Victoria Tunnah

Self Compassion – The Key to Success

Do you have Self Compassion? I didn’t for the longest time and even now it’s a constant practice. Like all other Human Beings I have good and bad days. When I feel dejected, disconnected and lost with little motivation, I can be known to crack out the metaphorical whip and lash myself with the belief that I shouldn’t be feeling this way, that I ought to feel X, that I should be doing Z. I’ll sometimes pressure and urge myself out of the rawrer, more vulnerable parts of my experience from fear I’ll never be happy again – that I’ll be languishing in a pity party for the rest of my days.

It’s a constant practice to allow myself to Be as I am and have compassion for my Humanness. When I started on my acting journey I was dealing with a lot of stuff (I was in my twenties so I basically hated myself). If you took a walk inside my mind you’d have bolted with terror at what you found there. It wasn’t pretty or cute and resulted in chronic anxiety and illness.

We know this industry is tough, we’re reminded of it constantly. It tests a person on every level; mentally, emotionally, physically, energetically. If we’re not careful we can sacrifice everything for it, our own comfort, security, relationships, other interests, our very well-being. We get a self tape through, drop everything to prepare, get the lighting just right, learn the lines 8 ways, lock ourselves in our room to go method for 3 days, hire a costume designer to help us ‘look’ the part, agonise over the delivery, send it off convinced this is the one because you literally are the character and…crickets. The email never comes, they don’t even have the respect to fire over a thanks but no thanks – another solid No to add to the heap. Anxiety creeps back in as you once again wonder – am I good enough? What am I doing with my life? Where is all this going? Is it worth it?

I’ve got the T-shirt in every colour babes…what size do you want?

This, I’m sure goes for every type of artist out there or for any creative endeavour we pursue that is original, daring and bold. It requires a certain self confidence and belief, focus and motivation. But how do we get there? And how do we maintain it once we do?

When I teach balancing poses in a yoga class, inevitably people wobble and fall (as I do, often). It’s common for people to tut, get embarrassed or frustrated, want to give up when they struggle to hold a pose on one foot. Good – I love it. This is a great opportunity to observe how you treat yourself when you fall and what you believe about yourself when you perceive you’ve failed.

I encourage people to use this moment as an opportunity to gently, compassionately encourage ourselves back into the pose, back into the game, back into the room and just try again. A little wiser, a little stronger, a little more improved. Who actually cares whether you can float perpendicular to the floor on one foot for ten breaths. I certainly don’t. I’m rolling about beside you knee deep in the shit. Literally nobody’s arsed and (mostly) nobody is judging You (apart from You). So give yourself a break.

When we’re already pouring from an empty cup, beating on ourselves for any perceived failing no matter how minor, any knocks, no’s and challenges we receive from castings or submissions of any kind can be enough to push us off the ledge we’re teetering across. Before it gets to that point can we begin to soften, go gently, be loving and kind to ourselves like we would a dear friend, reminding ourselves that we’ve already won, we’ve already succeeded by not giving up, by even attempting to make our dreams a reality when so many just don’t and never will?

Here’s some journaling questions you might like to ponder;

Are you being a good friend to Yourself?

What’s the overall tone of your internal dialogue? Is it enthusiastic? Encouraging? Supportive?

When you feel down, broken-hearted, rejected, fumin’ and fed up – where do you go in your mind?

What thoughts do you feed yourself about your abilities and worthiness?

Do you nourish yourself with kind, encouraging words & beliefs?

Are you your own coach and mentor?

Do you support yourself through the highs and lows?

Radical self compassion builds resilience and strength, it helps us bounce back quicker from inevitable challenges, rejections and obstacles. Self compassion is treating yourself like the precious Being you are, unique, brilliant, endlessly creative, able to transform and start again.

We need self compassion in bucket loads if we’re to create the life and career we’re worthy of, that we deserve.

I wish it for you x

The Creative Power of Rest

Like many at 12 years old I started delivering newspapers, but this was no ordinary paper round. My patch was miles away down a steep cliff that I’d have to climb twice to reload with hundreds of copies of the local rag. One day I weighed it up and concluded the cash equivalent of 383 penny sweets just wasn’t worth the irreversible curvature of my pre-teen spine and chucked them all in the Irwell (the guilt still haunts me – as if it wasn’t polluted enough with ASDA trolleys and dead bodies).

Next, at 15, you’d find me run ragged delivering deep fried meals to the elderly in Bury’s finest chippy. Mates would wave on their way to Carol Godby’s Theatre Workshop, soon to be choreographing to N’Sync while I was battering haddock. It was a gruelling time and I’ve only just managed to get the stench of fish out of my hair.

And so it went on and on. Did A-levels while working 40 hour weeks as a chef, University it was care homes, bars, and restaurants. I graduated into the same energy. Every minimum wage job a young woman can get without qualifications I’ve had. Looking back I would regularly burn out – I was stressed, anxious and miserable. Eventually I became ill, emotional, mentally and physically. You might be able to relate. When I realised the only thing that would bring back my joie de vive was to honour my childhood promise to myself to become an actor, guess what? I threw myself into that with the same gusto. Sometimes working 3 jobs while auditioning for fringe plays, student films, recording self tapes and trying to secure an agent – I was spread thin as a steam rollered frog.

I enjoyed acting, yes. I liked classes and live performance but everything that went with it – the pressure, the rejection, the stress – was way too much. There was no time to explore myself, my creativity or what made me happy and feel alive because I was moving from a place of desperation and need for validation. It was like being on the travelator at the end of Gladiators but I’d spent the past year on the pies – no matter how hard I ran the incline was too steep and I’d collapse in a defeated mess.

I couldn’t stop and I wouldn’t let myself rest, so attached was I to this dream of ‘making it’ (whatever that means…).The dream just didn’t seem worth it. Something had to change.

It was only when I said ‘enough,’ and did something my twenty six year old self would’ve hated me for – I pulled the breaks and I quit. Gasp. I know and guess what? I survived.

I decided to step away from acting for at least a year. I listened to what I needed; simplicity, stability, routine, ease. I got a temp job, released myself from any evening or weekend obligations, I gave myself space and time. I could breathe, maybe for the first time in my adult life, the pressure was gone. I was free to spend time nurturing myself, finding out about who I was, what I needed, what I wanted.

Soon I remembered and rediscovered my love for writing and story telling – with no pressure, for nothing other than the simple joy of it, not for a competition or to show it off to the world but for me and my inner child. I learned to play again. I found myself reading more, singing, laughing, Being. Slowly things became clear. I still wanted to be involved in theatre and performance but from a very different energy. I would write my own stories and roles for myself and women like me who were working hard for the opportunity to perform but the roles just weren’t there (more on that another time…).

In Women who Run With the Wolves Clarissa Pinkole Estes talks about the necessity for rest when we lose energy and focus;

Neither should we panic when we lose our momentum or focus. But…we must calmly hold the idea and be with it for a while. Whether our focus is on self development, world issues, or relationship doesn’t matter, the animus (male aspect of the psyche responsible for our drive and ambition) will wear down. It is not a matter of if, but of when…for women it is best if they understand this at the onset of an endeavour, for women tend to be surprised by fatigue. They then wail, they mutter, they whisper about failure, inadequacy, and such. No, no. This losing of energy is as it is. It is Nature.

It is when we let ourselves rest, drawn back, sit, rock and soothe ourselves we regather strength, focus and motivation. Whether you’re an actor, writer, director (or any kind of Human) this is vital to understand. Rejection comes thick and fast and can be overwhelming. We conclude we’re not enough, that we’ve failed. No such thing. If what you’re pursuing sets your soul on fire then you must guard it and continue on but you also must learn to recognise when it’s time to retreat and restore your energy.

Take your time, find ways to deeply connect with yourself, learn to listen to the whispers of heart, mind, body and soul. Don’t be afraid to step back; take long baths, read, do yoga & meditate, take long mindful walks, re-fill your depleted cup; dream, pray, dance and laugh with loved ones.

The path will wait for your return, re-nourished and re-energised – your ideas shining brightly lighting the path ahead once more.

Happy Resting x