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.