Monday, September 2, 2013

Looking Beyond

"It's not who you are that holds you back.
It's who you think you're not."
- Denis Waitley

This quote first entered my consciousness last Friday, told to me by a fellow actor in my current production.  We were discussing the first half, the fact that we knew there was at least one reviewer in the audience, and how knowing that fact inevitably alters the cast dynamic.  The pressure to be somehow "better" than we normally are, the pressure to drive home the intention behind our words, the pressure to hit all our marks and be perfect.  No matter how counterproductive we know that pressure to be, it creeps in all the same.  And so this quote could not have come at a better time.

But what has intrigued me is how that quote not only applied to that evening and that performance, but to everything single thing I have done since then.  Everything.  Baring my soul onstage.  Teaching class.  Planning my eminent trip back to the Philippines.  Preparing for auditions.  Interactions with friends, family, and strangers.  Looking in the mirror when I first wake up.  Writing this post.

Speaking for myself, as much as I am aware of all the things that I can do and am quite capable of, I have a tendency to balance that awareness with uncertainty and doubt in regards to the things that I might not be able to do or am scared to try.  And as confusing as it may sound, those things often overlap.  I place pressure on myself to remain constant - to always be good at the things I know, and that others know, I am good at.  And so trying new things and introducing the possibility of failure fall further and further down on my to-do list as I protect the idea of "who I am."  

[shaking my head with a knowing grin]

But alas, life is never simply black and white, is it?  The desire to compartmentalize by defining ourselves as either "who I am" and "who I am not" may give us the illusion of simplicity, but it actually makes life more complicated.  Because when we place limits on ourselves, we give others the same permission. And when the walls around us and the number of dead ends begin to outnumber the spaces within which we can move freely and explore, we begin spinning in circles or stop moving altogether, losing sight of the horizon in the unknowable distance or the sky, clouds, stars, planets, and Universe that stretch forever beyond.

But if will allow ourselves to embrace that gray area between "who we are" and "who we are not," and the opportunity to learn from the possibility of failure, we find the key to discovering the richness of the human experience and the potential of what it is to actually "live."   Because if we own "what we might be," "what we could be," and "what we will be," the possibilities become truly infinite.  And when we expand our vision and consciousness in that way, we can then move forward, upward, or in any direction we choose.

So on this Labor Day, or any other day for that matter, remember the light within you that wants to shine.  Remember that "who we are" only exists within a single moment before it's gone.  And remember that the energy of holding one's self back far exceeds the energy of letting go.

A moment to breathe: Priceless.


  1. I love this post, Jonathan, and it's really a helpful reminder for me right now.

    1. It was definitely an "a-ha" moment for me to hear that quote. I'm glad it helped you to do the same, Iris. :)


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