Growing up in and around the entertainment industry in Los Angeles (aka: having headshots of yourself taken starting at age two) definitely makes for some fabulous therapy topics. I’ve been to hundreds upon hundreds of auditions. I have tried everything I could to impress the casting directors and land the parts—changed my hair and makeup to fit what they were looking for, memorized lines, took countless expensive acting classes, and covered up thousands of pimples in the bathroom before casting calls.
Each time, I’d walk in with high hopes about a role that could not only pay my rent for the entire next year, but could also change the trajectory of my life. I had high highs and crash-and-burn lows. The overpowering nerves. Fumbling through lines. Fighting to blow away the casting directors, only to be met with a cold “Thank you,” which I followed with a shameful walk out the door and a good cry in my car.
Despite all of it, like many others in this Hollywood hamster wheel, I kept coming back for more.
In high school, I remember getting the call that I had booked my favorite TV show, 7th Heaven (I know there are some die-hard 7th Heaven fans out there).
When my mom told me, I dramatically threw myself into the back seat of her car and starting kicking and screaming, elated. That was one of the highest highs I had ever felt. Probably not very healthy in retrospect, but it was real. Ironically my “good Christian girl” self was cast as the “mean girl” in 7th Heaven. But I didn’t even care. I was on my favorite TV show.
That audition turned out to be a good one, but man, do I have some fail stories. I was always terrified of having to cry in an audition because it was so hard for me to conjure the tears in the midst of all those nerves. The casting director knew my father, which made me extra nervous. I didn’t want to embarrass my dad, so I came overly prepared. I thought to myself, “OK, what would make me cry?” “Onions!” Before the audition, I cut one in half and put it in a plastic bag in my purse, along with a knife to get a fresh cut right before I walked in. To really help myself out, I also sat in my car before the audition and listened to Bette Midler’s song “Wind Beneath My Wings” on repeat. That song always made me cry. I was desperate.
I rubbed the onion juice on my fingers and was planning on rubbing it near my eyes right when I walked in the audition room and began the scene. This was going to work perfectly. But. (You knew there was a “but” coming in this story, right?) I accidentally got the onion juice in my eye. So instead of nice steady tears like I was going for, I just looked like I was in a lot of awkward pain. Probably because I was. It was a disaster. A cringe-worthy performance.
I’ve come to this conclusion: If you live your life trying to impress other people, it will be a lifelong journey of dissatisfaction. Why? Because making everyone happy is an impossible task. Not to mention, it comes at great personal expense.
If we spend our lives striving to impress, please, and earn the love of parents, partners, peers, employees, and social media gods, we’ll only be disappointed. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. What an excruciating and miserable life that would be. I’ve spent too many days doing just that. Seeking approval and purpose by pleasing others. Any other Enneagram 2s out there? You feel me.
At the end of the day, and more importantly, at the end of our lives, I think we will all feel like we’ve finished well if we simply feel proud of ourselves. We all have our own stories, our own experiences. Only you know the depth of what you’ve gone through, and I’m here to tell you that you must give yourself grace on your journey. There’s more than enough comparison and worry about being good enough out there to last a lifetime. How liberating would it feel to be able to move through your life in confidence and truly be proud of yourself? Really proud of yourself?
The big question is, How?
The best way I know how to do that is to make a trade. An upgrade, if you will. Let’s trade all the energy we would have spent on impressing other people—whose impressions, by the way, we can never control—for energy we can spend on making choices we can control and be proud of.
Caitlin Crosby is the co-host of the Real Good Company podcast and founder of The Giving Keys, a jewelry company with the mission of helping its employees transition out of homelessness. She was named among Oprah’s SuperSoul100 list of visionaries in 2016 and featured on The Today Show, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and many other media outlets. This article was taken from Caitlyn’s new book You Are the Key, used by permission of Zondervan, Copyright © 2020 by Caitlin Crosby. Caitlin lives with her husband and their two children in LA, and you can connect with her on Instagram @caitlincrosby and www.thegivingkeys.com.