Thursday, October 23, 2014

Minor Crisis: A Psychological Self-Analysis

WARNING: This blog post is an unflinching and slightly embarrassing glance into my own psyche. 

Good news! I got a regular full-time job!

Bad news! I didn't get a call-back for Barefoot in the Park!

And all of these things are creating in me a whirlwind of emotions and it's kind of overwhelming. So I'm going to write about it because that helps me process it. And I'm going to post it here because sometimes talking about things helps others to deal with similar experiences. Here's what's going on.


I've been subbing for a couple of months all over Utah Valley. After subbing for the secretary at a private school in Salt Lake City, they asked if I'd be interested in becoming a permanent in-house sub for them. I said yes, and THEN I found out they were looking for a permanent secretary. So I put my name forward and got the job! I'm a real adult, with a salary and benefits and a 45-minute commute and everything. It's kind of lame that I can't just take a day off whenever I want to, like I could when I was subbing. But it's nice to be paid almost twice as much now as I was as a substitute.

And the job is way less intense than teaching is. Teaching involves a lot of classroom management and planning and grading and talking and running activities and supervising and it's generally exhausting. I feel like that's not the kind of thing I can give to a school full-time right now. But I CAN sit at a desk and answer phones and organize files and hand out band-aids and deal with student discipline. And when the school day ends, my work ends--there's none of this silly after hours planning business.

But for some reason, I find myself feeling incredibly anxious while I sit at this desk every day. It might be because I have to get up earlier than usual, and lack of sleep makes me more prone to anxiety. But if I tune in to my body while I'm at school, I notice that my jaw is clenched and my stomach is tight and my breath is shallow. And I couldn't figure out why I kept needing to do calming exercises.

So here's my theory.

It always takes me a while to find my footing in a new group of people. It's easier with theatre people, because they're my "tribe" and I already know the "script" for social interactions in a theatre. In this educational world, I have things in common with the teachers and administrators that I work with, but it's harder for me to...connect. I feel shy and not very confident and generally a little lost. That's true of ANY new job--I always feel like the new kid at the lunch table, certain that no one will like me.

In the first few days here, out of uncertainty about my place, I let my slight OCD run its course unbridled--the desk was organized and everything was labeled and I was effing efficient. And in very complimentary ways, everyone was like, "This is awesome! You're so efficient! You're so good at this job!"

And in a bizarre Pavlovian response, here's what I think my brain subconsciously did:
"That's how I'll get everyone to like me! I'll be efficient and good at being a secretary!"

Then suddenly, every single thing I did as a secretary was a representation of my worth as a human being. So it had to be PERFECT! Because if it wasn't perfect, I was a crappy human and no one would like me! So the names on the files all had to be the same size! The drawers always had to be organized! Everything had to be color-coded! All the pencils had to be sharpened and all the pens had to have caps! Because if not, I SUCK!

This is how perfectionism is the worst.


So even though I'm single cast in Damn Yankees and would have to miss like, 10 rehearsals, I auditioned for "Barefoot in the Park." I feel like I could be a decent Corie, and I was interested in the challenge and fun of the part. I feel like I did pretty good at auditions, but thought I probably wouldn't get cast. There are dozens of capable actresses who could play that part and who DON'T have major schedule conflicts. But I had this horribly narcissistic vision that I'd be good enough to warrant a call-back--that I'd impress the auditioners so much that they'd call me back, even though I wouldn't get the part.

And then I didn't get called back.

Which was lame.

The rejection you have to deal with in this industry is well-known for being torturous. I felt certain for a while that I was the ugliest, least talented, most terrible actress ever. Because of one audition I didn't get called back for. And because I was also dealing with this neurotic perfectionism thing from work, not getting called back felt like the final nail in the coffin of my self-esteem.


So after moping and feeling miserable for the first half of the week, and feeling guilty about feeling miserable, I finally did this:

1. Gave myself permission to take some time to mourn/feel miserable/feel mopey. 
I didn't want to wallow forever, but it was perfectly understandable that I was not exactly feeling cheerful. And that's allowed. I'm allowed to feel sad sometimes! So I gave myself some time to do that.

2. Gave myself this reminder: 

It's a lesson I keep needing to learn over and over again, but if you form friendships by not being genuine, those friendships will feel like work for the rest of your life. I don't want that. I want to just be me. I want to be comfortable in my own skin. It just takes a few daily reminders sometimes to do that. Because I don't have to prove my worth to anyone else. I'm valuable just because I'm a human being. And if the file labels aren't perfectly straight, I'm still a good person.

3. Remembered that Heavenly Father guides my life if I allow Him to. 
So I didn't get cast in Barefoot in the Park. It could just be that I wasn't right for the part. But it could also be that and that there's something else for me to be doing right now. There may be other people to meet or other projects to do. Or maybe doing the show would be taxing in ways I hadn't anticipated. Whatever it is, I trust that things will all work out.

4. Began to focus outward. 
Pride isn't self-love. It's self-obsession. When I allow my thoughts of perfectionism to rule me, when I hang my entire self-worth on things as arbitrary as clerical tasks or as uncontrollable as auditions, it's self-obsession. I think self-love is healthy. Self-obsession shuts you off from inspiration, keeps you from connecting with others, prevents you from living in the moment, and generally makes you unhappy. It's one of the hardest lessons I've ever learned (over and over again), but in my own experience, it really is true that if you lose yourself in the service of others, you find yourself.

So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to end this blog entry that's all about me and try to be kind to those around me.

No comments:

Post a Comment