Wrestling with Myself 5: Looking the Part
I've been wrestling with "looking the part" lately.
I feel like I've got the right stuff but don't quite fit the image of what "right" actually is.
Pro wrestling is filled with examples of people like this. The entire industry feeds it. Think about it: when your business is staging fake fights, it's important the fighters look like they can kick some ass.
This is the justification that has kept some of the most talented and innovative performers from realizing their in-ring dreams (or caused it to take a lot longer).
It kept Kofi Kingston out of the main event picture for 11 years before ironically being the reason his WrestleMania moment against Daniel Bryan -- another atypical superstar who is far superior in the ring to every chiseled meathead the company's tried to push ahead of him -- captured the imagination of the entire fan base and had me ugly crying like I actually won the damn title.
Not everyone can be chiseled like Randy Orton or John Cena, who actually used to wrestle under the name "The Prototype" for God's sake. Between these two they have 29 world championships and approximately 6000000 other titles and accolades.
But does that mean that if we don't fit the mold, we aren't championship material? Oh hell no!
Talent, ability, charisma, the "it factor" all come in many different shapes and sizes. Combatting the "why him and not me?" attitude isn't just important -- it's the only way to begin getting out of our own way. I've struggled to remember this when I'm watching other people take (being given?) a seemingly easier path to notoriety.
Jealousy is not a motivator. It is a saboteur.
We must transform that energy into positive action. Only then does it start to become clear that the only right way to look, act, or be is authentic. There is no single entry point to success; but there is a single way to find your route -- use your voice to tell your truth and give fewer shits about what others are doing.
I'll be honest -- I expected to be further along in my career than I currently am. I thought that the sheer fact of being one of the very few gay, black comedians to exist (let alone one of the only tops telling jokes...) would strap a rocket ship to my back and fly me straight to the B-list.
I expected people to be so impressed with my background, that being funny or socially connected would be bonuses. But that's not how it works at all. There's always going to be somebody with a more compelling story or a more diverse origin story. Relying on these traits keeps you bound by people's expectations of them.
Being a gay dude won't get me on America's Got Talent, but being a better, more prepared comedian will. Instead of worrying about having the best story, I'm focused on telling the best story.
I've been wrestling with staying strong enough to fight this fight every day. And it has to be a daily fight. I have to push through my fear, my busyness, my laziness, and my procrastination (more on that later) to make at least small progress.
Self-pity is not a luxury that I have. When you don't look the part you have to make yourself undeniable so "they" have no choice but to change their idea of what the part should look like.
If you are not the prototype, create a new mold.