I should have been an actress. Jennifer Lawrence and I would totally be hanging out in Hollywood right now, drinking fancy coffee and reminiscing about our hometown. She’d congratulate me on my latest Oscar. I’d act like it was nothing. Bill Murray would walk up and say something funny. We’d throw our hair back and laugh and laugh…
But, I am not an actress. I’ve just been one hell of a performer.
Although I haven’t been on a theatrical stage since middle school (unless late night karaoke counts), I’ve come to the realization that a big chunk of my life has been a performance. Sure, there were many tender and authentic moments, but my inner actress was driving the bus for a long time. Most of what I did and said was thoroughly calculated to make sure it was appropriate for the audience. Did I want to sound smart? Did I want to make people laugh? Did I want to flirt? How could I control the conversation or situation so that no one caught me off guard and saw the real me - the messy, unsure, imperfect me? That was too scary. I didn’t always realize I was doing it either. Most of the time it was just a habit. I was doing it unconsciously. I could have done it in my sleep. However habitual though, the facade still took up a LOT of energy.
I started my acting career early. I had an incredibly loving and supportive family, but as a very sensitive little person I also felt great tension and a strong drive to be perfect. I internalized the message that being myself was not safe and that being nice and pleasing was more important than being honest.
Performing as the always well-behaved, capable, smart girl created safety as a kid. In high school and college, I learned that performing could help me manage certain situations in which young women sometimes felt powerless. I was doing my best to navigate the tumultuous waters of female adolescence. My skills developed quite artfully as I grew up and moved from place to place, but there was always an underlying current of discomfort. For a long time, I felt like a free-spirited hippy cloaked in constrictive J. Crew clothing, but didn’t know how to do anything about it. Finally, as with any growth or life change,
it became more uncomfortable to hide than to start being real.
Any of this sound familiar?
Unless one’s whole life was spent in a cave, everyone on this planet learns to perform at some point to some degree. It’s normal and natural. It’s a learned survival skill called socialization. However, as we grow up and mature realizing being different is no longer a real threat, no one teaches us how to ‘unlearn’ this skill and be more real.
Performing can take on many faces. There’s active performing where we do and say certain things or act a certain way to gain approval or fit in. Performing can be passive where there are situations in which we endure things we don’t like or agree with so as not to rock the boat. Some people perform as the antagonist - always countering whatever the majority says is right or best. Some people are the victim. There are countless roles we can take to hide or be small, all for the sake of playing it safe. For many, it’s been happening for so long, it’s an unconscious habit. Some people truly identify with the facade they’ve been playing as the real thing. But it’s not.
I believe it’s time to stop hiding and time to start SHINING!
Shining is what happens when we stop performing and just be. We don’t have to go out and find (or pay for) our shine. We have to uncover it. Get out the spiritual Windex and start scrubbing away at the years of gunk we’ve let pile on around our shine. Shining happens when we take off the armor and let our glittery, funky outfit show. Shining is when we tap into what our real essence is: what makes us belly laugh, what makes us cry, what we LOVE doing when no one is watching, what we do when we get lost in time, what makes us want to knock things over to run and get to that thing that we can’t NOT do, what makes us feel connected to a higher thing or purpose. Here’s another cool thing about shining:
You don’t get to decide the way you shine, just as a star cannot choose – a star is simply a star and it shines. It doesn’t spend precious time and energy critiquing the way it shines. A star doesn’t go around saying, “Oh is this valuable? Do the planets like how I shine? Wait, is this sparkle of mine a marketable thing? Will it earn me some money?” No a star does not say this. It just is. It’s a star and it shines. - Robin Hallett
Shining is based in love. Performing is based in fear.
Shining is relaxed. Performing is guarded.
Shining is all about you. Performing is for the sake of others.
Shining is being. Performing is doing.
Shining comes from the heart. Performing comes from the ego.
Shining is surrendering. Performing is forcing.
Shining can also be very scary when we first start. It may trigger some of those unsafe, unsure, unlovable feelings from long ago. But, we must remember we are safe. We are supported. We are loved. Our shiny one can drive the bus now. We are going to be OK… always.
We also must remember to have patience with ourselves and be gentle. This work isn’t just the flick of a switch. This takes willingness, practice and mindfulness. Being willing is the most important part. Say to yourself (and to the world): I am WILLING to stop performing and START SHINING! (Say it out loud three times. It’s kind of fun.) Being mindful helps us be aware. Awareness of when and how we are performing is the second step to stepping off the stage and into our real lives.
We are all worth being seen. When we perform we do it for others approval, which we may get, but they are often not the right people to be supporting us. When we allow ourselves to shine it has an effect on other people that performing never will. It’s magnetic. The right people will be drawn to us and will support us lovingly, without judgement. Our shining will not offend our tribe. It will inspire them to do the same.
If our shining offends anyone, that is THEIR PROBLEM. It has nothing to do with us, our worthiness, our sacred right to shine and be seen. Let’s let go of the people who want to extinguish our light and surround ourselves with people who are also willing to shine!
Our desires, wants, needs, delights, pains, heartaches - that’s all part of the shining, no matter how frivolous or silly it seems. Shining doesn’t mean needing a lot of attention, accolades or validation. The validation comes from within. It’s a deep sense of peace amidst the fear and chaos that you are honoring yourself enough to be you. Right now.
Let’s be willing to let our acting careers go and finally become stars!
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Jacque Saltsman is a Healer and Life Coach who is committed to the empowerment and healing of women locally and globally. Jacque has attended and staffed the Woman Within Training Weekend and sits in an amazing E-circle in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. She can be found at jacquesaltsman.com.