I’ll tell you the truth — I’m not the most lighthearted person.
A bubbly, cheery ray of sunshine? This is not me.
I love and appreciate people who are naturally sunny and smiley and upbeat … but I don’t really get how they do it.
This fact hasn’t bothered me for most of my life. I’m snarky and bit intense, and I’ve got a resting b-face that assures no one will ever approach me in public. I’ve got a great sense of humor (if I do say so), but it’s dry and sarcastic and can be biting, at times.
What can I say? I just have a tendency toward the serious, the intense … and the anxious.
And I’m starting to realize how much it’s getting in my way.
It’s not that I want to skip through life with a butterfly net … but I would like to take things less seriously, have more fun, and not stress as much.
And I think I’ve found a way to do that.
TURNS OUT, I’M A MARTYR
You’ve probably heard me talk about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic before. It’s one of my favorite books about creativity (and life in general).
There’s this brief section in the book where she talks about how martyred we are when it comes to our creativity.
Being a martyr to your art — or anything you produce; it doesn’t have to be artistic — is about believing that struggle and suffering are necessary to make anything of value.
It’s your stereotypical starving artist, literally dying for their creativity.
It’s the way we wear our angst and our scars like a badge of honor: “See, I sweat for this thing. I sacrificed everything for this. I gave of myself until there was hardly anything left to give … and that proves that I’m worthy of it.”
Why do we believe that?
Yes, if something was hard-won, there’s definitely a sense of reward and fulfillment for having endured, for not giving up. That’s honorable.
But I think we forget, I know I do, that not everything has to be that way.
In fact, I think we forget that to such a large degree that we actually start to assume that unless something was hard-won and difficult … we can’t trust it. It’s less real. We must not have really earned it if we didn’t struggle or fight or kill ourselves to get it.
WHICH CREATES A WHOLE HEAP OF PROBLEMS
Liz Gilbert was talking about the “martyr” mentality as it applies to creativity.
But I think we can agree that this kind of martyrdom — believing in struggle, suffering, and stress — is a lens through which many of us view all of life.
For me, it explains why …
- Sometimes when I’m writing, I don’t feel at ease in my body. I feel tense and a bit panicky. (Why? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe I’m afraid I won’t find the right words?)
- I compulsively check email, even when I know I don’t need to. I’m looking for problems to solve, instead of just sitting still.
- Even with plenty of evidence to the contrary, I fear with each new round of the PPVE that it somehow won’t go well, and that people won’t like it.
- I fret that my clients aren’t getting “enough” out of their coaching experience, even though I’ve done this many hundreds of times.
- When I’m cooking, I sometimes get anxious about timing everything just right … as if I have no experience with making food!
- I start buying into the idea that once I’m “done,” I can relax, even though I know that I will never be done.
It’s uncomfortable to admit, but I think I’m slightly addicted to the struggle.
Maybe I believe (on a mostly unconscious level) that unless I’m struggling, I’m somehow not doing my best or earning my keep. Maybe I’m creating angst left and right because I just expect life to be hard.
And that’s exhausting, isn’t it?
There has to be a better way than trudging through life, taking everything so seriously and creating suffering where it doesn’t need to exist.
INTRODUCING THE TRICKSTER
Liz Gilbert calls the opposite of a martyr a “trickster.”
Whereas a martyr is serious, rigid, and unforgiving, a trickster is playful, flexible, and light.
A martyr has a hard time trusting anything to work out, which is why they tend to exert a ton of control over life (which creates heaps of anxiety, of course … because who actually has real control over anything?).
This is what Liz has to say about tricksters:
“The trickster trusts the Universe. He trusts in its chaotic, law-less, ever-fascinating ways — and for this reason, he does not suffer from undue anxiety.
A good trickster knows that if he cheerfully tosses a ball out into the cosmos, that ball will be thrown back at him. It might be thrown back really hard, or it might be thrown back really crooked, or it might be thrown back in a cartoonish hail of missiles, or it might not be thrown back until the middle of next year — but that ball will eventually be thrown back.
The trickster waits for the ball to return, catches it however it arrives, and then tosses it back out there into the void again, just to see what will happen. And he loves doing it, because the trickster (in all his cleverness) understands the one great cosmic truth that the martyr (in all his seriousness) can never grasp: It’s all just a game.”
BEING A TRICKSTER PAYS OFF
What’s convinced me to make the transition from martyr to trickster is the proof that being a trickster actually pays off way more than being a martyr.
A couple of months ago, Kristen and I went to New Orleans for a few days. It was glorious. We spent hours and hours walking through the city, stopping in for food and drinks whenever we felt like it, randomly buying things, and having impromptu conversations with people.
There were few plans. It was all light and easy and fun. The whole experience was completely “trickster.”
We did no work, paid hardly any attention to Clarity on Fire at all … and got more coaching requests and more course sign-ups in those 3 days than we had for the first 28 days of the month.
Weird coincidence? Maybe. But if you ask me … it was proof that ease and fun work.
And of course, it’s not just that trip that’s sold me on being a trickster.
I take an hour-long break in the middle of the day to read a book — something my martyr self would be horrified by — and I end up coaching way better that evening.
I wrote a blog that I thought no one would like, but published it anyway because why not (about not wanting to be a #girlboss) … and got a HUGE influx of feedback.
Kristen and I got the flu during the latest PPVE launch, and instead of losing my mind, I just trusted that things would work out. I spent days on the couch watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt … and we had the best launch we’ve ever had.
IT’S JUST LIFE, PEOPLE
The bottom line I’ve come to believe in is this:
I’m not getting better results despite being at ease … I’m getting better results because of my ease.
Suffering only begets more suffering. Why continue to believe that things have to be hard? I don’t need to struggle to prove myself. I don’t need to sweat and strain to earn my keep.
So, how do you feel about this? Are you a martyr or a trickster? Let me know, in the comments!
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Rachel (+ Kristen)