September 19, 2012

Is It Time to Step into Your Spotlight?

Have you ever felt like you were screaming to be heard, and no one even seems to notice?

Like you’re doing everything that you should in order to matter to others or just have what you need inf life, but it’s just not working?

I’ve been there. Most of my life, in fact, was about doing everything I could to be seen and heard, usually with little success. A bit ironic, since I have two degrees in violin performance, and have spent countless hours on stage performing for others!

But really, what I was doing was hiding up in the rafters of the concert hall operating a spotlight. This image of a spotlight operator came to me after I had started helping others through the personal transformation process called Quanta Change that has helped me so much.

For as long as I could remember, I always felt like the spotlight operator who was waiting for her own bow.

Surely, if I did my job well enough and threw enough light on the performers, at some point, they’d point to me and I’d get the recognition I wanted. This happened all over the place in my life. If I give a friend my favorite keepsake, then I’ll be her favorite. If I volunteer to play second violin often enough in a string quartet, someone will eventually ask me to play first and I’ll get the fun parts. If I go along with this guy’s crazy weekend plans, he’ll want to date me. If I give enough in some arena—even one I don’t really even like—at some point, I’ll get back what I really want out of it.

Do you want to guess how well that works? You would be right if you said, “Not at all.” Well, maybe it worked in small ways, but mostly, I was the “she’ll do anything” girl. “Just ask Sara, she’ll help you out and never ask for anything in return. She’s just so ‘giving.'” But there I was, silently hoping and waiting for someone to turn the spotlight on me, to invite me to take my bow.

It’s the spotlight operator’s job to remain hidden.

They wear black, they’re high up in the rigging of a hall or arena, and they sit behind a bright light. When you try to look at the spotlight operator, what do you see? Nothing, right? In fact, you’re probably blinded by the light that they’re directing toward the stage.

The way it feels to be the metaphorical spotlight operator is that I don’t matter, that it’s probably not even safe for me to matter or voice what matters to me, and that I need to let others “win” so I get their approval. This feeling, stored in my sense of self as “the way I have to be in order to survive” just kept generating more of the same kinds of situations for me—situations in which I felt invisible, like I didn’t matter, and that I couldn’t even speak up for myself. Who could hear me from all the way up in the rafters, anyway?

Beyond the obvious reasons this didn’t feel good, it eventually completely failed as a survival mechanism, also. At some point in life, I needed to actually express my voice in the world, or else I was just going to disappear entirely. For me, the push to leave the dark rafters was mostly financial. I could see that being hidden up there left me invisible in an energetic sense, and that jobs, clients and money weren’t flowing in my life, as a result.

So, I started to work with the idea of turning the spotlight on myself—to stay focused on myself and expressing what I really wanted.

This was excruciating, given that I felt it wasn’t safe for me to matter.

My comfort zone was to focus on everyone but myself—shine the light on them—and so this new way just felt wrong and scary. But, I did my work around this theme and as I unlearned layers of feeling that it wasn’t safe to matter and that I could only survive by getting others’ approval, things started to shift.

My first surprise was having my violin teacher, someone I had looked up to for years, ask for my advice. He asked what the best book I had read recently was, and when I told him, he said, “Great, I’m going to go get it for a flight I have coming up.” It seems small now, but I can’t tell you how shocking it was that he not only wanted to know what was important to me, but was going to spend money and time on something I advised.

The more I have unlearned and the more the feeling that I do matter has taken over, the bigger the situations have become in which my voice is sought out and honored, or where I feel really comfortable speaking up for what I want and need to thrive.

And, instead of feeling uncomfortable that I “won” somehow, so maybe someone else will be upset that I have the spotlight instead of them, I’ve continued to get feedback that everyone benefits when my unique voice is out there in the world. In reality, each of us is meant to have our own spotlight and, like a big show that succeeds because many stars perform in collaboration, each of our unique voices is an important contribution to the world.

Do you feel like a spotlight operator? Is being hidden up in the dark rafters starting to grate on you? Do you wish that you could be recognized for your contributions? I know how you feel! But it isn’t just the way life has to be for you. Stepping into my own spotlight was scary initially, but it has paid off in more ways that I can even count.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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