Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Be, and You Will Be

As many of you are aware, this week on Writer’s Li.P.P. we’re focusing on reinventing ourselves. No, we’re not playing a game of Extreme Li.P.P. Makeover, which sounds like it would require an exorbitant amount of collagen. Rather, we’re each taking a look at what personal reinvention means or has meant to us. Pam talked about how she’s evolved over the years due in great part to time and circumstance, and Lindy defined the specifics of personal reinvention for us.
Reinvention is an essential part of everyday life. Simply living in and interacting with the world provides endless opportunities for reinvention. As Pam pointed out in her post, as life moves along – with growing up and learning and becoming a parent and moving in and through relationships – reinvention almost happens to you half the time, so you might as well learn to go with the flow.
But what about when you want to reinvent yourself? What about those times when you absolutely ache to be someone different from who you are?
When I was a kid, I had the oddest combination of traits. I was forceful by nature but shy among people other than my closest friends. I loved speaking with people but didn’t know exactly what to say to them. I adored sharing information and teaching but would become almost catatonic in front of even small groups. It was pretty torturous. However, oddly, I could manage to participate in chorus parts within my high school plays. It didn’t occur to me until much later that I could do this because I was in a role rather than putting myself out there as myself.

From my high school's production of "Mame" my freshman year. I'm the very short one in the middle with no riding cap. Apparently I was anti-riding-safety.
About midway through college, I decided to try an experiment… for one of my electives, I took Improv. In Improv class, the primary skill we learned was how to communicate through tone and body language rather than specific words. Our professor would give us all a single line to memorize. We would then be paired off, given a sort of direction (such as “you two are a parent and child arguing about curfew time”) and we would have to perform the interaction speaking only the line we’d memorized back and forth to each other, conveying the nature of the interaction through physicality and intonation. The class taught me to focus on the message and not to get all caught up in the minutiae of the words.
After doing well in that class, I took a more drastic step and decided to take Public Speaking. Talk about hitting my fear on the head! And wow, what a step. In four short months, I learned not only not to be afraid but to love speaking in front of groups. Seriously. I loved it!

A few years later, when I landed my first serious job in advertising, it all came together. My first boss, Karen, was fabulous with her clients. She was a natural communicator with an ease about her that was infectious. I spent a few weeks literally wishing I could be Karen. Seriously. And then it hit me… I could be Karen. I tried it. I went to a few meetings and spent my time focusing on “how would Karen respond” and “how would Karen convey this” and communicating as I felt she would. And it worked! I felt safe behind the façade of “what would Karen do,” and the clients responded well to what they perceived as confidence.
Now, have I spent my entire career acting as a mini-Karen? No, of course not. But using my perception of her as not just a role model but almost as a role itself allowed me to try on the mold of the person I wanted to be, to experience it in a safe and “proven” way and then eventually to break that mold and complete the reinvention of myself in my own way.
All confident and stuff now... that's a local celebrity's arm around me, though I will not post his photo. I'm not in the mood to pay royalties.
Am I saying that the best way to reinvent yourself is to pretend to be someone else whom you admire? Of course not.  What I am saying is that if you want to reinvent yourself, the most important action you can take is to envision exactly who it is you want to be. It’s tough to reach your goal if you don’t know what the goal is, you know? And once you can envision who you want to be, actively be that person. Imagine guidelines about how that person thinks and what that person says and how that person responds to others, and then follow those guidelines. In other words, act the part, and continue to act the part until you’re no longer acting and you’re simply… being.
Have you ever actively, consciously reinvented yourself? Comment for another chance to win a Writers Li.P.P. t-shirt in our drawing at midnight on Sunday. Follow this blog too and you will be entered twice. Thank you for your support!


Pam Asberry said...

Great post, Megan! "Act the part, and continue to act the part until you’re no longer acting and you’re simply… being." That's great advice. Like you, I was painfully shy and introverted as a child, but I made the conscious decision to get over and and I did. Now I love going to parties and meeting new people and speaking in front of a crowd. As you mentioned, most of my reinvention has been reactive rather than proactive, but even that requires determination and force of will. I used to fantasize about moving somewhere new and having people call me "Pamela" instead of "Pam," but when life handed me that opportunity, I realized that "Pam" is who I am. So I'm trying to be the best "Pam" that I can be. Thanks for the inspiration!

Julee J. Adams said...

"Fake it 'til you make it" is something I have in my first novel too, told to a painfully introverted character that has more than a few characteristics in common with me. She also has a couple in common with Pam, written before I got in touch with you again! But, like you, Megan, I'm a classic Briggs-Myers introvert who found herself doing theater and as auctioneer for an art show, in front of a couple hundred people and no microphone. Ain't we something, ladies? Thanks for the post and keep evolving for us.

Megan said...

Pam - Do you prefer "Pamela"? We could always try it. :) I used to be "Meg" for a long time, then I became "Megan" when I had a college roomie named Meg. Recently I suppose I'm good with both.

Julee - You were in theater and were an auctioneer?? After having been an introvert? Hats off to you! That's amazing.

We really can do so much when we put our minds to it, can't we?