The Compulsive Need To Prove Myself (over and over and over)

Photo on 1-26-15 at 10.54 PM

On the list of symptoms of underearning that my friend sent me, symptom number three is:

Compulsive Need to Prove. Although we have demonstrated competence in our jobs or business, we are driven by a need to re-prove our worth and value.

There are a lot of areas in life where I feel— shall we say, “less than adequate.” I generally think of them as the “big boy stuff.” So many things that most people seem to manage with relative ease often have alluded me. I’m willing to let this be changed. I’m willing to do the work that I need to do to improve in this area. I’m willing to reach out for help in learning how to better manage the affairs of adult life. Odd (or maybe even sad) that I should be doing this when I’m almost a half century old. “Better late than never,” I guess. Perhaps part of it is that I have in many ways lived my life as a perpetual adolescent. I’m not particularly proud of this. I’m just being honest and that’s the way it is. Part of my childlike wonder I hope never to lose but I’m becoming more and more aware that there is a big difference in being child-like (“Lest ye become like a little child, ye shall in nowise enter the Kingdom”) and being childish. It’s past time for me to grow up.

There are some areas of life where I feel completely competent. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I really am very confident in my abilities as an artist. When I’ve been blessed to take the stage (or set) as an actor, I feel like I’m in my element. When I sit down to tell a story with my writing [when I’m able to get past the (nebulous and confusing) fear to do so], I also feel like I’m on my home turf. Exploring and revealing the subtle emotional nuances of a character— pretty dang easy… Balancing a checkbook— not so much.

But sticking to a self-assessment with regard to the afore mentioned symptom of underearning, let me focus on what I have felt confident doing. Beyond just the things I do as an artist, I also feel right at home behind a microphone (imagine, a narcissist liking attention!). I always marvel when I read lists of “top fears” and see that speaking in public is always at or near the top for most people. I’m actually pretty at home in front of a crowd and when my activism or art has landed me in such a position, again, I felt confident in my abilities.

Since all these things that I have told you are true, my first inclination is to say that I don’t actually have this symptom of underearning. But then, if I think about it a little bit and let myself drop into a deeper level of honesty, I have to admit that I actually do have this symptom and in fact it’s probably what’s in back of at least some of my fear of “doing my thing.”

Because I so desperately wanted to express myself around the issues addressed in my first play, The Eyes of Babylon, I pushed through an inordinate amount of fear and (with a lot of help) made it happen. I’m so proud of this piece as sociopolitical dramatic literature and also as the product we brought to the stage and screen. We were fortunate to get overwhelmingly positive reviews and nods from celebrity artists whom I admire a lot. The audience reactions were better than I could have hoped for and the play did exactly what I hoped it would do: get people talking about war, thinking about those who serve in our military, learning more about what it’s actually like to go to war, meditating on spiritual principles, questioning “don’t ask don’t tell,” and modeling my journey of self-discovery and commitment to principles in their own lives. This I know because I heard it directly from them by the hundreds. I’m humbled and grateful to have been a part of that whole project to include the play and the movie about the play. It was never about me. It was always about the message. But even I (my constant self-criticism notwithstanding) have to admit that I did my job well. I took a message that was in my heart and used my Art to bring it to the hearts of others. When that happens, when I am able to be of service in that way, I am at my very best. Coincidentally, I also feel the most joy.

So why then do I feel the need to continually re-prove myself as a competent artist—even with the good reviews and the accolades and the sweet, heartfelt messages from my audiences? It’s because I am an underearner— and I’m just learning what that is.

Through grace of the same power that has gotten me to midnight over and over without getting loaded for over seventeen years now, I will recover with regard to this issue as well. I’m willing to have God remove this self-centered fear so that I can move on to claim my birthright as a revolutionary artist. That is my spiritual heritage.  I don’t want to hide my light under a bushel anymore. It hurts to much. Since I am, with respect to underearning, just beginning to understand this problem, I’m willing to take it slow and easy and build a strong foundation.  I’m at the beginning of a journey that will last the rest of my life. I want so very badly to let go of underearning and under-being as a way of life. I don’t want to live in the shadows anymore. I’m willing to go to any lengths to recover from underearning.

See y’all tomorrow.


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