You Are the Product
When I was little I spent the majority of my day singing. I sang regardless of what I was doing. I performed to my stuffed animals. I was mesmerized by musicals. I wanted to be on the stage.
Before I was born both my parents were performers. They met while doing summer stock and both my parents supported my singing. They taught me. My dad helped me through all of my school performances. From perfecting my cockney accent word by word for the role of The Artful Dodger, to memorizing my lines for Peter Pan, both my parents and, especially my Dad, fostered my growth. That is, they fostered my growth up until a point.
Neither of them wanted me to go into the entertainment industry professionally. When it came to acting, singing, dancing, hair, makeup, or any other creative venture, the support ceased the instant I entertained the idea of being an artist.
In their defense, there were valid reasons they did not want their daughter anywhere near the industry. I don’t remember a time when my parents were not worried about money. My memories of childhood are built on an underlying foundation of stress over money. Would dad get the commercial? Would mom’s show get renewed? Would they make it through hiatus? Years of being in a business that is unforgiving and judgmental had made them cynical and they didn’t want their daughter subjected to it.
But in their quest to discourage me from subjecting myself to the many pitfalls of the entertainment industry, they discouraged me, period. “You should have something to fall back on.” “You’ll never be a leading lady. You’re what Hollywood calls a ‘character actress.’” “You don’t want to be in the entertainment industry. Look at what your mother and I have been through.” “Do you know how hard it is to make it in a business where so many other people are trying to do the same exact thing? They have more skills and thicker skins.” “It’s so hard to make a living being creative.”
I was one of those kids who wanted to do nothing more than please their parents. I wanted them to see me as successful and smart. While they spent the majority of their time being wonderful and supportive, those statements which cut right to the quick of my own fears were the ones that remained strong in my mind. I spent most of my time running away from that to which I was predisposition. Of course, I always ended up in one creative venture or another. But my mindset was such that I only allowed myself to see it as a hobby. And hobby was equivalent to frivolous. And frivolous meant that it was not something worth being proud of.
It took me years to finally accept the fact that my creativity is a huge part of who I am. And denying that accomplished ~nothing~ positive. I put off who I was in the name of becoming what I was supposed to be. And all the time I spent denying my instincts, my desires and my passions only reinforced the false notion that I was a failure at life. How quickly the drama escalates when you start off on the wrong foot. But it doesn’t feel like drama at all which makes it incredibly difficult to identify in the first place.
What I’ve learned from this journey, and it’s a lesson I have had to remind myself of over and over again, is that I am the product. Every time my parents asked me what I had that all the others didn’t, my little kid brain answered with: “I’m me.” Of course, that answer was quickly dismissed in the face of the question because it seemed SO obvious that I figured it must have been wrong or, at the very least, not enough of an answer. If being ME had been enough, I thought, they wouldn’t have asked the question in the first place. But all these years later, after battling to figure out what I am meant to do, I have come to the conclusion that my original answer, the one my kid brain came up with, was the correct answer all along.
Adult brains suck. Adult brains tell you no. Adult brains are full of the voices of our parents who got their adult brains from THEIR parents. It’s a vicious cycle! And the answer to all of it is learning to have faith in the fact that ~You~ are the product. ~I~ am the product. The thing we offer that no one else can offer is our very singular point of view. Each one of us has created a slightly different version of this shared space. It is, I believe, literally, what we are on this Earth to do. And it is that vision, that makes every one of us individuals.
Now, it is true that not all individuals will appreciate your individuality. It is entirely possible that you will be denied success where you attempt to succeed. But that has little to do with how many somersaults you can do, how many octaves are in your range, or how good you are at math. Still, the pain of rejection is great and the worry over failing so often guides our choices. It is easy to see life as a bully or some ethereal entity that is “out to get you.”
But if you continue to believe you are a victim, you will continue to be victimized. If the pervasive theory behind ghosts, that ~they remain because of unfinished business~ is even a little correct, then we should make it our mission to live. We need to reprogram ourselves to see our failures as stepping stones instead of seeing them as the end. And the next time you ask yourself “Why would they choose me over someone else,” look inward and know that, while your skill set may get you the opportunity, your success has less to do with your skills and more to do with who you are. YOU are the product. And no one else can offer that.
Written by: Heather of EVP