Monday, November 17, 2014

Small World

When I was in high school, one of the directors at my summer theatre program was very against the self esteem movement. She claimed that in the world of theatre, there was no room for self esteem and actually said to us on the first day, "If you're concerned about your self-esteem, get out!"

I should probably clarify that this is not a widely held belief in theatre, as far as I know. This director is the only person I've met who talked this way, and evidence shows that doing theatre can help people develop confidence and self-esteem. But I was fairly new to theatre at the time - too new to recognize that this was just one person's opinion rather than a fact about the theatre world. And yet, I knew she was wrong. Not because I had read studies about theatre and self-esteem, not because I had heard different opinions from professionals, but because I was extremely passionate about theatre and also cared deeply about self esteem. I knew she was wrong to claim that these values could not coexist, because they coexisted in me.

I was a bit taken aback by what this director said, but I immediately starting thinking about how this was not true for me, how I was definitely a theatre person who cared a lot about self-esteem. I started thinking about contrasting values, and how it must somehow be okay to have them. (I know now that theatre and self-esteem are not contrasting, and that theatre is not a "value," but this was how I thought of the issue at the time). I starting writing an essay called "Blue in the Orange Club," where everyone is a color, and each color has a club, and someone who is blue has no interest in the blue club and instead wants to join the orange club, which is the opposite of blue on the color wheel. I don't remember exactly where this essay was going or how it ended because I only have the beginning written down in my journal.

But what really gets me is this: when our director said that there was no room for caring about self-esteem in theatre, even though I was very new to theatre and in a position to believe whatever she said, I never once considered the fact that I did not belong in theatre because I cared about self esteem. I knew that I belonged in theatre, and therefore I knew that my director was wrong.

I just want to be that way again. I want the world to feel smaller again, where I feel like I can stand up to anyone, no matter how much more talented or experienced they are than me, and say that the "universal" statements they've made are wrong because they do not include me and my experience. I know I say this kind of stuff all the time, but I don't feel it as often as I say it. I don't feel it instinctively the way I did at the time of this theatre incident. I don't have this inherent, subconscious sense that my own experience is rock-solid and that if someone makes a "general" statement that doesn't include my experience, then that is wrong just like it's wrong to say today is Monday when it's Tuesday. That's how I used to feel, and I'm tired of feeling like the whole world is bigger than me and that other people can decide stuff about what I am. I may write a long essay about why a piece of advice that's supposedly good for everyone is actually really bad for some people including myself, but I don't believe myself the way I did back when I was a teenager. I still feel less adequate inside. And I am so sick of it. I just want to be the teenager who would say, "That's not true because it's not true for me!" and sincerely believe it.

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