Growing up, I rarely felt like I fit in. I had so many experiences when I felt like an outsider. To make matters worse, I was really hurt by the fact that my parents didn’t support me or take me seriously in my desires to be a professional dancer.
So what did I do? What any sensible pre-teen would do! I rebelled by committing 110% to dance and school. After all, if I got perfect grades, that would keep my parents off my back and I could totally do this dance thing without them. Right?
I funneled my hurt into fuel and got really good at being a one woman show. I had few friends (I didn’t really need them) and spent most of my time in dance class and the rest of my time doing my homework. It was pretty lonely, but I was too busy to even notice.
This go-it-alone attitude, while it worked for awhile, in the long run has made things a lot harder for me. I actually love and crave friendships, partnerships, and collaborations with other artists, but after years of closing myself off, it can be really challenging for me to build these relationships.
Hence, my fear that I revealed last week – “Feeling like actors who have more experience than me will never see me as their equals”.
It is so easy for me to place people with amazing careers on a pedestal. In my journey from being “just a dancer” to a full-on triple threat, I’ve found myself constantly judging myself when it comes to being around singers and other musical theatre performers. I’ve felt overwhelmed and shadowed by their talent so many times to the point that would bring me to total paralysis when it came to singing in their presence.
And the idea that they could become my friends and colleagues? Well that is just plain ridiculous.
What could I possibly have to offer to enrich their lives, their craft?
In spite of these deep seated fears, I have many times found myself receiving unexpected support from singers who I viewed as a few (or many) rungs up the ladder from me. Their support, words of encouragement, and stories of their own journeys have always brought unexpected fuel to my fire and exposed me to ideas and inspiration I had not previously thought of.
The truth is that is far easier to make myself not good enough than to reach out. Which is why I made one of my important next steps in the last week to reach out to a few of my friends and colleagues to invite them for coffee.
While seemingly a small risk, asking for a coffee date meant that I had to set aside my own feelings of worthiness in favor of leading with my desire – to have strong friendships with successful actors and to get some insights on how I could get out of my rut and back to feeling empowered and inspired in my work and the opportunities I am creating for myself.
I followed through on my impulse and reached out to a total of 3 people at various stages of their careers in musical theatre who I totally admire and respect. Of the three requests I sent, I got three responses. One of the gals is out of town on a gig, but is more than happy to talk when she returns. I had a coffee date with the second yesterday afternoon. And the third will be meeting me for coffee on Thursday. Exciting stuff!
My conversation with Gal #1 (keeping the names secret to protect the innocent) yesterday was so fun and inspiring. While we talked plenty about what she’s up to right now, including callbacks for a national tour (my fingers are totally crossed for her), I was able to share with her honestly my frustrations with how my career is going right now. And because of that honesty, she reminded me of one of my superpowers as I performer (I’m a great communicator), made a few song suggestions, and even told me about some coaches and groups that I didn’t know about. But the best part was that in our entire conversation, I never felt like I was less than her – it was completely a two way street.
That is something that I won’t soon forget.
What do you do when you are feeling lonely or less than? What are your favorite ways to build community? I would love to hear from you in the comments.
And this week, I leave you with one of Sondheim’s masterpieces. There is such wisdom in this!
Have a great week!