you’ve been doing professionally. Retain your confidence in the face of someone else’s indifference. Or perceived indifference.
If you can.
And of course, we could all work on noticing when we are jealous.
There was a Harvard Business Review article that came out in 2021 which is on the subject of imposter syndrome in the workplace. It’s the idea that one’s insecurity is self-derived.
Also, I’m pretty sure it’s not a “syndrome”. You know, like a medical one.
It’s someone’s opinion.
All around us are gender-based messages telling us we don’t belong. This idea unfairly puts the responsibility for not feeling like an imposter on the individual.* The messages that come are racially based ones too. And then there is age. Of course, this can happen to men too. Yes, things are changing. But that doesn’t mean they’ve changed. Hence the present tense of the word.
Still, despite this knowledge, we can’t force other people to celebrate us. They will or they won’t.
Earlier this year I received a call from a director I hadn’t worked with in a long time. He offered me a role in a prequel to a film we’d done many years ago. A good one. I took it. But I wondered if the way he remembered me was as the “young and beautiful” thing I had been at the time he’d last seen me, ha ha. As I practiced the words and thought about my character, I reminded myself that I had received the call, not made it. I hadn’t put it out there. This didn’t help.
Plenty of people in my life have made both direct and indirect slights about my talent and success. Sometimes just when they were talking about their own achievements and saying nothing when I told them about my own. Sometimes in expressing surprise when I did an undeniably good job. Treated it like a fluke. Or just told me it wasn’t real work. Acted like I was a lazy drag on humankind, ignoring the scores of support jobs I’ve had over the years.
However, this kind of felt like it came from me. Yes, that’s the trick of this imposter stuff. The week before we were due to shoot, I still felt old, uncastable, unlovely and worried that I would express that out loud once I was on the set. Which I did, despite those many warnings to myself in advance. My insecurity went rampant despite the beautiful makeup and hair. I was worried about the lighting angles and joked with the director of photography about using beauty light. Under the boom, I started counting the number of times I said I was sorry during the shoot. It was at least 20. Laughing, I started commenting out loud on how many times I’d said the word. I just couldn’t keep my concerns to myself. I’m not very good at not saying things aloud. Not. There is a lot of “not” in my life.
Here is the best part: No one said a thing about any of it. Everyone gave us the reasonable amount of criticism, praise and direction that works on a set. No one stroked my ego either. The director, the writer, the makeup person and my partner in the scene were so relaxed. So easy. So fun. We were full of compliments for them too. They were working hard. They deserved it.
Yeah, I wish I could have kept my insecurity to myself but I can’t. Couldn’t. And maybe I don’t need to do so. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Not when I’m with people who I can be real enough to overlook my fumbles, foibles or whatever they might be. When I’m with people who believe in me. And I was with those people.
Historically, all kinds of humans have been pushed out of professions. Some of that is in the name of competition. “You’re taking my job.” I get it. I really don’t believe that there is enough to go around. Really, there isn’t. I can’t seem to buy into that idea. Well. There is, if you have enough to eat and you are safe and warm. Those things are a lot to ask in many countries but they are still not enough.
That’s where gratitude comes in, I know. But I’m not always grateful and I think that’s okay. Sometimes I spout platitudes to boost my spirits and they often help me and others—if the others are in the mood to hear my advice. Which often they are but sometimes are not. I think. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Who really knows? We are such moody beings. We want help. But we don’t. We want praise. But in the right way from the right people. Some people love us. We love others. Others who don’t love us. And we don’t always tell the truth. It’s hard to reveal one’s self.
Maybe the answer again is:
Today I feel at peace. Happy with the little film in progress, happy with the little short story I wrote which is slated to be published this fall. Happy I did a good job substitute teaching this year. Happy I connected with the old friends and teachers at the universities where I also work at times as a professor. Saw their latest shows. Celebrated theatre.
All of these things are considered “success” by some and not by others.
As you can see, I go in circles.
- Tulshyan, R., Burey J. (2/11/2021). Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome. Harvard Business Review. hbr.org