3/52 Don't Smile It Off
I sit across my friend at lunch who I haven’t seen in ages and talk about everything that’s been going down over the past few months. We laugh and giggle at life and as I go on to share three encounters I've had while on a night out I have to stop myself and say “I don’t know why I’m laughing. It’s not funny.” Suddenly silence falls upon us. She says “I don’t know why I’m laughing either. I don’t really know what to say.” Instead of letting how we really feel about a situation land and affect us, we brush it off with humour and a nonchalant demeanour. Sound Familiar?
I’ve recently started taking acting classes at AMAW and let me tell ya, these classes expose all your shit. If you’re afraid of conflict. It’ll come up here. If you’re afraid of vulnerability. It’ll come up here. If you’ve been taught not to show emotion. It’ll come up here. If you smile everything off? You guessed it! It’ll come up here.
Like Alice who fell down the rabbit hole, I somehow fell into these classes.
Suddenly you’re being watched in a situation and told to “Say it straight”, “Stop smiling it off” and “Show us how what’s just been said makes you feel”. Suddenly you can’t just brush it off and say “Whatever. It doesn’t matter.” Suddenly someone calls bullshit. Suddenly you need to actually allow your feelings to surface. The real ones. The painful ones. But that’s a whole different story in itself and we’ve only just met.
Now, I’m not the only one who struggles with this. This is a problem a lot of people face. Not just the actors in my class but most of us walk around brushing off our true feelings. We push down the painful thoughts, then drown them in alcohol and bury them in ash. We search for a moment where we won’t need to worry about our unpaid bills, our broken hearts and our lost dreams. We’re taught to be reasonable and tolerant in a world that is neither. Girls are brought up to be nice and pleasing and boys to ignore any vulnerable feelings. Hey it rhymes!
And the point here isn’t to be a dickhead all the time. The point is to speak up and stand your ground. The point is to be brave enough to call out behaviour you don’t agree with.
It’s also about finding balance.
I know, I know, that bloody word pops up everywhere these days. What even is balance? How do we measure this abstract concept people always talk about? Is there a special weighing scale I don’t know about?
Somehow we just have to learn it. We want to find that sweet spot. But, let’s be for real here. We are human after all. We are flawed and ego-driven and we’re going to fuck up from time to time.
A friend recently brought an eye opening truth to my attention. If you let someone belittle you in a meeting or disrespect you at a bar and you laugh it off, guess what? Chances are they’ll do it again and you’ll find yourself in this type of situation again. Because, you’ve told the world that it’s okay and that it doesn’t matter.
Oprah said (and if Oprah said it, it must be true.) “You teach people how to treat you.”
Rather than try to be liked and accepted by trading in our true selves for a version that won’t cause anyone any discomfort we need to take these words to heart and speak up when we find ourselves in situations that don’t match the world we’re trying to create for ourselves.
As I examined my days and my interactions I started noticing things and responding to things I’d normally laugh off and let me tell ya, there were daily opportunities for practice. I felt like I was on a never ending easter egg hunt except that instead of colourfully decorated eggs I was hunting for the moments in my life where I had to be brave enough to say something. This led me to realise that we must be unafraid of what happens when we speak our truth.
And that I believe, that is the essence on this subject. For, who are we really if we’re not living our truth? Either we remain silent and take the crap and accept a reality that doesn’t match who we truly are; A reality that doesn’t appreciate us and our unique talents. Or, we do the difficult thing and express exactly what we’re thinking and how we’re feeling, unafraid of what may or may not happen. That’s bold living. Because, the ones who don’t appreciate that quality and don’t get you will fall away and make way for the people that will. But we have to be valiant in taking that first step. In Wonderland, Alice struggles with identity and the question of belonging and I believe life is just like Wonderland. We on this quest to figure out who we are. We’ll either answer this question by observing the rest and following or by questioning the norm and crafting our own version.
That’s what I think anyways. Or that’s how I decide to look at it. That’s another thing. I can write all the words I want during this project. I will have thoughts, ideas and theories but so does everyone else. It doesn’t mean that what I or anyone else says is the absolute truth. We each have our own universes that we choose to create. Take what you will and leave the rest.
“Well actually, I think everyone would agree that gravity is an absolute truth.”
Yeah yeah. Don’t be a smart-ass mmkaaay?
This is my article after all. I can write whatever I damn well please.
Anyways, I’ve still got lots of work to do on this topic. One week isn't going to solve things and give you all the answers. Even after re-reading this article I can see my light heartedness creeping through trying to mask all the feelings. I suppose it's about being aware. Just be aware of the life you're creating for yourself.