“You are enough.” Those three words are the most important lesson I have taken away from improv. I first heard the words when I took an improv workshop from Holly Mandel. Those words changed not only the way I approach improv, but also the way I approach life.
What holds you back?
As part of our warmup in Holly’s workshop, we had to admit to what holds us back from trusting our judgment in improv. This was eye-opening for me because I had never said it out loud to another human being. There’s always something holding us back from trusting ourselves. So, when you start to feel down or feel like you are not enough, ask yourself what is holding you back.
I’m not a professional.
My main concern at the time was that I had no formal training as an actor. Because most of my classmates were professionals, I was worried that my efforts would not be technically accurate. (Really, I was worried about things not being perfectly in line with the rules. I also worried that my lack of formal training would cause others to discount how hard I actually do work at improv. In other words, I’m not a professional, so I can’t be good.)
This tends to be how I approach my life, as well. There are instances where I hold back because I worry about missing the mark. People who know me say I am a very harsh critic of myself, and I agree. Whenever I go online, I see all these “great ideas” on Pinterest, and I see all these projects my crafty mom friends post on Facebook, and then I convince myself it’s not worth trying.
“I’m not a Pinterest mom.”
“I am just not crafty.”
“I work, so there’s no time for all that.”
Excuses. I thrive on them and regularly find myself putting ideas and projects on the back burner. I’m convinced that however the project turns out it just won’t be good enough. I’ll just end up disappointed that I wasted time trying to do something that I’m not good at.
When I finally said aloud what was holding me back in improv, Holly’s response to me was, “And? So? So, what?” I was there, right? Yes. Improv made me happy, right? Yes. I was getting the training I needed from the place I wanted to be, right?
Yes, and… that’s when I heard the words:
“You are enough.”
Holly suggested changing my tune. She said the next time I walk into a room to improvise that I should claim “I am enough,” and stop checking my self-worth at the door. So, I gave it a shot during the workshop, and I was great! (It’s so weird for me to praise myself, but I was.) After the class, Holly said, “See! You just proved yourself to a room full of actors, so now you should know you can do this… classically trained or not!”
I needed to hear that at the time. Not too long before that I had taken a class with an improv teacher who I just didn’t click with, and he didn’t pass me onto the next level. He told me my characters weren’t relatable and that I wasn’t believable in my acting. (Honestly, I can feel the tension from classmates and teachers when they find out I do improv “for fun” or “because I love it.” I feel like they resent me because my career isn’t on the line, but now I know that does not matter.)
Not only did I need to hear that in improv and that time, but I needed to hear that in my personal life, too. “You are enough.” They are easy words to read, and easy words to say to someone else, but tough words to accept about yourself.
Thankfully, my husband is a very encouraging man, and he is always super supportive of me, but I encourage myself enough. He’s always telling me I’m way to harsh on myself, and he’s right. I don’t take the time to acknowledge that I am enough.
Too often I feel like I’m failing at everything–as a mom, a wife, a friend, whatever–and I convince myself that I’m just not doing enough. Then, I think about the wisdom from this workshop, and I go through my notes, and I think “Yes! I did it before, and it felt amazing. I am enough.”
The New Pledge of Allegiance
In Holly’s class, we talked about in class if how much further men get in improv because they just let their failures slide (or don’t even realize they failed at something). Women dwell and obsess and replay things and get down on themselves.
So, we came up with a new “pledge of allegiance” that applies not only to improv, but to life. The pledge goes like this:
- I pledge to never abandon myself.
- I pledge to support other women.
This “shift of allegiance” is so important because in class I tend to check-in with the teacher or other students for affirmation. I never quite realized how often I do this in life, too. I “check-in” with other moms, other friends, other women to measure my own self-worth, and that’s just not healthy.
Also, at least for improv it helps to just throw your support after other women improvisers because we already work harder than men do but get fewer laughs. As for life, this really just translates to assuming other moms are doing the best they can with the resources they have (i.e. don’t throw other moms under the bus).
I’m always amazed at how applicable improv skills are to real life. This particular lesson has seriously improved my self-esteem and my happiness. I hope it helps you, too. Just remember, no matter what happens, “You are enough.”