Through my teenage years and early 20’s I desperately, passionately wanted to be an actress. When I finished high school I went to Drama school, and in my 2nd year I went through what was one of the darkest seasons of my life. I was receiving so much negative criticism and felt I was being torn in every direction, trying to make myself better. Striving and striving, working two jobs with 60 contact hours of class and rehearsals I was running myself into the ground. A part of me thought this kind of hard work was admirable. Suck it up, don’t complain.
Being criticised for being too critical
As a part of the course we had to have private interviews to talk about our progress. We had heard so many scary stories about what gets said in these interviews and it seemed it was the teachers’ aim to tear you down. I went into my interview and they criticized and pulled apart everything I was doing wrong. Then they said “Ella, you are arrogant and too critical of yourself!” Too critical? Too arrogant?!
At that stage in life my critical side was full blown. Be critical of people; be critical of myself so that people don’t think that I am delusional. If I can point out that someone else is hopeless then maybe no one will think that I can be hopeless.
Unpacking who I really am
At the end of the year I was so numb. I went and saw a counselor. I didn’t get it… I didn’t have a traumatic childhood so why was I so depressed? The trauma was all in my head. I am not an expert on mental health but for me my low spiral was because I was working so hard to be the best actress so that I could be ‘someone’. Counseling was great for a season because it helped give me some much needed outside perspective on myself. I remember walking into the counseling session. I was so numb that I hadn’t cried in a long time and as an actor you need to know how to cry, right? I walked in, I sat on the couch and burst into tears. It was one of those uncontrollable, UGLY cries. My counselor asked me, who is Ella Hooper? I said, “A performer? An entertainer? An actor?” He looked at me kindly, “No Ella, that’s what you do, but who are you?” I was stumped. I was so devastated because I thought I knew who I was because I thought I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. Through counseling at the age of 20 I began to realize that knowing who you are isn’t something you know straight away. It is something that is tested and developed by our circumstances. It is challenged and moulded every time we receive a promotion at work, change careers, meet new people.
Knowing who you are will unlock a fulfilling life
Have you ever wondered what you were originally designed for? Before your first disappointment and before your first heartbreak? I don’t believe we were originally designed for a dismal life. My life’s quest and where I find life’s meaning is through my search to know who I am. Not what job I will do that will bring me meaning. Knowing who you are is the birthplace to living a wholehearted, fulfilling life. What you do with your life comes from who you are rather than, ‘I need to do this to become the person I want to be.’ When you are confident in who you are you don’t ride on the highs and lows of what people say about you, and when you know who you are you really don’t have any desire to be wishing you had someone’s else’s life.
Learning to speak differently
Bill Johnson says, “our words create our world”. I really wanted to be on the track where I was flourishing and growing. So, I started to speak and think differently about life rather than letting fear and criticism fill my speech. I also had to change the way I viewed myself. I felt like I had FAILURE stamped across my forehead and I needed to change that to SUCCESS. I needed to rewrite my past mistakes by thinking and responding differently to how I had in the past if I wanted a different result. So every time I had a problem I had to say how would a successful person react and behave with this?
I love working hard, but hard work is no longer motivated by trying to prove myself. Hard work and passion comes from a place of rest. I still have high standards but when I make a mistake I am not self loathing because I see it as an opportunity for growth.
Letting go of what others think
The more that I have become confident in who I am the less I have been knocked around by what people say about me. I don’t suffer from comparison because I know that I have great things ahead in my future. As soon as you stop allowing the opportunities that happen to those around you steal your attention that’s when opportunities open up for you. When you know who you are there is no room to be threatened by anyone. When you clear out all the noise that’s when you can discover the hidden talents you have.
When I go back to the core of who I am my thoughts and focus are then rearranged. I feel organized. I feel that every step towards my dreams comes from a place of rest and trusting that all things will work together for good.
Learning to love the process
A good thermometer of how secure you are in your identity is how well you love process. Crazy I know! I saw a quote saying, “One day I will be proud of myself.” Instead of working towards the elusive ‘one day’ why not be proud of yourself today? Are you spending most of your time waiting for the weekend or the next best things to happen or can you appreciate today for today? Are you secure in yourself when it feels like nothing is happening? Can you trust that something wonderful is happening behind the scenes? I am all for chasing dreams but if you don’t know who you are, how do you know that those dreams are really what you want? I remember setting goals and never being able to fulfill them and when I did reach the goal it wasn’t very satisfying.
Attracting the right people
You attract the right people and the right opportunities because you have a stillness inside you that trusts yourself and others. I expect that people will want the best for me because I want the best for me. I know whenever I struggle with disappointment, thoughts of lack, or fear of what people think, it’s an opportunity to grow, discover and become who I really am.
I am thankful to the amazing friends I have in my life who always inspire me to be the best version of myself. Friends who lovingly remind me of my dreams when they feel so far off, and who empower me to choose the brave choice.
“If you change the way you think about yourself you will change the way you feel about yourself; then if you change what you feel about yourself you will change the way you behave. If you change the way you behave you will change your success.” – Jason Vallotton.