96: UNperforming


We all perform. We’ve all been socialized to perform. And: none of us are truly free in a performance. Today’s episode will take you into the what, why, how of performance and assimilation, and leave you with reflection questions for your healing and UNperforming.



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laura: How to make love? Now, is that from recipe or from scratch? This is how to make love.This is how to make love.

Speaker 3: Wow.

Speaker 4: Oh, gosh.

Speaker 5: Ooh.

Speaker 6: Oh my God.

Speaker 7: A little to the left and faster.

laura: A show that tests the edges of what love is.

Speaker 8: Worthiness.

Speaker 9: Empathy.

Speaker 10: Beauty.

Speaker 11: Sex positive.

laura: The borders it can cross.

Speaker 12: How you do integrity in all of our relationships.

laura: And its hidden costs and shadows.

Speaker 13: In a world where we other other people, where we build walls and just tear down walls.

Speaker 14: Fuck finding it or falling into it. Our future depends on making it.

laura: Hey friends, I'm Laura. Welcome back to a podcast all about growing your love, courage, and justice muscles. I am super glad you're here. If you're on my private email list or you heard the little teaser through the podcast a couple of weeks ago, I launched a new program called The UNschool, which is all about unlearning the stuff that isn't really a part of us, like stuff that gets socialized into us, stuff that gets built up and caked on after surviving hurt or harm or trauma, unlearning things that are toxic to our systems, but that most of us have learned to get really, really good at in order to survive in a society that's built on racism and capitalism.
Anyway, that program launched and the first cohort is digging into the notion of unperforming. In other words, a deep exploration of authenticity and taking a hard look at the things that we've learned or become addicted to performing, even if that performance is fueled by survival, maybe especially if that performance is fueled by survival.
So today I thought I'd offer some tools around unperforming for those of you who couldn't join the semester, I'll share some of the reasons that we all perform. I'll share some of the things that a lot of us are susceptible to performing that I hear time and time again, and I'll also share some reflection questions at the end of this so that you can take yourself on a date if and when you're interested in healing the parts of you that have been for all kinds of super legitimate reasons, caught up in a performance versus being who you truly are.
So that's what's up today. I'm going to jump right in. What do I mean by performance? Well, I mean literally putting on a show, a parading of something, it's ultimately fueled by how you want others to perceive you or how I want others to perceive me. You might be thinking, I don't do anything like that. Like I'm sincere and I'm honest and I'm transparent. But here are a couple of clues that you might be mistaken or you might want to take a second look.
Number one, do you tend to people please, like do you have a relationship with people pleasing? Do you avoid conflict? Do you avoid risk taking? If so, and I mean hello all of us, almost all of us, certainly me, those are some clues that it's important for you to be seen a particular way. And often when we're consciously or unconsciously wanting to be seen or experienced in a particular way, we're often in a sneaky relationship with performance. We believe that we need to perform certain attributes in order to be accepted. And y'all, you don't need me to tell you. In some cases that is very real, especially for folks on the margins. Trans people, people of color, disabled people, people, people in religious minorities and so on.
For people who have been historically, culturally and contemporarily, marginalized and oppressed, assimilation of performance can at times mean literal survival. And I'm not ever going to diminish that reality. I pretend it's not the case, and I hold that truth alongside another truth, which is that no matter our identity, a lot of us have walked away from who we are for reasons other than, or in addition to survival, or for some of us it starts with survival being accepted and then snowballs into a much more elaborate performance we've maintained by choice even if we aren't aware of the daily choices we make to maintain that performance. So there's a lot of reasons we start to perform things in our lives, and one, as I already mentioned, is survival, real or perceived.
At some point we were faced with a choice to be ourselves and be excluded, demonized, negated, dismissed or worse or to assimilate. And assimilation is always a performance. We don't need to judge why we assimilated. We should have a lot of tender compassion for that as much as we can. But perhaps when you were younger, you saw that who you were was not okay and you learned another way to be. That was certainly true for me.
I knew being queer in the conservative religious southern culture that I was raised in was literally not safe. And so I perform straightness. That's just one example. But typically the younger we are, when we assimilate, the harder the performance becomes to put down. Even when we know our survival is no longer at stake. There's a ton of other reasons that we perform, to receive promotions, to survive workplace culture, to fit into a new social group, to build friends, to find a partner, to keep a partner, to satisfy our kids.
There's a million reasons and nearly all of them have to do with the real or perceived human need to be accepted. And so we start to put on performances of the traits and attributes we believe will create that acceptance. Or in some cases we lose or disassociate with parts of ourself in order to be accepted. There's a lot of potential things that we learn to perform. Some we choose to perform. Some we've absorbed without knowing it at the time, and some we may be performing now and not even aware of.
So here are some of the common ones that I hear from folks that I work with. Performance of strength, of rightness, of knowingness, of perfection, of whiteness, which is to say conscious and unconscious chosen and unchosen performances of white supremacy culture or dominant culture. Other things folks commonly perform immunity from racism, wokeness, straightness, I have it all, togetherness, happiness, positivity. I can manage this aloneness, goodness, kindness, scarcity, confidence.
There is so much that we perform and the thing is a lot of us are performing things we'd prefer truly not to perform, but we've just gotten so good at it and in most cases, society or workplace culture or white supremacy culture rewards us for maintaining those performances. Those things are really invested in us maintaining the performance because if we were the free, authentic, kind of radical liberated human beings we are all meant to be. It would jeopardize all of our societal foundations and life as we know it, culture as we know it, society as we know it would have to shift if that inspires you. Right on. I'm going to give you some questions at the end of this episode in just a couple of minutes to help you do some inner reflections, some inner work, and it's a lot, this is a lot my friends, if you listen to more than one of these podcasts, you know there's no judgment here, we're all performing something, myself included.
I am performing a ton of shit and in my experience, an essential ingredient in healing anything including performance and assimilation, is applying compassion and non-judgment to win. Where? Why? How? We took that performance on and even non-judgment and compassion that it's still a part of us. The more we judge a thing, the harder it is to heal and transmute it. So it's okay.
All of us have been socialized and programmed to forget who we are or to not recognize ourselves or even to believe we don't know who we are. Remember, that's on purpose. Oppression wins when we forget who we are, but it's also a lie. Unperforming is ultimately a practice of remembering, remembering who we are, who we want to be, and giving ourselves opportunity and permission to be those things, to be that thing freely. Okay, so how do we do it?
To unperform, to strive to be in an authentic relationship with who we actually are, to remember who we are beyond an outsider performance. There are some bridges we need to cross. There are some things we need to ask ourselves. There are some commitments we need to make, and I'm going to offer some reflection questions here, some of which we'll be using in the UNschool throughout the summer term and others are just here for you. And I recommend that instead of trying to jot these down while you're driving or walking the dog or being with your kids or whatever, you just go to the episodic page on my website and download the transcript.
There's a link to do that in the episode notes in whatever app you're listening to this on. But let me offer some reflection questions so that you can take them and use these questions with yourself, with your family, with your team, with your organization, in an effort to really see yourself at your core, to see others at their core, and to have a better understanding of what you might be performing and why.
All right, question one, who are you? What's it like to be truly you? That's actually a really complicated question, so I'm going to offer some mini questions that might help you access it. What do you show people you trust that you don't show other people? When do you feel known and seen? What is it that you perceive others are seeing about you that makes you feel known and seen? And if you are on the plane alone, who would you be? What would you be like? Those are a couple of questions that can ultimately help you access that, but don't overthink it. This is ultimately a practice in remembering.So give yourself some time and space to feel into that.
Question two is an extension of question one, do you know who you are and are you being that? I'll give you an example. At my most me self, I'm actually a pretty quiet and kind of sad person. Who I am authentically is sort of brokenhearted about a lot of things. And so when I'm me, there's this innate grief and sadness that's a part of my personality and my presence. Other people can feel it, and I've had to train myself to be okay being sad a lot, especially because that can be hard for others to be around.
The part of me that wants to people please, wants to ease discomfort for others by performing humor or by performing extrovertedness, by performing hide the sadness. We have to give ourselves airtime to be who we are. So I've had to give myself practice. I'm moving around in the world with my heartache. So do you know who you are? And when, where, why, how, how often are you being those things moving around the world in a way that enables you to be freely who you are?
Okay, question three, what are you going to lose when you heal the performance? And I want you to think about what you're going to gain too. But the truth is the stuff we gain while motivating, it's not enough to inspire change, like deep healing change. What really keeps us from healing and from shifting out a performance into deeper authenticity is actually what we'll lose. And our fear of facing those things, our fear of losing those things. Sometimes what we lose is safety.
For most of us, the performance has become so natural that it's actually really safe. It's like second skinned. It protects us from certain vulnerabilities, and that makes sense, but it also slowly kills us from the inside out. So to heal, to really embrace and love who you are as you are, it's going to require that you have to have a quiet, honest conversation with yourself about what you will lose, and you will lose the hiding places, the protection. The trick is to do all of that in a still grounded wave versus engaging in the reflection with a sort of catastrophic thinking. So what are you going to have to give up? What will you lose as you do this healing?
And question four, how would you know that you're healing? How will you know that you are healing? How would you know you're being more you, freer from performance? Who else would know? How would they know? What's your very first step, the smallest, tiniest possible step? When will you take it and why?
Those are some questions to get you going, my friends along the way, you're going to need to build a lot of courageous skills and capacities to be less invested in what others think, to try to stop comparing and contrasting yourself to others, to practice knowing and articulating your wants and desires to set healthy boundaries, to divest from self-critique.
Lots and lots of things, but we don't have to do all of that right now, and it's not a precursor to doing this work. What we need to do now, the only thing there really is to do ever actually, is to be present to ourself and give ourself the honest opportunity to let our heart answer, what am I performing? What parts of myself am I losing to maintain this performance of that thing? Who am I at my core and what freedom is waiting for me in my life if I be back?
The path of healing will build itself. You don't need to go and do anything. You don't need a fancy plan. You just need to talk honestly with yourself and consider what you want for your life and give yourself a chance to be it in as many places as you can while also protecting yourself in a world that's so deeply invested in your maintaining the performance.
You've got this, my friends, more juice headed your way next month. And until then, may you have some really fucking exhilarating performances. Bye for now.