“I was a really feisty kid. I had almost zero fear. I loved to sing and perform, and was certain I was going to be a singer when I grew up. But something changed as I got older. I began to compare myself to others, and listen to negative messages from people I met along the way:
“Don’t gain any weight.”
“Yeah, well, a lot of people want to be singers…”
“You aren’t perfect looking, you know.”
“You aren’t funny…I don’t know why you think you are funny.”
I became debilitatingly self-conscious and started to doubt my ability to do the things I wanted to do. It was like I could only hear the bad things that a small group of very toxic people told me. Everything began to overwhelm me—even simple tasks like finding the sheet music I needed for an audition. My anxiety rose so high that I quit singing altogether. I was in my early 20s and knew I had to pick a career, so I went into advertising. It was worse than settling, it was soul-crushing. About 8 years later I found myself walking to work wondering what the point of life was. I was having such bad panic attacks that in the moment I’d be convinced I was going to die.
I finally left advertising last year. It’s amazing how many people will try to convince you to stay in a job that makes you miserable. I felt like a broken record, defending my choices. It’s funny—I used to scan my LinkedIn newsfeed and get overwhelmed by the flood of articles by industry “thought-leaders” about how to achieve success and become more and more productive. I read those articles for years and the panic attacks came fiercely and frequently. It took a long time before I realized they were just articles. Opinions. I could ignore them. I could go my own way. I finally got that I had to stop listening to everyone around me—that no one knows what’s right for you, but you. And that world, that path, the type of success…it wasn’t right for me.
Last month I put on my first solo cabaret in NYC to a full house. No one cared what I weighed, I didn’t look perfect, and I was quite funny (my mom said so…so if that doesn’t settle it, I just don’t know what will). I wrote and produced the entire thing myself—it was both terrifying and the best time I’ve ever had. I am still scared with every new thing I take on, but I trust myself now. Every time someone gives me their unsolicited opinion (which is guaranteed to happen when you perform) or tells me what they think I “should do,” I smile politely and then carry on doing what I know is right for me. I feel strong for the first time in a very long time.”