American culture tells us, “If you don’t have the most, you have nothing and if you are not the best, you ARE nothing.” From rap songs with lyrics like, “I got all these hundreds, you got all them fifties” to magazines and TV programs that constantly compare the accomplishments and accolades of celebrities, athletes and even box office sales (I mean, really, why do we even need to know that?). My upbringing was no different. If I came home from school and had a “B” on my report card, my parents’ first question would be, “Why isn’t this an ‘A’?” When I would play sports, I would hear things like, “look how he throws the football, why can’t you do that?” I developed a need to please, to make someone, whoever that person was at the time, “proud”. The overwhelming need to be the best at everything began to consume me.
If I am not the best, why even exist?
This is how I felt and still feel at times. Part of this is because of visibility. I can be very shy in certain situations, I’m black and I’m gay; all these things CAN, but don’t always, hinder my ability to be seen and/or recognized. Examples:
On a number of occasions, I have performed at a live event and afterward someone will come up to someone who assisted in my performance (maybe by bringing on a prop, or having a short cameo) and congratulate that person on the performance… The performance that was mine. They never say anything to me and they are a stranger to the both of us, but they won’t speak to me. And when I say this has happened on many an occasion, I mean.., All. The. Time. Has this only happened with white people? Yes. Does that mean it’s always a race thing? No. Do I think it’s a factor? Yes. Chris Rock once said:
I am not saying this is always true, no, but it does happen. And this contributes to my need to be the best. I need that I desperately try to shed. When I walk into a room, whether it’s filled with theatre people, drag queens, whatever, they are all usually white… that’s just how it goes and the hardest thing to do is first, be noticed. Often, their eyes immediately go to one another (especially in the gay community). I’m used to this, but this is when my need to be the best kicks in. It’s the only way people can see me. My talent is a sort of vision correction. My talent allows one to see me more clearly… EVEN WHEN RACE IS NOT AN ISSUE.
Talent creates visibility. Talent creates respect. Talent creates recognition.
Maybe I’m insecure, maybe I think too much, maybe I need to get a hobby, I don’t know. I don’t want everyone falling over me constantly, that’s ridiculous, but I can’t help this need to demand the respect I feel I deserve, by being even better than I would be if it weren’t an issue. Maybe I’m entitled. Maybe I want to blame everything on everyone else. What I want so badly to learn, to digest, to get…. is that none of it matters! And I know that, but at the same time, I don’t. When I die, none of that will matter. All that will have mattered is the good I did on this earth, the lives I touched and the love. I shouldn’t care.
Social media makes things worse. Everyone is always broadcasting. Everyone wants likes, comments, subscribers. I check the stats of everything I post. Why? It’s so hard to describe. When I create something and am ready to share it, I am happy with it. It’s not about pleasing the masses, but sharing. But, I still care how many people it reaches, how they receive it. Why? I don’t know. It’s this need to be successful and somehow success is linked with these factors and often not linked with quality.
WHY DO I NEED TO BE THE BEST?
Oprah said, “all problems are based in fear.”
What is that fear for me?
My friend said, “it’s great when someone gets in their stride. Some cities, places are just good for some people and worse for others and we should just be happy when someone finds their stride, even when that same city or place isn’t where our stride is.”
He is right. So right.
I would like to note, that while I need to be the best, I am still capable of appreciating when others are the best. I love seeing others do well. But, when I see someone receive more accolades than me and I think the are undeserving, I get upset. I think, “hey, that’s not right?” WHY? Why can’t I just let it be. It’s none of my business. Let’s say I was nominated for a Grammy for best pop album and I lost to… I don’t know, Ashlee Simpson. I would be so upset. I would say, “but she is terrible.” Why can’t I just let it go? Why can’t I say, “Hey, this thing happened, for whatever reason. I enjoyed my work, others enjoyed my work. I’m okay. Good for Ashlee.” I am consumed with being the best. Why do we even compare things…. ever? I don’t know. I’m a fool and I know it.
I put so much pressure on myself to continue growing, to move forward in life, to learn from EVERYTHING. If a day goes by that I don’t work on something, I feel like a failure. I beat myself up about it, when really… it’s okay! I can spend one day not doing something. Maybe I needed a break! When I hang out with people I think, “I could be rehearsing something right not.” WHY? I need to be social occasionally. I need friends. I want friends. I want a social life. But, my need to succeed supersedes all. I am crazy.
WHY DO I NEED TO BE BETTER THAN EVERYONE?
The worst thing about it is, even when I win or when I’m recognized, I can barley receive it, because I spend the time after the performance or whatever thinking about how I could have done it better.
It’s my fault. Why do I do this to myself.
Maybe if my life didn’t revolve around just performing, I wouldn’t care as much. I need another life. All I do is think about performing, the next performance, the last…. when will I also just exist and be a person?
I need to stop talking shop.
PS… I just added another tag in an effort to extend the reach of this post… I still can’t let it go.