You Are Not Alone

Sondheim-No one is aloneGrowing 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!



2 Responses to You Are Not Alone

  1. Zoe says:

    Your story about overcoming your lack of support growing up is very inspiring. Thanks for sharing that here. I’ve always prided myself on my independence and like you, realized (what i often feel like was) too late, that all the people around me that were making friends and collaborating were making these awesome things. While I was waiting all day to get seen at whatever EPA and treating myself to a movie alone, these super successful people were thriving and jamming in these cool little communities. I thought I was doing it all the right way. By the book. How my teachers at school taught me in business class. But now I envy their network of collaborators and all the support they seem to have! I’m still so jealous! But i’m starting to do it more now – and it’s paying off quickly. At least sometimes I think it is.

    And I totally feel you on a couple of these points, but good for you for facing your fear. You did well! I’ve had to reach out in similar ways to pick a few brains and you got a much better response than I did! People are supportive and encouraging and will throw me pointers on FB messenger, but it’s hard to get a super successful and busy person to sit down for coffee – good for you! Though I like to tell myself that even connecting and getting back on their radars at all is helpful and will come back around to me at some point. But i’m so happy to hear that this first meeting left you feeling like more of an equal. That’s great.

    Someone who I really admire always stresses this to me when I’m feeling really low about my work and comparing/despairing at the enormously talented and successful people around me – that you are so much better off surrounded by people who challenge you, motivate you, and inspire you. He says that that’s how you know you’re in the right place doing the right things with the right people! I’m currently working on a project outside of my comfort zone with some extremely talented, established and intimidating musicians and feeling like a real no-talent moron half the time. It’s incredible, even when they’re telling me “wow, that’s great, you’re doing a great job” I still feel like the weakest link. Every now and then I say something naive and beat myself up about it or I worry that i’m just not good enough. What’s been really helping me in these moments has been trusting my gut and taking risks – being bold in the room. When it works it’s exciting and I feel like i’ve justified my presence. When it doesn’t, “oh well – i’m a bad-ass risk taker!” And also a huge game changer has been to try and be responsible for the energy I’m bringing into the room. And that’s not just positivity, but also, confidence. Second guessing myself and mentally berating myself brings down the whole group. You friend was right to remind you what makes you special as a performer. We all bring so much to the table. We have to trust that! We’re little unique puzzle pieces.

    But like I said, I feel you! Our heads can be very lonely places. We have to #connect!

    • says:

      Thank you Zoe for taking the time to share your experience.

      We all struggle with connection and similar feelings of not being good enough. But when we stay in that lonely place, there is no one to remind us how awesome we truly are.

      I’m so proud to know you, and see how you bravely keep putting yourself out there. Can’t wait to see more!

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