As you all know from my previous blogs, the past couple of years have been a bit of a journey for me, trying to alleviate stress and unnecessary negativity from my life. I've been training my brain demons like a new puppy to try and stop them from jumping up uninvited. Working really hard to always see or find a positive in every situation while trying to silence my 'demons.'
These 'demons' are something myself and a couple of friends have been discussing a lot recent;y. My little niggling monsters used to appear in my mind quite regularly, their triggers were everywhere! They would spin out of control telling me I was fat or out of shape on a regular basis, or they'd tell me I looked awful in every piece of clothing I tried on. They'd make me think that no-one would like me, or that I just generally wasn't good enough - at everything! It has taken some patience and time but I feel like I've finally managed to get them under control at the ripe age of 34. I feel like those evil voices are now on mute most of the time, however this week I have realised that my work on my demons is not quite complete, and I now know their strongest trigger - Audition!
Oh my goodness, where do I start? I feel like Im a person who has her shit together (most of the time) and I can finally say that Im Ok at this thing called 'adulating!' I have savings in the bank, I work hard and love what I do, but also feel like I finally have that all important work/life balance. Ive had a lovely couple of years in the career department, doing jobs and getting offers that for a long time I thought were well out of my reach. Im usually able to go into an audition room knowing what I am capable of and if I'm not right for the job, then thats OK. However... I have recently been auditioning for THAT show. You know the one, I think we all have it. The one that you've been seen for several times, often getting to the later stages but never being quite right enough to secure the offer. The one that you get all the positive feelings for, the one that you know you're capable of doing and that for some reason your gut won't let go of and your heart whispers, 'just try it one more time...' That show!
Audition one for said show was good. An all round positive experience, a recall that day and the first real test of my knee since coming back from my injury, or 'mechanical fault' as my physio likes me to refer to it. I left feeling optimistic and was thrilled with the progress of my knee and the new confidence I had dancing on it again....So far,so good. The recall was really pleasant too as far as auditions go. The panel were warm and chatty and worked with me in the room with different intentions and direction and again I left the room with a smile and that warm gut feeling that isn't arrogant but just lets you know you did well. Im a big believer in the ol' gut instinct! Now this blog is not about the outcome of the audition, but the way that glorious positive gut instinct managed to morph itself over a few days, regardless of the outcome, but all about the stories we make up and tell ourselves in our minds. Cue demons.....So, after a couple of days of not hearing anything they were rife. I mean really, they were attacking from every angle. It felt like they'd been suppressed for so long that they were now making up for lost time. Suddenly after months of being strong willed and in charge of my emotions I lost my grip for a little while and could see the spiral opening up below me. The voices were there, 'as if you thought you were gonna get a recall,' 'why did you even think they liked you, you idiot,' and 'theres no chance you're ever going to get that job, its never going to happen so you might as well just stop trying.' Why do we do it?!? Why do we let our demons take over and run riot? For a day or two, as much as I tried to keep myself distracted I just couldn't get a grip on them. Its ridiculous. I know i have all the tools I need to squash them into oblivion and yet I was allowing myself toast in a pity party and wasn't reaching for anything in my armoury.
Maybe I needed to wallow for those couple of days to be able to step back and take stock of how far I've come? (Theres always a lesson!) I actually used to let myself travel down that spiral after every single meeting or audition, questioning everything. How exhausting and what a waste of energy! I have been told several times in the past by people of influence that maybe I care too much, but I definitely don't see that as a negative. I do care, a lot, if i didn't I don't think Id still be putting myself through the ups and downs of our industry and I wouldn't still be striving and learning to try and better myself every day. I don't think Im wrong in thinking we should all be doing something we care a little bit too much about every day? Doesn't that just translate into being passionate about something? I love feeling passionate about something, it definitely makes my eyes shine a little bit brighter and gives me that fire in my belly. But there is the line of caring, and making sure not to put too much pressure on a situation, thats the difficult part!
So maybe THAT show will always make me feel this way? It obviously has a place in my heart that Im not ready to kick it out of just yet. I do love the show and the thought of being part of it would excite me beyond belief, but I have to make sure I love myself more. Im happy to say Im out of my funk after a couple of days, back to saying my gratitudes and feeling beyond happy with the lovely things and good energy in my life. The demons may not be completely gone but I know I can deal with them when they next make an unwelcome appearance. Even if I sit and let them wreak havoc for a day or two, I now know that I can overpower them. I hope if you have your own demons, that you know you are in control of them, and can always be stronger and louder than they are. Look out for the good things. The things that light you up and make you happy from the inside. My new favourite saying is 'You can't be grumpy while being grateful' and your demons will definitely have trouble raising their voices if you're seeing all of the positives around you.
Have a gorgeous, sunny and demon free weekend.
You are trying to rest so I don't want to disturb you but I'd love to have a couple of minutes with you just to clear my mind and make sure we're on the same page.
I have told you before how lucky I feel to have had you fight for me when I least deserved it. After treating you like something that was just never good enough, or becoming completely obsessed with your appearance, you have stuck with me and remained strong, flexible and incredibly hard working but almost two months ago I relied on you that little bit too much and you finally gave way. I think I'd probably overloaded you with demands for so long that you reached your last straw and broke. I am so sorry. That day, when you told me you needed a break and were in pain, I tried really hard to ignore you. You always picked yourself up and carried on before so why should that day have been any different. Only this time you were serious.
Now, six weeks into caring for my first series injury, I am learning more about myself and about working with you, my body, than ever before. I know it sometimes doesn't seem it but I really am trying to be patient and to give you the time you really need to rebuild. I hope you understand that I am not angry with you. If I try to do something that you're not quite ready for, or cry for what seems to be no reason, I'm just frustrated. I miss being a great team...mind and body both firing at the same pace. I miss just being able to get up and do what I love to do with your full support. Instead, I am having to be careful and tentative until you tell me you are ready.
I hope that the work we're doing together with new exercises is filling you with strength. I am definitely learning how to look after you more than I ever did before, which can only be a good thing. I also hope that the podcasts and me trying to stay as positive as I can during the process is helping you, even just a tiny bit.
So...my dear body, I'm just not sure how long this is going to take but I promise to listen and respect your voice. If you shout out any doubts or warnings then I will listen and not push you too hard. I need you, it's that simple. I need you to be better because I sure as hell won't get very far without you. And when you're ready, I can't wait to be back dancing, because we love it. I know we'll be stronger and more in sync than we left off two months ago.
How is your 2018 going so far? I can't quite believe it's already the end of January, the first chapter in our 12 part book is almost complete. Are you all managing to stick to your personal goals and resolutions you set yourselves as the sun rose on the new year? In case you're finding yourself slipping, I'd love to talk about the new way I choose to work towards my targets after some self discovery and new practices.
New goals should be like a little encouraging voice in the background of your brain gently leading you in the right direction. Maybe steering you away from the treat cupboard, or guiding you towards the gym. Or maybe as a gentle reminder to be kind or to regularly call your mum. I used to be guilty of letting a new target become all consuming. Especially if it was a career goal. Are any of you the same? Rather than a dim hum of background guidance, my goals used to play on loud speaker at the forefront of my brain at all times. This often led to piling up the pressure, raising the stakes and often creating anxiety around the idea of achieving my goals. I am the person who proactively goes after what I would like in my life, but I used to enlist my whole heart and soul and pin them all onto that singular dream, which in turn put me in a danger zone. A high risk candidate for feeling broken if all didn't go quite to plan.
Of cours eI'm not saying being passionate is bad, its a wonderful and beautiful trait. But when I used to attach my every wish onto one goal, the journey became less important and the endgame was the only thing that mattered to me. If en route I had made a billion brilliant breakthroughs for myself but I didn't quite achieve the ultimate goal, then id see it as a complete failure. Id feel very low and take time to heal and process while piecing myself back together.
I decided recently that exerting this kind of emotional energy at all times was pretty exhausting and that this constant roller-coasting process was also draining away my happiness. Of course I still make goals, and big ones....but I now make sure I break them into smaller chunks that I know i will be able to achieve on the way to the big end zone. I also now ensure that I make time to congratulate myself on even the smallest of steps in the right direction. The feeling of achieving and proving yourself capable is incredibly satisfying and also quite addictive. This leads to you being even more likely to strive forwards to reach your next marker on your goal smashing journey.
I read a brilliant book at the end of last year called 'The Miracle Morning' by Hal Elrod. In his book, Hal encourages people to make the most of the first hour of their days. He suggests using meditation, exercise, planning and journalling to kickstart readers energy and focus their minds. He explains that this is more likely to set people off on the best possible start to their days in the best possible mindset. As i said, I thought the book was brilliant, however setting aside a whole hour for myself every morning wasn't particularly practical, especially while on tour in Asia where travel or theatre calls could be quite early. So Ive made myself a new little regime which Im calling my 'Calming Hour.' Each night I settle down for me time, to refocus and be grateful. I light a candle, make myself a cleansing tea, and reflect on all of the positives from the day. Sometimes i jot them down, sometimes i journal and make a gratitude list, and other times I just make a mental note and store it somewhere internal. Its a tiny practice, but this time set aside for myself sends me to sleep feeling positive after reliving the days highlights. It also makes me incredibly grateful for the things and people I have in my life, and eases me into a peaceful, anxiety free sleep, meaning I can wake the next day fresh and ready to make more happy moments.
Its worth noting, that from a distance some days feel completely rubbish and we can't wait to end them and start again. These are the days where it is extra important to write a gratitude list. These are the days that try to tip us off our path and test our willpower. But if you search through the day with a fine toothed comb I promise there will be positives in there waiting to be found. So even if a meeting didn't produce the outcome you'd hoped it would, maybe you felt confident in your pitch, or your new outfit, or maybe someone told you you looked great. Or if you're really letting yourself sulk and struggling to see the sunshine, maybe your positives for the day are that you could afford the travel costs to get to the meeting. Or that you have clean water to drink, or family to call when you're down.......there is literally always a positive if you let yourself find it.
If you would like to introduce a 'Calming Hour' into your own routine I would highly recommend it. Of course you can make it as personal as you like, maybe yours could include doodling, or meditating or even some yoga practice. But whatever it is you choose to do, male sure you bring all of your focus back to you, calming your mind and being wholeheartedly grateful. And always, always acknowledge your progress and be very proud of yourself.
It’s me again – The one you’re constantly trying to impress. I feel like I owe you another sincere apology. I seem to have got trapped in this constant state of comparison and once again I’m neglecting to notice all of the amazing things that you are doing for me every day and I am sorry! You are working so hard and being so resilient, and still when I think of you, I am not satisfied.
I think it is going to take years of practice to undo all of the criticism and unfavourable thoughts that seem programmed into my way of thinking. I am not entirely sure why, when you do some brilliant things every day, that I still focus on and replay the one thing that didn’t go quite so well. Yes I am a perfectionist, but I know I need to start appreciating what are you ARE capable of, rather than the occasional errors you make. I also need to remind myself that you are slowly starting to age and I need to be less frustrated that you are not the same as you were when you were 25!
It is difficult in a profession like ours to remember what makes us unique and special. We are constantly trying to prove ourselves to different panels and peers, trying to prove that we are good enough for a job, or strong enough to fulfill a role. It becomes the norm to try and reach other peoples expectations of us rather than applauding you, my tool, for just being healthy and fighting! And all of this whilst being surrounded by 19 year old spring lambs who are bouncing off the walls with confidence.
Someone asked me recently, ‘if there was one thing you could change about your body, what would it be?’ I thought of my answer immediately, and once I’d thought of that one thing, a list kept unfurling in my mind of all of the things I dislike about you and what I would happily change. And then I stopped myself and thought for a minute. A little conversation with another friend and a google search later and we had found this incredible video by the Jubilee project. In the video 50 people are asked what they’d change about themselves. The first few answers were all physical things that these people disliked and would happily trade in. The next people questioned were children and their answers were gorgeous. One little girl wanted wings so she could fly. Another wanted a mermaid tail. Little boys thought they’d like cheetah legs so they could run faster or a shark mouth so they could eat more! How did we all get so bogged down in the negative and stop seeing all these magic possibilities? I felt so guilty for immediately picking you apart rather than celebrating you and all the amazing things that you could do! And how awesome would having a mermaid tail be?!
So – To my amazing body. I find myself needing to readdress my thought patterns once again and to stop being so bloody harsh on you all of the time. We’re getting to travel this amazing journey together and you my friend are still dancing and kicking as high as the 20 odd year olds I know! So thank you.
What would I change about my body? Absolutely nothing! (Except maybe magical sparkly hair that grows overnight!)
To all of my incredibly talented friends who are doing wondrous jobs throughout the dance and musical theatre fields. This blog is for all of you and to myself.
Some of my nearest and dearest people are currently kicking serious ass in their careers. They are fully immersing themselves into the worlds of whichever shows they are in 8 times a week and are being so generous to their casts and audiences with their consistent, beautiful and real performances. These friends are the people who are so passionate about what they do and which show they are part of and they have my absolute respect and admiration.
Recently I have heard so many stories from these friends of people in their worlds moaning or complaining on a daily basis. Whether they’re moaning about having to do an extra rehearsal, or that they can’t be quite bothered to do the show. Or they moan because they didn’t get the role they assumed they’d get in the next show, or they bring their outside world problems and thoughts on to stage with them….. Hearing these things from the people I adore makes me really sad. Of course we all get tired when we’ve done a tech and an extra show in the school holidays, or sad if things outside of work aren’t going our way, but we have to remember there are so many others who would quite literally kill to do that extra rehearsal, have the role you didn’t want, do the show in their pants, wear that costume that rides up your bum……etc etc, you get my point!
It all goes back to being grateful for what we have and where we are in our lives right now. If we are truly living in the moment and being grateful for what we have, when we’re on stage doing what we love and what we’ve worked hard for should be the best and most rewarding thing. The committed people drive me to be better. To be the person they’d want in their company. The one who shows up, works hard, is a good company member and will always always try to be positive and grateful.
Outside of our industry the same thing applies. I met with a lady who is hugely respected and admired this week. She is really poorly and battling things I could never imagine, yet she lit a fire in me with her positive spirit. Her body is fighting a fight that no one should have to experience and yet her eyes and words were so bright. She is seizing every opportunity, living her best life and showing no sign of losing her drive and ambition. I usually can’t talk about morbid things, im a real crier and will shed a tear instantly if I start empathising too much or get over sensitive. However after speaking to this incredible lady I just felt enlightened. I left her feeling completely in awe, she truly is a superwoman! I felt like that fictional lightning bolt had hit me right between the eyes and I knew I had to live every second and make my life and every action and decision I make count.
I want to make a promise to myself to never take a job or opportunity for granted and to always remember the no’s, the auditions and comments that made me cry but also pushed me to work harder if I’m ever feeling crappy.
I owe it to myself to never ever complain, but I also owe it to the people who are still striving to get their dream. I owe it to the people who’s bodies are letting them down and are going through treatments that leave them unable to do what they’d love to do. I owe it to all the people who have planned for weeks and months and saved up to come see a show just to escape reality and be transported away from the outside world for a couple of hours.
Right, I’m off to be the best version of me that I can be today! Have a lovely day – be fabulous and in love with your life.
Hello you beautiful people and welcome to another little positive pip from yours truly!
So on this wonderful journey of self discovery we’re all travelling along, I think its quite natural that little questions will pop up in our roads. That is A OK. Questioning things about ourselves and our natural reactions is one of the best ways for us to learn and better ourselves. It also means we are open and present and most importantly, growing! Id like to give you an example of something that blocked my path a bit last week and after some good old thinking and rearranging in my brain, Ive been able to recognise an insecurity in myself and know that im going to work to not let this particular thing bother me again. So……
What, Are. You. Up. To? These five little words may seem pretty harmless to the majority of the population, but to this little lady they are like kryptonite! They reduce me to a shaky, clammy, mute who apparently forgets all the good things I am indeed up to and what comes out instead is some apologetic mumble.
I realise that this must read as a bit dramatic and a bit of an extreme reaction to a string of mono syllabic words but this is a real life first world problem im having!!!! Performers are particularly guilty of initiating interactions with this favourite gem of mine. I am putting my hands up and admitting i have asked the question once or twice too, and now have strong words with myself and change my thought process rapidly if i even feel the ‘W’ forming in my mouth!!
So why do i react this way, and what do i need to find in myself to make this question OK? In the nanosecond after the words are uttered, i feel like my brain cells must scream ‘evacuate’ and then clear out of there as fast as they can . So as i frantically search for what i know should be some super shiny, impressive answer all i can actually find is little negative Nigel sat waiting to be picked ‘cos he couldn’t run away as fast as the others! My immediate guess is that the person who asked the question must have something rather fabulous they would like to share so i try to get my unimpressive answer out as quickly as possible and pretend it never happened and let them gush.
Of course, this is all my own insecurity. Why do I even need to impress this person? I know I am doing lots of positive things day to day that I am hugely proud of. Yes I may not have that elusive years contract just yet, but I have a new qualification, a small role in a very exciting TV series, I am working hard on myself both physically and mentally, am trying to learn hip hop and am kicking lents butt! So next time someone asks me ‘what are you up to?’ I really need to make an effort to remember these wonderful things and to remind myself that they asked you because they really are interested and want to hear that you’re doing brilliantly!
So as well as being proud of my achievements no matter how small, I am also going to endeavour to ask new questions. How wonderful would it be if someone asked where in the world you’d love to explore? Or what has made you really laugh this week? I can guarantee they would spark much more interesting and more comfortable conversation, without fear of not living up to someone else’s expectations.
Go and start some lovely chats and feel proud of yourselves!
My brain and I have become friends recently! We’ve been going on a good, proactive journey together. I am incredibly proud that I can now recognise my go to thoughts and habits, and can catch myself if I slide into a negative mindset, and 90% of the time I can turn it into a positive. I am still actively writing my gratitude journal every night (if you’re not doing it, give it a try – I promise it sends you to sleep in a happier place!) and am always trying to see light if life gives us a little bit of darkness.
Now, as you may know, I live in the world of self employed creatives, where motivation and self drive are our most valuable tools! Living through the various knock backs and getting right back up and trying again has become second nature. If you want something badly enough you have to fight for it right? Well, this week my fight just wasn’t there. Im not sure why but I found myself in a rare slump. I usually allow myself about half an hour of feeling crappy after a bad audition before I make myself get over it and move on, but this week I wallowed. The quicksand of negativity and self doubt really took hold for a few days.
After too many days of self pity, I decided to take myself off to class, hoping it would dust off some of the grumpy cobwebs! If I’m truthful I spent the whole warm up section of the class questioning myself, my ability, every little niggle wound me up more and more. It was no reflection on the class or the people around me, it was just me! But – When we had learnt the routine and were just dancing something magical happened – my brain just shut up! And it was the most happy, miraculous thing! I’ve never actually stopped to notice before, but when I’m happy my brain is quiet. It just gives me the space and time to enjoy the music and to do what I’m doing without interference. Isn’t that amazing?!
Our industry is built on us seeking other people’s approval. From parents and teachers, to audition panels, to audiences…. it never stops, but when do we just switch off and do it for ourselves. When we’re completely present, in the moment and fully committed to just being happy. No scrutiny, no outside pressure, just us doing what makes us feel good! It literally was a lightbulb moment on my journey home that dancing that gorgeous routine in class I hadn’t thought a single bad thought. Interesting huh?!
My new priority is going to be to try and find those times when my brain is quiet, and to make them more and more frequent. Of course it would be crazy to spend our whole lives without questioning things, but I’m going to do more of what makes me happy and push out the things that make my brain seem loud and niggly. Just for me! Even in audition situations, Id like to try and be there just for me- dancing and singing because it makes me smile from the inside. I know the aim is to impress and get a job, but i can only be me, and if thats not enough, then its simply not my job.
So whether you love singing, cooking, hanging out with friends, going to the gym, or eating that occasional chocolate bar…. let yourself do it!!! Life is too short, and without being too morbid, we never know when our last day will be so go and do what you love without judgement, without feeling pressured to be perfect, just be happy!
Hi….I have so much to apologise for and to thank you for, that I can’t quite pick a place to start. For years I haven’t given you the credit I should have and have stretched you to your limit in every way possible, and you’re still standing strong and fighting for me.
I cant tell you how sorry I am for really not caring about how you felt for so long. I was so angry that you were never ‘perfect’ that I ruined you even more, and yet there you were every day, still working so hard to try and prove yourself to me. Over and over I’d see you in the mirror looking back at me in ballet class, you were so vulnerable in just a leotard and tights, and I’d hate you so much. There was always something that wasn’t right and I’d blame you for everything, when in fact it was me, my insecurities and weaknesses that were to blame.
It has been a long slog, I know. Since the age of 12, you weren’t good enough. I was told that if you were a little bit thinner you’d be better and you and I would be able to achieve more. I have to tell you that at age 12, I loved you. You were letting me dance, you had long legs, pretty feet, a tiny waist and willowy arms – I had never questioned you before. But from that day I was programmed to think differently and that was it. You were like the discarded toy that Id grown out of and I didn’t want you anymore. My quest to make us perfect had begun. I really cant apologise enough and writing this I feel like you should have given up on me right there and then.
I sometimes think that if you were a human friend you would have disowned me. You would have walked away and never looked back, and I would have let you go and understood exactly why you were leaving. But to my absolute amazement, many years after our battle had begun you were still there, trying to be as strong as you could and letting me know that you weren’t going to let me down. No matter how much I challenged you, which I did more and more, you always delivered, and I never said thank you – I just pushed harder. I do wonder what we could have achieved together had I never started our tryst, but that’s something I’ll never know.
Today there are days that I am so proud of you! There are also still the days when I’m not completely comfortable and dislike you, but please bare with me because I am really trying and it may take some time. I do worry that your calmness and the way you never really reacted to my torture may come back to hurt me. I could beg and plead for you to not have brittle bones and be weak when I’m an old lady, but after all I’ve put you through, i have lost the right to ask.
For now i am going to treat you as if we’ve just met and I’m trying to make the best first impression. You can have those fresh fruit juices you love, and every now again the treats you crave! You can have lazy days as long as you meet me on the treadmill A few times a week just to put my roaming mind at rest. I am going to let you dance just because you love it, and because you know what, you look pretty good doing it! I’m going to try my best to hold my judgements when I see you in a mirror in class, or in a fitting room with bad lighting. I promise to put lovely clothes on you and to always appreciate you, because I have finally acknowledged that you’re mine and you’re awesome!