Are You Aware That You Have Issues? (or How Improv Changed My Life)

3 12 2007

So I just had my last improv class. Today my teacher gave back the papers we wrote on the first day about why we wanted to take the class. One of the things I wrote on my paper 8 weeks ago on the first day was:

"I’m hoping I can improve my communication skills a bit and get over my self-consciousness a bit by taking this class."

Well, I must say that this goal has definitely been met in my personal life. (Unfortunately I can’t say as much about my improv career ‘cuz I still think I suck in that area almost as much as I did on the first day.) But I think improv has made me more self-aware of my issues than I have ever been in my life. In class, I became aware that I am deathly afraid of rejection and that I have a total fear of failure. Those two things caused me not to listen very well in class because I was so busy in my head trying to figure out what I would say or do next so that I wouldn’t look stupid and be rejected and as a result I’d miss the whole point of the scene. That is a big no-no in improv because there is no failure and it’s all about LISTENING to your team members, supporting them, and making each other look good.

But acknowledging and working through my improv issues inevitably spilled over and I began to realize how those issues have affected my relationships. Like how my fear of rejection causes me to not share much of my life and my personality with others, and as a result I have a hard time building meaningful relationships with certain people. Like how my fear of failure doesn’t cause me to overachieve like some people, it causes me to not try, or to be less prone to take risks…

After improv class I had dinner with my friend Kaddy and I was sharing with her how much improv had changed my life. I was telling her how I’ve never felt more aware of my shortcomings in my life and that the class somehow helped me laugh at myself and realize that I’m not a horrible person because I have those shortcomings. What is bad is when I don’t share them because then people can’t get to know the real me.

Now, I’ve become aware of some of my issues, but that doesn’t mean that I know how to fix all of them. But it’s very liberating to be able to verbalize them to the people around me so that they can help me and provide some insight as to how I might be able to grow. And the funny part about it is that once I started to verbalize those things to my family and friends, they confirmed it. They had seen those issues in me all along. But I couldn’t really start to change until I realized it myself. And that didn’t happen until I had to stand on that stage at improv.

And the more I started to think about it, the more I started to see how much lack of self-awareness can hinder authenticity in any relationship. Maybe that’s why people in this society have such a hard time connecting with one another. Maybe that’s why some of us are still single. Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with our looks, but instead it’s the fact that we’re not fully aware of the issues we have, and therefore we fail to verbalize the fact that we have issues, and therefore the opposite sex can’t see us for who we really are.

Sometimes we think that admitting we have issues means we should be on
our way to the psyche ward. That may be the case for some people. But
oftentimes it ain’t even that deep. It just means you ain’t perfect, you ain’t Jesus himself. And I’m starting to discover that most people connect with you better when they know that you know you ain’t perfect, but you have a desire to change. 

Are you really aware that you have issues? If not, go take an improv class. Or, just take a cold, hard look at yourself and acknowledge the fact that you are not perfect and that you struggle with some issues but you are still a good person who can work on improvement. And be clear and specific about what your issues are, don’t generalize it. Then tell somebody. Their response just might surprise you…


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