Feeling some lack of confidence lately? A little low on self esteem? Thinking maybe you don’t have what it takes? (To create a good show, attract an audience, do the hard work towards a big goal, withstand rejection, make even a partial living doing what you love, etc.)
I feel ya.
So I recommend the following, which may sound a little scary, but it’s worth it. (Well, it might not scare you, but I confess that I dreaded it and only went through with it because it was a homework assignment for a workshop I was taking.)
- Ask three to five people in your network to identify the things they believe you are good at and to provide evidence for those things that they identified as your strengths.
“Network” just means People You Know, preferably as More Than Acquaintances.
If this assignment brings up the following fears:
- Everyone will be too busy
- No one will want to reply even if they’re not busy
- Everyone will automatically think of your flaws and this will prevent people from being able to think of a single strength that you have
…consider the possibility that these fears are due to anxiety and not reality. They’re understandable because you’re making yourself vulnerable. But if you make the request of people you care about who you can reasonably suspect care about you, too…then it is not such a presumptuous request and there may be no reason to fear the response.
If you have no fears about making the request, I still think this is a worthy exercise for you.
Give the list makers a deadline of three days, tops. This helps them and you. Your message won’t sit in their In Box or voicemail forever, and you won’t wait and wonder for a long time if they’ll reply.
Also, while you’re waiting for their response, take 10 minutes to write down what you think your strengths are, and provide evidence. This can be helpful toward building or maintaining confidence and healthy self acknowledgment. Always good when you’re working on something new and risky.
When folks start responding, you may be unsurprised by some of the strengths they list—after all, you’ve met you. Nonetheless, be prepared for a strength or two (or more) that you didn’t predict. Or perhaps you didn’t expect a strength to be described in the way that it’s described. Or for the evidence to be something you had completely forgotten. Yet it’s nonetheless true.
Yes, you did do that. Yes, it was admirable and worthy of respect.
I think we need a lot of encouragement as we forge ahead on this loopy, unpredictable path of solo show creation and touring and other creative endeavors. Often there’s no way to know what will happen next, so we keep on submitting the show, or creating a new one, and working on other stuff that fills us, or taking breaks from it all, and we need incentive to believe we’re worthy of our dreams.
A Strengths List can help with this. It’s like the list of compliments from audience members that I mentioned a while back. In your most vulnerable moments, sometimes other people’s words can make all the difference. There’s no shame in that. We’re a social species and we need one another’s validation. We just do. It helps if it comes from people we trust.
Also, when compiling your Strengths List, you may learn that you are more powerful—not just strong but powerful—than you realized. Look at what you’ve accomplished! That took more than determination.
No harm in it, since you’ve been harnessing this power to connect with people and remind them that they, too, are not alone. That’s what storytellers and artists do. Even if a work of art is about unwanted solitude or loneliness (or sadness or rage or jealousy or some other unpleasant emotion), it still acts as an outstretched hand toward anyone who has felt the same. Acknowledgment and recognition are powerful things. The feeling that an artist “gets” us is incomparable.
Honor your power. You’ve probably got more than you know and I’m betting that you’re using it to do good. When you receive your Strengths Lists, remember to thank the people who remind you of your power, for they are gold.
BONUS: This hugely popular TED Talk reminds us that we do this because it’s what we do. (You don’t have to have read or liked her work to enjoy the benefit of this talk.)
Your elusive creative genius by author Elizabeth Gilbert
Announcement: I’ve got new workshops coming up next week. Take a look! Click on “click for more” under “Group Solo Show & Memoir Workshops.”
Thank you for reading my twenty-fifth post! I love your comments! Please feel free to leave one below.