Born This Way

Do you feel like you have to have it all together all the time?
Do you feel stressed out by the pressures of being seen?

Do you find yourself thinking,
What will they think?
Is this good enough?

In an industry where you are constantly evaluated and criticized, this can be deeply challenging.

And you may find yourself stuck in a perfectionist loop, where you get paralyzed because you are so afraid your work will be rejected.  Or you may find it takes you hours, days, even weeks to complete projects because it has to be JUST right.

Either way, I imagine you feel exhausted, and that can feel pretty frustrating when you came to this work because you love it.

Where is the joy?
Why is doing what you love creating so much stress?

I remember auditioning for a Broadway choreographer and feeling so strong.  I walked in with a smile, and danced my best.

When the choreographer went to make the cut, he looked right at me and said to his assistant,
NOT her.

His look went through me, as if my insides turned to ice. It felt violent, the look on his face, as if he was so disgusted by my dancing, that he felt absolutely repulsed by the very notion of having me stay and dance and sing some more.

I could understand being cut.
I could understand not being what he was looking for.
But, I couldn’t get over HOW he did, and the WAY he looked right at me.

It felt so MEAN.

And because this was years ago, I internalized his reaction and the look on his face.  I didn’t know what else to do with it.

I walked out of the room feeling completely dejected, and my conclusion was,
I’m not good enough.

Have you every felt this?

How do we deal with our overactive inner critic, and all the feedback we get?

Two weeks ago, I went to Las Vegas to see Lady Gaga in her Jazz & Piano show at the MGM Park Theater. It was my first time seeing her in concert, and I was so excited!

The energy was incredible.  Everywhere I looked was another fabulous outfit, glitter, and even a woman who had put a blond wig on her dog and was posing in pictures with other fans.

There was adoration and anticipation in the air.  5200 people had gathered to see this show, and I was pinching myself I was one of them.

After buying a sweatshirt, I was approached by a young man who asked if I wanted to make a button for the Born This Way Foundation.  Not knowing what that was, I eagerly walked over to the booth.

Led by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta, Born This Way Foundation was founded in 2012 with the goal of creating a kinder and braver world.

Their mission:

We seek to support the mental and emotional wellness of young people by putting their needs, ideas, and voices first.

We celebrate the individuality of those we serve and we revere the bravery it takes to reach out and start the conversation. Together, we’re building a community that provides approachable resources, fosters genuine connection, and drives action.

I was handed a blank circle with the opportunity to create a button.  The paper read,
This Way ________________.

Taking a moment to connect to how I believed I was born, I wrote three words,
You are Love

The button now read,
This Way You are Love.

Attaching the button to my jacket, I walked into the theater feeling more than excitement, but inspired and grounded.

Lady Gaga exploded onto the stage, her voice filling the huge arena.  In between numbers, she shared the many challenges she has faced, and the importance of mental health.  She shared how lonely she feels, and all the pressures of her work and felt there was really only one answer,
Kindness.

This was why she created the Foundation.

This resonated deeply with me, and for a moment I imagined hugging that younger dancer who walked out feeling so dejected.

I imagined hugging her in that moment when she wanted to make herself small and be equally damaging to herself.

How amazing that would have felt.
Something so simple, and yet deeply powerful.

In moments of criticism, it can be so easy to just take on what that person, or your audience is saying and believe it is true.

Their anger, their unhappiness can seep in so FAST and rob us of our confidence.

The truth is, you can’t control another person, so how do you keep your power and not be taken out by someone else’s harsh words?

Kindness.

And I’m not talking about outward kindness, but inward.  When you feel that negative energy, approach your  FEELINGS with kindness.

The shock?  Allowed.
The feeling of being unsettled?  Allowed
The feeling of dejection?  Allowed.

You are allowed to FEEL what you feel.  This is ultimate kindness.  This is compassion, and really, this is the core of mental health.

When we make an enemy of our feelings, we are in constant conflict.  Allow your feelings to arise from the criticism, and then instead of fanning the flames with your own self criticism, and letting your inner critic go crazy, connect to your feelings with kindness.

Even though I feel dejected, I deeply love and accept myself.

In fact, it was when I started to approach myself with kindness that I stopped caring so much what other people thought. When I received criticism, it didn’t take me out, and I felt free to be me and take risks.

This WAY you are love.

Because the truth is, you ARE love.  This is your nature. It’s inherent to your humanity.

And as they say in the This Way Foundation,
“Where individuality is encouraged.”

There is only one you, and the way you bring your work to the world is beautifully unique.  Bringing kindness to yourself in these moments is what grounds you in the journey and allows you to drop what other people think.

Because who you are is far more interesting than who you are trying to be.

What a relief:)

You were born this way.

Your Creative Team

Do you have a part of you that you wish you could get rid of?
Do you have a part of you that it would feel SO amazing to just put them on a permanent vacation?

Perhaps you feel it gets in the way of your Art.  Maybe you’ve even given it a name, like:
Inner Critic
Procrastinator
Perfectionist

Maybe it’s a voice in your head that slows you down when you really want to GO, or speeds you up and causes you to get overwhelmed when you really want to just take it slow or watch Netflix.

It can be really frustrating, right?

You may see you are not where you want to be with your Art, and all you have is this pattern of disappointment and it can be super easy to just BLAME this part of you.

That’s what’s wrong, right?
If this was FIXED and just went away, all would be perfect!

So, how come every time we try to banish this voice away, it just comes back, sometimes stronger than before?
Will this cycle ever stop?

Last weekend I had a first.

I did my first ever weekend-long silent meditation retreat.

I’m a practicing Zen Buddhist.  Zen saved my life after a devastating year of loss back in 2013, and I’ve been practicing ever since with the Mountains and Rivers Order, mostly in Brooklyn at the Fire Lotus Temple.

This meditation retreat is called a Sesshin and means, “touching the heart-mind”.

I’ve been wanting to do a Sesshin for two years, so this was a long time coming and I entered the temple last Friday very ready.  Ready to sit.  Ready to be with myself.

It’s been an intense time for me, and feels like it’s been non stop for longer than I can remember with moving to NJ last year, planning and getting married, planning a huge online event for thousands, and then creating four more big events and workshops culminating in a full class of my signature program for professional artists, the Fearless Academy.

Did I mention in the middle of all this I also sustained a nasty calf injury, and got incredibly sick?
Did I mention during this time of stress I couldn’t dance or do yoga as stress relief?
Did I mention I’ve had a cough now for over 5 weeks?

Oh….and I’m also family planning.

Just a few things going on.

In the face of all this, I was VERY ready to just sit in silence.  I knew I needed space.

The first night was a healing balm and I slept deeply Friday.  We woke up at 4:20 am and I was on my cushion by 4:55.  This was where I wanted to be, and I could feel my whole body and mind relaxing.

But there was something that was plaguing me….the real reason I was here.

When I had face to face teaching with my teacher, I sat down across from him and said,
I have a question about my inner taskmaster.

He smiled right away and said,
Ah yes…..also known as the Controller.

I immediately felt myself tighten.  I hated that word. 

My teacher spoke into parts of himself that come up for him, and he referenced his inner Protector, which is him as a young boy on the streets of NYC with a knife.  He shared his Protector is fierce. Then he asked,
What do you think your Controller wants?

I said,
Faith.
Trust.
She wants to know everything is going to be ok.

My teacher looked at me, and said,
Are you sure?

He started to ask me if she actually wants love, and I could feel myself getting even tighter.  I thought of my incredible husband, and how much love he gives me.  I could feel myself inside screaming,
She doesn’t want LOVE, she just wants everything to be in order and OK!

I was getting even tighter.  This was hard for me.  Control had ruined my life, my former marriage, and so many aspects of my professional career. In the face of my divorce, and losing everything the biggest lesson I desperately wanted to learn was how to LET GO.  Trying to control my ex, my career, and people around me was exhausting and ultimately tore my life in two.  Clearly it didn’t work.

I didn’t WANT her here anymore.  She had ruined so much in my life.

Can you relate?

My teacher spoke into how his Protector will always be there. And as I sat there struggling, he asked me,
If your Controller doesn’t want love, then why is she such a bitch?

And then I got it…..I was actually making my Controller wrong.  I was saying she doesn’t belong. 
Oh my gosh….she actually did just want to be loved.

I went back out into the Zendo to sit with the others and we chanted the Identity of Relative and Absolute. My voice completely lodged in my throat as I couldn’t speak,
Each thing has it’s own intrinsic value
And is related to everything else in function and position

My mouth was forming the words I knew by heart with no sound…tears were streaming down my face as I realized,

My Controller has her own value.
She allows me to get things done.
She helps me with discipline and organization.
She helps me with deadlines, and is really the reason I have built my business to six figures.
AND she is related to ALL the other parts of me!

She is related to my creative goddess, my Zen practitioner, my feminine flow….
and they all co-exist inside me.

They don’t cancel each other out.  I can have her there WITH the others. She’s doing her job and they are doing theirs and it’s the unified effort that allows me to create the life I want.

All having their value.

And the reason I was suffering so much, was because I was making her wrong.

And I thought of what I have said to all of you so many times,
It’s not about cutting off pieces of yourself and making them wrong, it’s about bringing all of you into wholeness and integration.  This is where you will have your greatest power as an Artist and create the greatest connection with your audience.

Perhaps I say this to all of you, because I need to hear it again too.

So, what part of you have you wanted to banish?

If you stepped into that part, what do you think they want for you?
What are they here to help you with?

If you could bring love and acceptance to this part, and allow it to work WITH your other parts, what would this free you to be, do, or create this year?

What if your greatest work actually came from using ALL of you?
Did you know you actually have a team within you now to pull from?

What if you knew HOW to use them effectively?

Start with love.
It can really be that simple.

“Seek Delight in All”

Your Creative work is an expression of the whole.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography