I was born with the entertainer gene. My hard wiring to please didn't go unnoticed. I was quickly nominated for the part of undercover Muppet, complete with a script of people-pleasing behaviors sure to make the crowds cheer. My puppeteers, the people holding my strings, were clear what my moves should be. Be a good girl. Smile. Be Happy. Don't rock the boat. Do your best.
It's time to play the music
It's time to light the lights
It's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight...
My life as an undercover worked well for a long time. The attention was intoxicating. I lived for the applause brought on by being cheerful, getting good grades and being agreeable.
It's time to put on make up
It's time to dress up right
It's time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight...
Being the ham I am, it was much easier to perform than to let my true thoughts shine through. My frenetic song and dance were pretty convincing.
But then I got tired.
Why do we always come here
I guess we'll never know
It's like a kind of torture
To have to watch the show...
The fatigue was overwhelming. No amount of work was good enough. I was always letting someone down. I was so busy on stage that I lost sight of the real me. The always-on, don't rock the boat, do-your-best checklist wasn't working anymore.
So, I gave up acting, which comes with a cost. The applause would be replaced by whispers and stares. But I had to be real. Cutting the strings wasn't easy, but it was better than thinking my worth came from how well I performed in my relationships, or lived up to some arbitrary standards of "normal" and "success."
Conventional advice like never quit, keep going, and you can do anything doesn't work for hyper-performing Muppet types. We need a whole different set of advice. Relax. Stop beating yourself up. Be self-compassionate. You're role doesn't define you. You are enough.
Otherwise, we're screwed. Royally.
Here are some ways to relinquish your Muppet role and cut the strings hyper-performance brings:
1. Drop the act. You are not an actor or actress. Stop playing the part. Showing your true self may be the most anxiety-provoking thing you've ever done, but life isn't a show. Don't waste time trying to impress people. The buzz that the attention gives you is temporary. When it wears off, you'll be left even more vulnerable.
2. Stop trying to explain yourself. Broad-brush categories are unhelpful. And ridiculous. Human beings are multidimensional. Embrace your many sides and don't take the bait of thinking you have to fit in a box or under the umbrella of a prescriptive label.
3. Be careful who you let pull your strings. Puppeteers have a lot of power to control the show. Cut strings with those who choke out your lifeblood and true essence. Make friends who those who love and support you no matter how much you mess up, or how "different" you are.
4. Focus on presence. It's one thing to impress people, it's another to be present with them. Relationships grow through honest, humble moments when we let our hair down and embrace our many narratives. This is what connects us, not the contrived images we cobble together in hopes to be accepted.
What strings do you need to cut to help you focus on presence, not performance?
But now let's get things started
Why don't you get things started
It's time to get things started
On the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational
This is what we call the Muppet Show...
Kristen Lee, EdD, LICSW, known as "Dr. Kris" is an award-winning professor of Behavioral Science and Education. Her research, teaching and clinical interests include individual and organizational well-being and resilience. Dr. Kris's signature ability to engage with a diverse range of audiences has led her to be invited to speak nationally and internationally to educators, health and mental health professionals, business leaders and general audiences. Her book, RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress was named Motivational Book of 2015.