Here you stand with a new goal, project or role or show or wish in your life. You are so excited you have to phone someone and share this inspiration or good news. It is like a whole new door is opening in your life and you want to share this energy with someone and get that energy returned in validation and encouragement and maybe even some cheering.
How many times have you been in this place and picked up the phone and called that someone you thought would be most supportive only to have them shoot you down cold. You thought they would get it, but they don’t. And they question your judgment and talk about what you risks you are taking. You begin to think you are wrong to want this. It is so clear you your friend that this is folly. Have you been a fool? Is this a terrible a mistake? Moments ago it was the best thing ever. But now…you can’t be sure. Now what?
I’m remembering when I went to university and I lived my first year in residence. It seemed every girl on my floor was majoring in business for lack of anything better coming along and I was the only Vocal major there. They wanted to party and drink and date. I wanted to be coherent in the sight reading class I had three days a week at 8:30 in the morning and in good voice for Master class and lessons every week. What I wanted to work for made no sense to them and the way they talked to me left me wondering why I was such a bore. Something was definitely weird about me.
One of the most common requests I receive from young singers is to talk about how to deal with other singers. Sad, but often true, we singers can be a self cannibalizing group of people. There was a time in my past when I consciously stopped hanging out with other singers socially because I always left feeling so crummy about my career and myself. Why do we often miss the opportunity to support and celebrate each other? Why do we instead see others success as our failure?
We lead with a good offense as our personal defense to maintain our own feelings of validity as people.
The scenario- Right after hello comes the question “So what are you doing? What is coming up for you?” Out comes the resume next as each singer name drops the last conductor/director or significant audition, colleague or company they sang for as well as all the offers for next season. I truly believe that this behavior is spawned by fear. We are so harsh on ourselves and afraid of not measuring up that we end up ‘resume’ing’ a colleague. This isn’t restricted to singers, but can be found between friends and relatives and in all other walks of life. Singers don’t own the territory of low self esteem.
How do you deal with this? You need a mini me or several if you can. If you are trying to create something in your life that is new or scary or a stretch or risky in any way, get rid of the people who make you feel bad and who will kill the project. Does this sound harsh? I’m okay with that. What is harsher still is when your very worthy dreams and plans get squashed, belittled and have sand kicked in their face. No one has the right to do that to you. And when you are embarking towards a new life or a new you or anything that is a stretch, it is imperative that you clean your social network house.
Think of it this way: You are the prime minister of your life. You want to put a new program in place that you believe in, that benefits many and is close to your heart. As Prime Minister you make sure all your party members come to the vote and you create a task force of trusted colleagues to help you make it a reality. You do not invite the opposition to rewrite the project, or to vote it down. You get your party around you. In real life, you get yourself a posse. You have your team that loves and supports you.
Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way:
“We must learn to keep our counsel, to move silently among doubters, to voice our plans only among our allies, and to name our allies accurately. “
“…criticism that asks a question like “how could you?” can make an artist feel like a shamed child. A well meaning friend who constructively criticizes a beginning writer may very well end that writer…from that shaming we learn that we are wrong to create…the shame lives on, waiting to attach itself to our new efforts. The very act of attempting to make art creates shame”
Twyla Tharp concurs in her fabulous book for creative types called “The Creative Habit-Learn it and use it for Life”
Rule #32-Build your own Validation Squad
“We all seek approval and validation or our efforts. In the beginning we desperately seek the approval of others-of anybody- to assure us that we’re on the right path, that we aren’t wasting our time, that we haven’t made a monumental error.”
The homework I’m offering here is a mash up of these two ladies and me.
Make two lists. One of friends who are possible candidates for the Validation Squad. Start with those who you admire because they have shown good judgment in their own lives, who are the people in life who see the best in you and admire you back and who aren’t competing with you, so you know they have no agenda of their own. Wrap yourself in up the friends who Julia Cameron calls “Fluffy heated Towels”.
Now make a list of the other friends, whom she calls “Wet Blankets”. The ones who are the opposite of the list above, and the ones who you have noticed leave you feeling poorly about yourself and your life whenever you spend time with them. They don’t increase your faith in you or the universe. They suck it out of you.
Next, spend more time with the Validation Squad, and start eliminating or limiting contact with the Wet Blankets and see what becomes possible.
And finally remember this
“We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other people’s models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open”