Jun 27- Daring Greatly

Meditation: Calm, Relationship with Self Series: Failure
Length: 10 minutes
Where: Office/Guest Room, Los Angeles
How It Felt: Hard to focus but inspiring

I’m finally trying to get ahead and write my blogs the day of the meditation rather than the next day. I have a rule that I can’t do the next meditation until I’ve written the last blog, so I’m sure that is one of many things preventing my hopes of a morning routine. Let’s see if this helps!

Plus, I’m performing tomorrow, and I love to meditate before a performance to get focused. And I don’t like to start off work days feeling behind. So, here’s a late night post!

I also moved my meditation cushion back into the office. I think keeping it in the bedroom encourages me to wait until bedtime to actually use the thing.

Lots of theories… let’s see how it goes moving forward.

I’m really happy I chose this Relationship with Self series. I just set up a series of self-care appointments leading up to my birthday in two weeks- all kinds of cuts and dyes and shaping and spraying and all the beauty things. I scheduled some fun plans with friends, too, but mostly I’m using this time to focus on myself. I want to hit the big 3-6 feeling calm and organized and ready to go!

This session was about failure. It really hit me when the guide explained how we so often want to identify with our successes but not our failures. We take it all so personally. We are the same person when we succeed as when we fail, but we don’t feel like it, even though failure is a 100% normal part of life. At least for anyone who ever tries or risks anything ever.

It made me think about Brené Brown’s excellent work on the subject of vulnerability, and the famous Teddy Roosevelt quote she used in Daring Greatly. If you aren’t familiar, here it is:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Basically, sitting on the sidelines and judging the people who are actually doing things is about the easiest thing in the world. It takes no skill, no intelligence, no awareness, and no courage. We know these people well. They are the gossips, the “haters,” the internet trolls. Those who are too afraid to do anything themselves, so they try to tear down those who are braver than they are.

While I am a human being who of course falls into a trap of sometimes beating myself up over a failure here and there, I believe giving myself grace comes a little more naturally to me. I think this can be attributed to two main things.

One, I’m an actor. I’m in the habit of focusing on my success, and not my many, many failures! You cannot be an actor worth a damn if you aren’t able to be vulnerable, to leave it all out there for others to do with what they will. Plus, 95% of my job is getting rejected. You can be the biggest star in the world and not get a role you want, because other big stars want it, too. My rule is to give it my all, from audition to callback to performance, and not worry about what happens after that. I can’t control the rest! I can only control what I do. Booking a job or giving a moving performance can be the best feeling on the planet- why not stay focused on those moments instead?

Secondly, I grew up in a little town where my dreams and goals were not shared by anyone around me, nor did I grow up knowing anyone who had accomplished what I planned to accomplish. I had many reasons to think I couldn’t do it, but I just chose to believe I could and not look back. I think my confidence (and the hustle I had to back it up) meant that people either had to get on board or get out of my way. I can still count on one hand the people who openly did not support me, and even then it only made me more determined. (I’m sure a few had quiet doubts.)

There’s something about just deciding that you’re worthy and refusing to hear otherwise that makes the setbacks easier to bear. I knew very early that I was going to set my sights on success and that failure wasn’t an option, because I only “fail” if I give up. Therefore, it’s impossible to fail, because I will never stop trying.

If I was the type to let a few setbacks stop me, I would never have gotten to this point. So, I just decided I wouldn’t be that type. I also chose to give myself credit for going out into the world to do something no one else I’d ever known (yet) had done.

Others may count every audition that didn’t lead to a job as a failure, or every time my bank account held less than I owed, or every breakup, every screw up, every mistake, but I don’t. Sometimes I get frustrated or embarrassed, but if you can keep your head up (and keep the ability to laugh at yourself fresh) then it’s just swatting at gnats. It’s a minor bad feeling. It passes.

As long as I’m in the arena, I’m not failing. As long as I live with integrity and to my own ethical standards, I’m not failing. As long as I’m focused on helping others and preventing harm, I’m not failing.

As long as I continually strive to “do the deeds,” I can’t fail. Not in any way that matters.

I also think letting go of perfectionism is a big part of this. Letting go of my eating disordered ways also forced me to let go of needing to be perfect in any way. We try to be perfect to escape criticism, because we are terrified of being told anything negative about ourselves. If we stay inside the lines, no one can say anything bad about us, after all!

Which is, of course, completely untrue. As I’ve certainly learned, you can do everything “right” and people will still judge you and find any fault they can, perceived or otherwise. And every human being has faults, so you can never escape this. Those who want to hate, hate. The better your life is going, the more of these people you’ll likely find.

Worse, trying to be perfect keeps you trapped inside your own little prison, afraid to try anything too crazy lest you fail spectacularly. It makes me so sad to see people shrink themselves to avoid criticism or even the thought of it. Even though I “went for it” in a lot of ways in life, I definitely remember the ways I played it safe before I let go of the need to be perfect. In acting classes, I was often given notes about not being able to be “messy.” I was holding back, majorly.

I used to be really proud of the fact that I had never, ever gotten a negative review of any performance I’d ever given. Now, I realize I was probably also not adding anything spectacular or too interesting to most of what I did. I was acting well, but that was it. I wasn’t doing anything special, just safe.

I get so excited to tear into a role now, to play and see what I can do with it. Releasing myself from fear of failure allowed me to finally become a skilled improvisor. I have terrible, uncomfortable moments, still, sure. Sometimes I don’t know what to do. But the fact that I can watch the absolute masters of improvisation try something that doesn’t quite land after years and years of performing tells me that I just have to show up and keep trying, keep learning.

It’s so, so worth it when you get a great laugh, or when a game slides into place like a “click!” There is nothing like the high of it.

I would never get to experience that if I stayed small to avoid the discomfort of doing it “wrong.”

I told you I was introspective before a birthday. These posts are long!

Here’s the point: failing is inevitable. Failing a lot takes courage. The alternative is missing out on nearly everything: love, art, creativity, new experiences, surprises, the chance to change the world or help a lot of people, or to inspire them. Everything good about life, basically. And it’s only a true failure if you don’t learn from it. Otherwise, it’s simply a lesson.

Stay in the arena, and don’t encourage the cowards on the sidelines that throw tomatoes and talk a loud game about how much better they could do it. Encourage the people in your life that are in there fighting, too. Catch yourself when you try to keep someone small out of your own fear. Catch others when they do it to you, and call them on it.

Go big or go home, and if you want to stay home, do it, but leave the ones who ventured out alone, or actively support them.

But it’s much, much better if you can shake off those nerves, go out, and dare greatly. I promise.

For all my failures, I wouldn’t take back a moment of it. It’s been a hell of a ride, and I’m proud of it all.