Originally posted March 7, 2016
Life and Improv
Since I’ve started improvising over 10 years ago I’ve seen the parallels of being a good improviser and being a good person. If friends and family ask my advice, it’s typically based in the lessons I’ve taken from improv. There have been a handful of people in the last month telling me that I should write down my advice. Independent of each other and on separate occasions they said I should share my life stories and give my advice based in improv teachings… the honest truth is I didn’t want to. I was so embarrassed at this idea. WHAT?!? I don’t have anything figured out in my life! I have no right to tell people what to do in theirs! What would I possibly have to say that could help or inspire anyone? … I’m sure they meant it as a compliment and they probably had no clue how much I was consumed by the idea…
Two things happened to me recently: one on stage and one with a friend that I thought proved how “unqualified” I was to give advice. But, actually these events helped me realize I do have something to share.
I was recently in a personally rough improv show. Putting things in perspective the audience enjoyed the show, but I didn’t feel we were working well together or supporting each other at a level that I wanted. Basically the show was fine. But, I wanted the show to be amazing. Those were my expectations. The team talked about it and we all collectively beat ourselves up for not having that “perfect” show. It was ugly. There was nothing gained from ripping into ourselves. Talking with the team I realized that we didn’t give ourselves enough credit for showing up and finishing the show. Was it perfect? No. It wasn’t. But, you have to praise the fact that you just showed up and tried. I realized it’s easy to forget how much work just showing up takes.
I shared my thoughts with the actors. You’re enough. Let’s praise the fact that you showed up and kept showing up and being present. You didn’t give up! You tried! That’s enough. Seriously. That is enough. I could feel the relief in the room.
Then I was challenged by this improv wisdom. You see, I recently found out that a close friend of mine lied to me. This wasn’t a small lie… it was a “friendship-shaking” kind of lie. At first I was so upset, I kept beating myself up for being so trusting and for allowing someone to hurt me like that. I questioned my outlook and my naive way of trusting. I was worried that I would continue to make the same mistake and keep trusting people who were bound to hurt me and betray my trust. I isolated myself. I worried that I needed to be tougher and less trusting of EVERYONE.
This damaged friendship brought up how I felt after that rough show: frustrated, let down, confused, angry. I wouldn't let the performers beat themselves up after the show... and I couldn't keep beating myself up. I had to remember and tell myself I AM ENOUGH. Not everyone will live up to my expectations my life won’t be a “perfect show“… but I need to give myself credit for trying. I was a good friend. It didn’t go the way I wanted, but I can celebrate that I was present and showed up. I’m going to keep showing up in all my relationships. And some days that’s all I can do… but, I will remind myself that it is enough.
I am not perfect. No one is. Even the most inspiring people are flawed.
Both improv and life are not about being perfect. It’s about showing up and trying. That’s enough.
About the Author
Betsaida LeBron is an improv performer and teacher in Sacramento, CA.
She believes life is improvised, therefore improv is life.