5139 NE 94th Ave., Ste C, Vancouver, WA 98662 info@projectpatch.org 360.690.8495

Living Backstage

Backstage is a mess. Front stage is pretty amazing with all the lights, well rehearsed words and actions. Backstage is full of props, anxious performers and frantic rehearsal. The stage is all about being in the present, giving that moment all you have to offer. The backstage is dominated by fear, not just the future, but hoping your friends didn’t catch the mistakes in your last performance.

[shareable]Backstage is rarely glamorous but it’s where we spend most of our time and where our greatest impact comes from.[/shareable]

I had a load of expectations when I was on the Dr. Phil Show. I’ve never been met at the airport by a limo driver and had no idea what to do when the one armed older gentleman took my bags and I followed feeling like a jerk. It was pretty fun to pull up to the hotel, studio and airport in style.  I also kind of like to hear people  say, “Yes, Mr. Hagele” and be ushered into special doors.

However, being backstage for that show was brutal. My stomach hadn’t been settled for several days and now I was surrounded by tables full of food that I couldn’t eat. It was freezing and I was afraid to drink coffee since I didn’t know when I could use the restroom again. Instead of drinking coffee, I held the cup tightly trying to stay warm. My thoughts were jumbled and my confidence low.

Then came the make-up and wardrobe. I like my suit, but suddenly my Men’s Warehouse 2 for 1 suit seemed embarrassing and I felt like a bumpkin. I sat in the room, clutching my coffee staring at myself in the mirror for several hours. Occasionally I was put at ease by Julie, a producer and Anthony who does so much at the show. I tried to look relaxed and confident but I’m sure they were worried when they saw me clinging to the full coffee cup.

Several hours later, the show was recorded and I was back in my “green room” gulping down hot coffee, stuffing cookies and chocolate covered strawberries into my mouth. I was ushered back through long halls to “my driver” and whisked through Hollywood to the airport.

I’m glad the experience helped a girl and her family, encouraged others and furthered the work of Project Patch but the backstage experience was one of the darkest experience I’ve had.  You can watch the 45 second highlight real of the front stage from that recording but I don’t have footage of the backstage coffee cup terror.

The reason I’m sharing this is that most of us compare our backstage experience with other people’s main stage. I’m careful to edit what other people see and share my highlight real. I compare the most challenging and dark places of my life with everyone else’s best moments.

If you look at my social media trail it would look like all I do is travel to interesting places and do fun things with my family. This is because I only share my main stage moments and hide my backstage. It would seem weird, dangerous and kind of needy to post a picture of me driving slowly to work because I’d rather stay in my car then stepping into another demanding day at work in which I feel overwhelmed and inadequate.

Comparing our backstage to others front stage does several things:

  • Makes us feel “less than” others, inadequate or somehow flawed.
  • Sets me up for dissatisfaction and I avoid challenges because I think they are a sign of not being good enough.
  • Makes me search for shortcuts.

Our kids really struggle with comparison. They wonder what is wrong with them that everything seems so hard and that they feel so insecure. The reality is that everyone except a the drunk, high or emotionally unavailable people feels that way. We all spend most of our time backstage.

How do we help our kids become more comfortable with the backstage?

  1. Share our own awareness of the power of living backstage versus main stage.
  2. Make sure we reward back stage work and bravery over performance.
  3. Teach skills for living back stage in the midst of fear and uncertainty.
  4. Help them process mistakes and failures so they don’t keep us from taking the stage again.
  5. Pull back the curtain on what they see on social media, TV, movies, magazines and all the other things that make life look overly easy and meet.

There is a concept that Brene Brown shares in her newest book Rising Strong that all children struggle with belonging and wanting to be part of something.  It’s no surprise that kids often say, “I’m the only one who…” when they compare their life to their friends.  Everyone else gets to go to the movie, dye their hair, stay up late, get an iPhone, their own car at 16…

Brene recommends using the phrase, “The story I’m telling myself” to peek behind our emotion and frustration.  When our kids says they are the only one not being allowed to go the THE party it may sound like this.  “The story I’m telling myself is that you don’t trust me and think I’m a baby, I’m going to lose all my friends because of this.”

This process isn’t so we shoot holes in their story, but is to make sure that we understand why this is so significant to them and help them start searching for the truth that starts when out thoughts our brought to light.

It feels awkward to talk this way and your kids will not learn how to do it until you learn how. Once again, it starts with us as parents doing the hard work so that our kids learn how. I guess this puts us back stage again as awkward parents hoping that we don’t blow it but knowing this is the most important things we will ever do.