There's No Medal for That
If this talk had a name, I’d call it: There’s No Medal For That. Let me explain: I cannot tell you how much I have seen, in my practice as a drama therapist & coach, and in my own life, folks who (and women, especially) are hustling toward achievement & the promised security & self esteem & “happiness” that allegedly comes with it, only to find themselves resentful, disappointed, and very far away from their own joy. The question I keep asking myself is: what if we made the courageous choice to focus on fulfillment, rather than seeking achievement and approval for their own sake? What has this looked like in my own life, and how do I support people better in trading out that tired old compass for a new one—one that might actually lead them toward the life they really want?
First things first: Any other perfectionists, people-pleasers, recovering nice girls in the room? I feeeel you. The first piece for us, then, is to examine the way that we have confused achievement w/ fulfillment—when part of how you survive in the world is to hyper-attune to the needs of others over your own, the high of pleasing others is so comforting that we often mistake it for joy, for meaning, and when we are inundated with societal messages that our value lies in our being accommodating, “chill”, self sacrificing, and essentially boundaryless—it can feel very scary to do anything else. It is very scary.
A lifetime ago, when I was a very self-serious actor & playwright straight out of college, I moved to New York. It was there, in a tiny weird but somehow glorious hovel that I referred to as an apartment, that I had my first crisis of fulfillment, I’ll call it. It dawned on me in an instant that there was no amount of going to the gym everyday, or trying to land toothpaste commercials that was going to make me happy. That was going to feel like the dream of doing theatre. And then I had a choice: do the painful work of figuring out the actual dream & let all the rest go, or keep hustling toward the stuff that would look like making it but feel like hating it. I did the work. And the dream, I realized, was about empathy and connection, and the universal power of our individual stories. Enter therapeutic theatre & Drama Therapy & grad school & private practice, and I have never looked back.
There are so many other moments I could tell you about, but they all come down to this: when we find ourselves caught up in the recognition; in doing it “right”, in using struggle & suffering as the metric for worthiness, we need to be reminded: There’s no Medal for That. Fulfillment is about what feels right to YOU, to me, to each of us, in each moment. It is about developing the awareness to notice when what we are working so hard on is rooted in something else, rather than dropping down into what feels good, & right, & true to you. That is our work. And this is a whole ‘nother topic, but it must be said that fulfillment is a privilege—and my stance on privilege for all of us, always is: use it.
I want to leave you with a request: Please don’t spend so much time building the “dream house” of your life, that you forget to live in it. If that’s all you’ve known so far, that’s okay, too: recognize that, grieve it, and remember that you are brave enough to do anything you choose. You really, really are. And you get to choose.