Reach for the Stars… But don’t.

When I was in my early teens, I told my parents that I wanted to go to stage school.  I had taken dance lessons through a local dance school since the age of 2, started singing lessons aged 10 and took part in local pantomimes and musicals put on by the local Amateur Dramatics groups.  I *loved* performing.
When I started secondary school, I was picked on and bullied for my singing abilities.  Thankfully, I had an awesome set of music teachers that were very supportive of my “talents” and encouraged me to enter into the school talent show and blues night every year, as well as singing with the school choir.  In my second year, a handful of my bullies locked me in our form room during lunch break and wouldn’t let me out until I sang for them.  They then ridiculed me for my efforts and I hated that they felt they could treat me that way.  I’m not sure whether they just didn’t understand my passion for performing or if they were jealous.
These people did nothing to help my self-confidence.  I was broken down day-in day-out; was spat at, punched and had my hair pulled, along with the usual name calling and degrading comments.
I found my safe haven in performing.  I danced two nights a week, singing lessons on a saturday and rehearsals for shows two or three nights a week.  I lost myself in portraying someone else on stage; a confident young woman.  I’d cry at the end of show week because I didn’t want it to end.  This carried on into my early twenties…
Going back to the conversation with my parents.  I wanted to go to stage school.  I wanted to perform for a living.  I wanted to show the world my talent and spend my life enjoying my job.
But my mum said, “But you aren’t good enough.”
Those words resonate in my memory.  The only person that understood my love for performing, who was overwhelmed with pride when I took to the stage, didn’t believe I could make it work.  Didn’t believe I was good enough.
My self-confidence and self-esteem shattered.
She went on to explain that I was talented, that I had a good voice, could act and dance.  But I wasn’t good enough to make it in the Performance industry.  If I was male, I’d have had more of a chance.  But the number of girls trying to make it into the world of Theatre is so high, the likelihood of me getting anything but a waitressing job and a shed load of rejection was low.
I understand now why she said what she did, but I struggle to forgive her choice of words.  I don’t think she realised at the time that this would affect me, along with my daily school life, for ten years. Not only in my day to day life , but it would affect my future relationships and friendships.
Is there a way you can let your child down gently?  Or do you let your child chase their wildest dreams, when you know they just don’t have that spark?

4 thoughts on “Reach for the Stars… But don’t.

  1. Oh wow, this was tough to read. Like you, I was bullied and so I find it very hard to read about someone who suffered like I did, and who has also had their adult life tainted by it. Unlike you I didn’t have an escape, and I’m glad for you that you did.

    As for letting a child down or letting them go for it even when they will get nowhere. I think the X Factor is proof that encouraging someone beyond their abilities isn’t good for anyone. But I also don’t think that crushing someone is the best way to steer them in another direction. If someone has an interest, be that in theatre or sport or whatever, then showing them all the other doors that opens could be a much nicer way to do it. Encouraging an interest in set design or casting or coaching…whatever. I don’t think it’s ever excusable to word it as your mother did though it may have come out wrong and be something she has regretted saying ever since.

    1. To be fair to my mum, it wasn’t the only thing she said. It’s just that’s all I really remember from conversation. I totally agree with the x factor comments though, I actually auditioned once over and got so far through the process and witnessed first hand the number of talentless contestants getting put through just for he public to laugh at. I’m glad that I can enjoy performing in my spare time and that I have a good job now – which is what my mum wanted for me. I’m sorry that you were bullied too but didn’t have anywhere to escape to. I must admit, it helped me a lot and gave me real experience to draw upon when trying to portray something hurtful etc I whilst performing.
      Thanks for reading x

  2. Great post. This is such a difficult one & doesn’t just apply to the performing arts e.g. you can pay thousands to get through law school & then there are just a handful of placements available in law firms at the end of it and these places only go to the top top students. Should we discourage our children from this route if they’re not academic enough? I don’t know. I do think we have to be realistic with our children though – encourage them to try their best but to always have back up options. Reach for the stars, but have an attainable safety net below them.

    Academics came naturally to me – I aimed high & I was taken on by a top international corporate law firm… this is what my Mum wanted for me and what she pushed me to do. And do you know what… I hated it. Looking back I never really wanted that – I’m not a competitive corporate type. I hate the city and I am too sensitive for the corporate environment. I wish someone had been realistic with me in a different sense – had said yes you can achieve that if you want to, but here are all of the negatives that will come with it. Being talented at something doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be happy in that world where your talent lies. Sorry for the rambling comment – I really enjoyed your post and wanted to share xx

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