A Quest for (Self) Love
I'm a drama queen. A lover of all things theatrical. Most especially if I'm the one on the stage getting the attention. I kid. Sort of.
I have childhood memories of dancing and performing on my front porch for the traffic passing by. Directing, writing, and starring in my own music videos, plays, and movies all through grade school. (Mad props to my camera man Dad, and little brothers as my extras and go-fers. We made magic).
I performed because I loved it- the thrill of creating, the expanse of getting lost in the endless possibilities of another character. I never once second guessed what my extended family was thinking as I sat them down for yet one more lip synched dance number. It didn't matter that I was maybe (probably) completely off-key, or that I obnoxiously upstaged my brothers every given chance, or that I completely missed my Dad's muted sigh over having to play camera man yet again. Creating and performing filled my heart with joy, (I assume) provided some sort of entertainment for my forced audiences, and helped build my self-esteem. For all the negative talk out there about the Ego, its development in childhood is important and necessary.
I am an introvert. Though seemingly contradictory to the above picture, I am empathetic and sensitive. I'm easily influenced by the energies of others, and if I'm not conscious of it, it's not difficult for me to play puppet to someone else's desires.
Somewhere along the way, as was apt to happen, I got my first fix of the audience's approval as a performer. The rush was too much to deny. I may have still possessed the "innocent" love of acting, but there was also the allure and addicting nature of praise and adoration. Maybe it was somewhere between the drama that was high school, and jumping through the hoops of Theatre School entrance auditions, but I gradually became immersed in the anxiety-filled world of people pleasing, specifically when it came to what had at one time brought me the most pleasure.
I began to base all of my performing around what approval I would receive from my audience. Instead of looking forward to my time in classes, rehearsals, and on stage, I was filled with self-loathing and fear. I either didn't trust the affirmations I heard, or they weren't enough to carry me through to the next time I performed. I began to feel like I always had to be "on." I didn't know how to live my life in a way that made me happy, because I was so concerned about doing what I thought everyone else wanted me to do. This performance anxiety quickly spilled over into other areas of my life too. Pretty soon, it was challenging for me to drag myself out of bed because I lived in such paralyzing and dangerous fear of not being loveable enough to others. I was desperate for a way out of feeling the way that I did, and I'll admit to making plans for an escape.
There's more that could be said about the dark descent into depression and anxiety, but the details and play-by-play aren't necessary for this post. I will say I came back up and out the other side. I learned to re-write my own stories about self-love and self-approval, in both the artistic and non-artistic parts of my life. That isn't to say I don't hear the old siren song and feel pulled every now and again, the Ego will do what the Ego will do.
As I become more in-tune with my intuition and my innate wisdom, I can better hear her warnings to slow down and turn inward. I'm getting stronger at recognizing my own voice even when it seems enmeshed in a sea of other sounds and voices. I'm learning to respect my sensitivities so that when I do fall into a people-pleasing trap, I pull myself out before reaching Victim status or making a choice I wouldn't otherwise have made for myself.
Where are you listening for the sounds of someone else's voice to the detriment of hearing your own inner knowingness? Where are you searching for the approval or love in someone else's words and eyes, rather than taking a good hard look at the wisdom to be found in the mirror? Because I will tell you this: no one can love you like you can and no one knows your capacity for happiness like you do. And that love is as expansive and as thrilling as the endless possibilities of fictional characters. Believe me, I should know.