There are many things I am known for in my performances: Energy, Playfulness, and Sensuality are a few. However, I am not known for stillness in either my performance life or personal life. Maybe the reason I can shimmy my heart out is because I am constantly running a million miles a minute offstage. Knowing the power of having stillness onstage and still commanding an audience, I made a conscious decision to find more of this in my life. What I was not expecting to discover through this process though was that in finding stillness in my life (calming of the mind, not being controlled by the fear of missing out, and focusing on projects and endeavors that were closer to home rather than traveling the world) I opened myself up to a whole new world of insecurities and self-doubt.
When you go, go, go, you hardly take the time to acknowledge where you are at that particular moment. On stage this may look like not connecting with your audience, not making eye contact, moving without intention, or not giving your audience a chance to react. In life this can look like spending a day working without realizing what you have accomplished, not taking moments to observe the world around you, or even not giving your self time away from all noise. No music, no T.V., no communication, just sitting and thinking with no goal in mind. Up until about a year ago, I never realized how much the latter plays into your stage presence. After all, if you are not completely connected with yourself, how will you become a three-dimensional performer?
When I started carving out time for myself to focus on bringing stillness into my life, I discovered a bevy of insecurities that I had been running from for much longer than I would like to admit. I didn’t know how to confront them, so I was left feeling lost and completely broken. I would scroll social media watching as many of my favorite fellow performers seemed to have it all together, booking all the gigs I would hope to be one day included in, being amazingly fierce and confident onstage, and commanding an audience while making it look completely natural and easy. I began to feel hopeless. But recently I made a connection that has taken months to figure out. What made them completely enticing was not their lack of imperfections or even just their confidence, rather it was the vulnerability they portrayed to the audience as they completely loved themselves, flaws and all.
I am far from perfect, and as a textbook Type A personality, that sentence always stings. Growing up I felt the need to always strive for perfection, which as we all know is completely impossible. I am a very sensitive person and will often think about mistakes or conversations that could have been different years later. I easily get embarrassed when I make mistakes in front of others. I’m shy when first meeting people, then later when others discover my intensity I’m left feeling ashamed as if I believe I am too much for them to handle. I’ve been told that my passion is often overbearing, and that sometimes I come off as fake because if I truly love someone I will bend over backwards to help them or try to be as supportive as possible. The phrase I should “tone it down” has been told to me more than I can count. And after years of others repeatedly pointing out my “quirks”, I have definitely created a defense mechanism of making fun of myself even though beneath the teasing I am internally crawling into a cave. I also tend to throw myself into big projects that don’t allow me time to think about my own insecurities, tidily sweeping it under the rug to think about another day.
In doing so, I cut myself short. I give the audience only a part of myself that I “think” they will accept. That is not three-dimensional. That does not portray the beauty of human complexity, and that beauty and vulnerability is exactly what creates a commanding performer. In order to be a dynamic individual, I have to present my complete self to my audience, baring my vulnerability underneath those bright lights. Although I have a long journey ahead of me, I am just beginning to understand the necessity of completely embracing who we are, not just physically, but emotionally as well.
Photo by Francine Duffy Photography