I Found Freedom in Failing Fabulously with Improv

I talk to myself. 

One day, my son, Gra­ham, heard me say, “Ah, Lisa, ya dum­b­ass,” under my breath. 

I had made a sil­ly mis­take dri­ving some­where. And I was, I thought, qui­et­ly rep­ri­mand­ing myself for it. Gra­ham looked at me and said, “Bruh, that was harsh. You shouldn’t talk that way to yourself.” 

Aside from the fact that I don’t like that he calls me “Bruh,” I loved every­thing my son said. 

In his easy man­ner, he summed up a habit of my life­time — gen­tly, yet cru­el­ly, nit-pick­ing every error I make — and often point­ing out every error oth­er peo­ple make, too. Each time I qui­et­ly rep­ri­mand myself with a light­heart­ed “dum­b­ass”, “bone­head”, “ idiot.” 

I tell myself that I am all of those things. It’s not kind. To me. It’s not kind to me to speak so harsh­ly to me when all I did was make a sil­ly error that caused no pain, hard­ship, loss of income, life — or any­thing. I made a wrong turn. I was still 5 min­utes ear­ly! I am not a dum­b­ass. Yet, when I make sil­ly mis­takes, I call myself names.  When the truth is, I am none of those things. I’m learn­ing from Graham’s wis­dom every day. 

There are rea­sons I do it, but the rea­sons aren’t impor­tant. Every­one has rea­sons for their unpleas­ant behav­iors. I want to change my unpleas­ant and harm­ful behavior. 

Self-talk is pow­er­ful. Self-talk can change. Self-talk is powerful.

I go to improv class­es. That includes drop-ins for first timers and 8‑week class­es for the more sea­soned impro­vi­sors. I go to play with grown-ups in a place where it’s appro­pri­ate to play with grown-ups. It’s sil­ly. It’s fun. It’s mind­less and mind­ful all at the same time. It’s bet­ter than ther­a­py, and I love a good ther­a­py session. 

The rea­son I feel all those pos­i­tive things at improv is because improv is a place where you get to say kind things and sil­ly things and out­ra­geous­ly ridicu­lous things and there are no mis­takes. Every­thing works in improv, because improv isn’t planned. If it hap­pens, appar­ent­ly, it was sup­posed to hap­pen that way, so it can’t be a mis­take. This is liberating. 

When I learned to make mis­takes and rev­el in them, I began to feel joy. Only through that release of ten­sion and feel­ing of joy could I focus on the mis­takes to learn from them. And then, I real­ly felt joy. I learned how to change how I speak to myself through improv. 

Fail­ing Fab­u­lous­ly in a safe space. It’s a cute catch­phrase, I know. And it’s so much more than that. It’s the free­dom to know you can make mis­takes and it’s okay because that adds to your joy. In improv, the mis­takes are what make us laugh and release ten­sion. When we feel free to fail instead of obsess­ing and over-react­ing to our own mis­takes (I’d nev­er react like I did if my son made a wrong turn), we learn. We become better. 

Lisa Poskanzer

Lisa Poskanzer

Lisa Poskanzer is the Director of Joy & Co-creator of Improv 2 Improve. Lisa finds joy walking on the beach and gardening.