Last night I had one of the most powerful experiences this year and, frankly, ever.
Six people stood under a spotlight and bared their souls, revealing their complicated relationship with their work.
They shared their vulnerabilities, their fears and failures, their (self-)doubt. In a room with 200+ pairs of eyes watching, they let themselves be vulnerable in a way that some people never let themselves be, not even with their closest loved ones.
They pointed to lies they told themselves, talked about personal crises, burnouts, breakdowns, depression, anxiety.
They also talked about self-care, about finding a mission again, about the profound changes our identity goes through as we mature, as we strive to balance what consumes us and what fuels us.
These revelations focused on their complicated relationship with work because work often feeds and depletes us, which makes it a powerful shaping force in our lives.
An actress, an illustrator, a magazine editor, a radio producer, and a content creator took off every layer and dug deep, taking over 200 people on a transformative journey that ended with a rapper giving us goosebumps.
Their stories often echoed my own struggles, my own imperfections, and my own worries.
This reminded me of an important question to ask when making decisions, when creating anything:
What does this remind me of?
The answer came before I finished asking the question: their stories reminded me of all the times I was my own worst enemy. As I let their words sink in, their realizations sometimes overlapping with mine, I let a few tears flow, forgiving myself for being such a harsh punisher of my own faults.
I felt seen although it was me looking at the stage and not the other way around.
I felt accepted although I didn’t say a word throughout the show (although group therapy would be a better way to explain it).
I felt the outlines of my identity become stronger even though I was one of 200+ people sitting in a darkened room.
I felt liberated because other people chose to be vulnerable this way, showing me they too go through what we all go through, including you and me.
After this experience, I have something to ask you:
Talk about your challenges, your fears, your doubts, your insecurities.
Talk about what you did well that you’re proud of and, most of all, talk about your shortcomings and failures.
They most likely only exist in your head.
Only by talking about them can we make sense of them.
Only by saying or writing the words can we see that what we fear is a monster of our own creation.
Only by being open about not knowing, about our process of becoming can we let it sink in that we deserve to be seen, accepted, and loved for who we are and not for what we can do for others.
Only by sharing our guilt, our pain, our confusion, and our fumbling in the dark for answers can we finally see that behind every success and every person who seems to have their shit together there’s someone just like us.
Only then can we set realistic expectations of ourselves, rooted in personal principles which we can use to enjoy our lives and not try to live someone else’s.
I’m incredibly thankful for last night’s experience and for all the people in my life who talk about it all and who create a space where I can do the same.
Decide to share more of what’s going on in your head and in your heart. People need to hear it!
I see you and appreciate you for who you are.