BWW Blog: Being Kind To Yourself
College has taught me the importance of being gentle with yourself, and I am still learning just how crucial this is. Northwestern University, as well as numerous other Universities/Colleges in the world demand much out of not only its students, but its faculty, and pushes us to places we've never been before. College contributes to our lives our highest highs and our lowest lows, and can create heartaches and headaches as we strive to be the best version of ourselves, whomever that person may be. We take classes, do homework, study for exams, take those exams, and beat ourselves up when we don't get the grade we wanted, or the grade we think will be "acceptable." The cycle then continues, and then we're driven crazy. This should not be the case. Many tools that one learns in higher education are tools that will help students greatly as they step into the world, and one of those tools includes being kind to yourself.
Earlier last week my acting teacher wanted my class to memorize our entire Greek Tragedy Messenger speeches to present to the class. Mind you, these speeches can go on for seven minutes, if not more, and we were in the season of midterms, auditions and callbacks, and mental drainage. We got into class, and when time to present it turned out that not everyone had the assignment completed; we were all hesitant to go up on the stage to show the class our work. My teacher, both very stern and loving, sitting among us as we fifteen students were dispersed throughout the audience seats, gave us one of her pep talks. As I sit worried, just a seat between me and my teacher, expecting to be chastised -- to be told that our work wasn't what and where it should be, and that we needed to be working deeper -- I couldn't believe how wrong I'd end up being. She told us that we were too hard on ourselves, and exclaimed just how beautiful our work is, how "flippin' good" it is. In those few short minutes she told us that we don't have the power yet to hate the work we produce because we haven't done everything yet, we're still learning. In the same breath she told us that instead of wishing we could do more and be better than we are, look at what we can do right now that we couldn't do a year ago. She said that we need to be proud of our work, to go up and have fun and to be happy with what we have. I began to cry, because very few times have I had a professor or administrator in college tell me to be happy with where I am right now.
This doesn't go without saying that we should always be striving to give as much as we can in each moment. Today in ballet my teacher, a wonderful instructor, told us about her new exercise classes at a place called OrangeTheory Fitness. Her classes are around fifty-five minutes each, and after, she leaves, takes a shower, and comes to campus to teach. She has fifty-five minutes to give all she can that day, and granted, leave very sore, but at least stronger than she was when she arrived. She then asked us, "are you challenging yourself?" College is only four years, and we can either let this time pass us by -- getting by through investing just a portion of ourselves -- or invest all we have in every moment, knowing that we will learn more as we do, and being kind to ourselves and where we are that day. If I give all I can, all I have to give, and accept that, then I shouldn't need to worry about what I can't dobut focus on what I can.
This reminds me of the time Heather Headley spoke to Northwestern students when I was a freshman. In the topic of competition and trying to be better than someone else, we were told to focus on ourselves, and not others. The only person you have to beat is yourself, to be better than who you were, but to take it day by day. If you're an actor, you don't need to become the Meryl Streep or Denzel Washington of your generation, just be the best you that you can be today, and remember that who that person is can do so much more than they could in the past.
As I said before, we ache so much in school as we strive to be the best version of ourselves, but it's important to know that as long as you've grown from yesterday: learned something new, fixed a mistake, spent time with friends, encouraged others, encouraged yourself, you are already the best version of yourself. There will always be ways to become better, yes, but the trap many students fall into is believing that they aren't already great, you are! When we divorce our inner thoughts from feelings of not feeling enough, we will be able to truly see that who we are now should be enough for ourselves.