A guest post by Jenni Harrison, our absolutely rad tour stage manager, who also works as a media producer.
Yesterday I spent two hours getting ready with a full face of make-up, but within an hour I'd cried it off.
For most of my adult years 'burnt out' has been a default state for me, pushing myself too hard and having unachievable standards. There's an internal battle with perfectionism, often feeling guilty for lack of productivity (something I have only recently discovered is actually anxiety), which are traits that can push people away when I'm unsympathetic or cold. If you know me, you'll know I am a fierce feminist and cheerleader of women, but I've never been a cheerleader for myself.
Instead, my little voice says things like, "suck it up", "if they can do it, why can't you?", "Day off? Lazy." and "If you're not fatigued then you've not done enough".
I burn out, I break down, I get ill, I tell myself I didn't do good enough. I've never allowed myself to hear the voice that I use for other people, trying to be the voice of support and understanding, partnered with an ear for listening.
So I sat next to my mirror yesterday, and I cried. I cried because I was ashamed that I have put on weight. I cried because I felt guilty for saying no to additional work. I cried because I felt like a bad feminist for not loving myself more. I cried because I wasted expensive make-up by crying.
This pressure we put on ourselves to be productive, smart, healthy, talented, fit, enlightened (etc etc etc), can be our enemy. It's a product of Alpha Culture (as described in Mary Portas's book, Work Like a Woman) where male traits are celebrated in the workplace, productivity and generally life (harder, faster and stronger). In contrast, feminine traits are weaker when compared (empathy, community and care) and are not 'desirable' in a workplace setting. I actually wrote my dissertation on this unconscious bias specifically in the events industry due to my own experiences, but that's for another time.
After I had cried yesterday, a few hours later I was laid on my bed, eyes were puffy, my face was covered in mascara streaks (eyeliner still on point though, thanks Kat Von D), and I had a realisation. This felt familiar.
Suck in this limbo due to the pandemic, I have allowed myself to revert back to Jenni 2019. There had been a change in January 2020 when The Roaring Girls had brought me onto their Beach Body Ready Tour as their Stage Manager. I was prepped and primed to work the hardest I'd ever worked for these women and to show them how awesome I could be, how hard I could push myself.
Instead, they'd made a change inside me, and I'd been healing, forgiving and loving myself more every day. I still worked hard for them, but I was also allowing myself to rest, laugh and share the load. Their attitudes were quickly rubbing off on me, this all-women team of theatre makers, working like women as a community who aren't afraid to ask for help and openly care about each other. They put kindness, understanding and forgiving first, and boundaries are respected.
I need to remember what The Roaring Girls have taught and will teach me, and take it into every role I work in the future.
More importantly, I need to remember to take those lessons internally. It's OK to cry, to ask for help, to rest, to say no, and it's also OK to be a hard-working bad-ass queen too. And hey, it's even OK if you forget all that momentarily like I did, just jump back on.
My internal voice from now on will be a little more Roaring Girl.