In my improv class a a little while ago, I fumbled. Hard. My scene partner and I had two choices: request characters/relationship/our objectives from my teacher OR ask for a suggestion from our audience of fellow classmates. We chose the former and our teacher set us in a future-set, science fiction genre. The Commanding Officer (me) and Eager Scientist (my partner) had just disembarked from our ship and were off to uncover a thrilling discovery that could, as it turns out, save the world.
Putting aside, for a moment, how little I know about science fiction - beyond from what I've seen in Aliens (age 10), Mel Brooks' Spaceballs and the two episodes of Star Trek (remember this one?!) - I thought I had the scene nailed.
In fact, I'll admit I expected it to go swimmingly: my partner and I riddled with tasteful humor and easy dialogue, a clear definition of where we were and our relationship to one another, this otherworldly scientific breakthrough so clear and filled with awe. It was going to be great. We got this.
Until we so clearly did not "got this."
And I heard my inner-critic say at a deafening pitch, "What are you doing?! This is awful. Abort, abort! You guys are embarrassing yourselves up there. I thought you would do better than this. You should be ashamed of yourself. Now, after you fumble through this scene, get notes from your teacher and talk the whole thing through with your friend on the ride home tonight, I want you to reel in how truly terrible this was. I expected so much more, and I am riddled with disappointment."
And that's exactly what I did. I followed the advice of my all-knowing Ego and took every bit of that shameful self-ridecule home with me. I ate cookies over the sink in my dimly-lit kitchen before bed, and swore I'd wake up the next day refreshed, renewed.
And I was for the most part, renewed the following morning, thank God. Who has time to carry all of that guilt around with them? It weighs a ton and it smells bad. So I tossed it aside and moved on through a new day - albeit not without further analysis with my coach and dear friend (thanks Alicia and Stacey!)
But all of this raises the question: How do we best manage our expectations and quiet our critical self when it's all up in arms about how life is supposed to go?
Meditation is so clearly one answer - and I am learning quickly how 20 minutes each day helps maintain stability and peace of mind for long stretches of time.
Another practice to ostensibly "crush" the Ego when it's being nasty is to recognize each moment and each passing emotion without claiming ownership or responsibility for it as my own. Rather, just witness it and quit worrying about the personal impacts of each thought/moment/experience.
(Whoa. That is some freaky esoteric shit right there. Stay with me.)
Suffice to say that achieving this awareness day in and day it is even more difficult than it sounds. But it is doable...with practice. Lots of it.
Because an improv performance that is less than perfect, when I'm in class to learn how to perform improv, is normal and should be fun, despite what my Ego says about it. I need to keep my affirmations strong and give them more volume than my inside voices, all the while doing my best to stay grounded and forgiving.
In fact, we all need to do that. Cut ourselves some slack and favor gratitude over most everything else. Time and energy well spent.
So, hey you Ego... Take that!