Celebrate Privately, Love Publicly
The Road You Walk Alone
Oh, the things we learn holed up in a hotel room for five days. I got lucky as an essential business worker because I almost lost my mind during a five-day quarantine. I might've become The Joker if I'd endured an entire pandemic of it.
My first major acting role was a humbling experience. I've been blessed with embarrassing situations in the midst of success as it's kept me from becoming too much of an egomaniac.
I wasn't the best at managing my money, so I had $12 in my bank account with a maxed out credit card. Not because I was broke, I just had this terrible idea to force myself into a "drastic budget cut" by transferring all of my money into a savings account that took two days to become spendable again.
I couldn't afford the delivery fees from grocery stores or Postmates, but thought I was a resourceful genius when I remembered a $50 Amazon gift card my ex-stepfather gave me for Christmas. I felt so clever as I went to order a ton of groceries on Amazon Fresh before I realized it may be the worst grocery delivery service on the planet. The only thing they didn't forget was my water and hummus.
That's not a "woe is me" blurb. I didn't starve and had a roof over my head with a wonderful opportunity in front of me. It's just hard to think you're hot shit when you're eating hummus with a spoon.
As I sat on the couch, eating my hummus, I started fantasizing about all of the praise I was going to get when I could announce my casting. All of the "I told you so" conversations. This was something I'd been failing at for six years and I finally had an answer to the question every actor is asked.
"Have I seen you in anything?"
But the more I started to fantasize about this adulation, the more I realized how self-important it was starting to feel. Instead of being happy with the opportunity I had, I was obsessing over how everyone would respond. I cared more about what other people thought about my success than what I thought about it. It was a tool for validation instead of a celebration of personal growth. The pursuit of a status boost.
We all have this need to share our story that comes from the constant search for meaning. That's why I'm writing my own story right now. We want our words and actions to have a meaningful impact and there's nothing wrong with that. Share whatever you want on Instagram or Facebook without getting sued or assassinated. Just realize most of the time nobody cares.
When I say nobody cares, it sounds harsh, but I don't mean it literally. I mean it in the sense that nobody cares enough to give you the validation you're seeking. Because often, I only catch myself wanting to tell everyone about whatever success I've had when I don't feel deserving of it. I try to convince everyone else that it makes me something I'm worried I'm not. But it's like putting a band-aid on a bone sticking out of your arm. It's not going to heal whatever insecurity is making you feel worthless deep down.
But also, most people don't actually care. Not because they're bad people, but because everyone's already so focused on their own stuff. And the people that do care are generally involved enough in your life for it to naturally come up without releasing a mass PSA. And those are the only people that are worth celebrating with because it comes from genuine love and connection.
All of that to say, it's easy to start doing things for the purpose of sharing them and living life through other people's eyes instead of your own. Too much of that, and you wind up resentful or indecisive. There were so many safer routes I almost took for the sake of pleasing people that would've made me miserable.
The goal is to let my own validation be enough. The fact that this project is a huge step forward for me needs to be fulfilling without everyone else affirming it. Because then, I'm able to put the best I can into everything I do no matter who's watching. My resume is built on my conviction, not my insecurity. It's not just a means to an end, but an expression that the right people will find and understand. And the interesting thing is that when you're not so needy of everyone's attention, your work often becomes more attractive and respected.
The only thing any of us can control in the grand equation of interpersonal relationships is the way we show up. We can't control how people respond to our work or how much love we're given. We can only control the work we do and the love we give. That's why, in terms of other people, the only thing any of us should be focused on is reliably showing up and treating others with as much empathy as we can. I can only control how much I recognize and celebrate someone else's value, not the way they recognize and celebrate my value.
Self-esteem ends up flowing out of that much more than shoving our value in other's faces. Out of everything I've done, the one thing that's made me feel the best about myself was when I helped a grieving woman carry her recently run-over puppy into her car. The act of me being there in one of her darkest moments, despite being total strangers, made me appreciate the value I offered the world much more than any of the acting jobs I've booked as of writing this.
So everything I do is for the expansion of myself or the purpose of serving others. Everything else is out of my realm of control. I celebrate privately and love publicly.
Special thanks to Madeline Faye Potter! You can visit www.madelinefayephotography.com to see more of her work and schedule your own shoot!