Thursday, February 24, 2011

Being Hard on Yourself!

Disclaimer:  For those of you who know me, I hope you are reading this with my general sarcasm in mind.  For those of you who I have not had the pleasure of meeting, please know that these blogs are my simple musings that express my personal opinions and frustrations about some of my daily, random observations.  As most of my friends and family are aware, I generally focus on the bright side of things.  This is the place I have created in order to explore "the other side"…..Thanks for stopping by!

When I put my daily performance in life under the microscope, I often feel frustrated by not being better at something that I think I should be great at.  I often find myself in situations where I’ll beat myself up a little bit about that last piece of cake I just ate, or that nasty thing I just said that I knew I shouldn’t have, or that terrible skirt I should’ve thought twice about wearing in front of someone’s camera.  When I express these things to my friends, they usually reply with some form of, “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” and follow it up with something like, “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”  EXACTLY!!  I’m sure with those types of mistakes, I’ll be JUST FINE!  Well, I don’t want to be just fine!  I want to be great!  I want to make an impact!  For lack of a better phrase, I’ll just take a page from the Army motto book and scream at the top of my lungs that, “I want to be ALL that I can be!!”

I think that there is too much entitlement in the world today.  I think there are too many parents and teachers and coaches out there that coddle today’s children who fail to reach their full potential on a daily basis.  For example, let’s say you see a truly gifted 10 year old gymnast who is part of a nationally ranked competitive team that’s on track to make it to the Olympics.  Now, if making it to the Olympics is the goal, and you want your kid AND their team to do the best they can and make it as far as possible, why would anyone be compelled to congratulate them for anything less than their best?  Let’s say the kid falls down during a floor routine.  Should the parent say something like, “Well, the rest of it was amazing, and you’re amazing!” or should they reply with, “Let’s get you to the gym an hour early next time to give you more time to practice so that you don’t make that mistake again.”  Which is more loving?  Which is more supportive?  Who knows…..I guess it depends on the kid.

Now, I was never a gymnast, but I did compete in dance from the time I was about 12 years old, and I did perform in front of audiences from the age of about 6.  I AM the kid that would want honesty so that I could improve.  I AM the kid that would feel incredible humiliation if someone said “you did fine.“  If my parents or my teachers or my coaches didn’t give it to me straight, I would not have had the skill or the skin necessary to succeed in either the restaurant business or the entertainment industry.  While my overall success in these respective fields is still up for debate, I do believe that I have found a few successes in my life because I was never allowed to believe any kind of delusion that I could be great without a tremendous amount of work and perseverance.  I have rarely uttered words about fairness, deservedness or entitlement.  I don’t believe in that.  What I believe in is hard work.  I have also been taught on many occasions that “working hard” is totally different from “hard work“.  While working hard may require long hours or sweat and tears, hard work is simply about doing things that are hard.

When it comes to my restaurant, I am often faced with brutal feedback from our guests about things that may have gone awry during their dining experience.  With the current venting sites like and, I’ve come to know criticism in a new and immediate way.  While I wish these websites would crumble and die, I’ve had to thicken my skin and take it like a man!  The upside to getting called out in such a public way is that I can fix any issues that come up just as immediately as I’m made aware of them. I do this because I strive to have the best restaurant that I can.  I do this because I’m harder on myself than these reviewers are on me.  However, I would like to point out that if these same critics could come into a nine-to-fiver’s cubicle and scrutinize their every method of doing things in a public forum, it could possibly go something like….
“I went into Sarah’s office this morning, and boy….was it a freaking disaster area!!!  I mean seriously, a bowl of freaking M&M’s on the desk for every non-hand-washing pooper in there!  Gross!  And the way she was talking up her skill set to me…..Pah-leez!  I didn’t even think she was average at sharpening her pencils!  I mean, how hard it is to sharpen….freaking….pencils?!!?  And her typing???  I wonder if her boss knows that she can only type 50 words a minute!!  Not to mention, she had to backspace like 100 times while writing a simple memo!  Sheesh!  Although some of her co-workers seem to be fond of her, I would NEVER hire this chick!  Like…EVER!”
So, I ask of you, my dear readers who blog on Yelp and other sites like it, what would YOUR star rating be if they came in and reviewed YOUR work?  If you think it would be somewhere in the 2-3 star range, I beg of you…..BE HARDER ON YOURSELF!  A four star rating is crucial if you want to be taken seriously!  Trust me!

Now, when I was working on the soap, I got criticism from every corner, every day, everywhere.  With the combination of message boards, critical bosses and of course, the actual TV screen itself, I heard all about the issues I was having with my fluctuating weight, my “incredibly large forehead”,   the fact that I looked waaaay too old to play the character I was hired to play, etc etc etc.  I have to admit that these were all pretty difficult pills to swallow at first.  However, after hearing this kind of criticism, I realized that I wasn’t being hard enough on myself.  Of course I have always known that the weight thing was an issue.  Throughout my life, like many young female overachievers, I have struggled with my weight and eating disorders.  I’ve been 100 pounds, and I’ve been 140 pounds.  Neither weight (or method of becoming that weight) was healthy, nor did it make me happy.  A couple of years into my tenure on the show, I was spoken to about my increasing size.  In a word, I felt humiliated.  I felt like “Carrie” (at the end of the movie where Sissy Spacek was standing on stage in a happy, contented moment and then, in both shock and horror,  was washed over with warm, bubbling pig blood).  Unlike “Carrie,” I wasn’t driven to kill all the spectators with my telekinetic powers.  However painful, I did recognize that it must’ve been incredibly uncomfortable for my boss to have to sit across from me and deliver that kind of critique.  In his defense, it was his job to be hard on HIMself and the show and do whatever it took to get it looking the way they all wanted it to.  It was a necessary conversation on his part, and I fully understood it and respected it.  Without getting too much into it, that moment taught me, on a professional level, that maintaining a “Hollywood healthy” weight would be both incredibly difficult and absolutely necessary.  I have learned that this is an area that I HAVE to be VERY hard on myself without becoming compulsive or neurotic about it.  I’ve reached a point in my life where I know that I have to work out every day and make healthy choices about what I eat every time I decide to have a meal.  With that, I’ve chosen to be happy with whatever the results of that are.  Am I the hottest hottie in Hollywood????  Hell no.  Am I happy with how I look?  Not always.  Am I healthy?  Hallelujah, yes, I am!!

Now, the forehead thing is simply genetic, however my hairstyle is always a choice.  I’ve had extensions, chopped it all off, had bangs, no bangs, highlights, lowlights… name it, I’ve tried it.  Why?  Because I’m hard on myself.  I want to have good hair and a nicely shaped cut.  I understand that if you have a face shaped and proportioned like mine, you have to work on making it as “watchable” as possible.  I remember once on the show that I decided I had had extensions long enough.  I wanted them OUT and I wanted a cute short/chopped cut.  I came in to shoot the next day and received rave reviews from the hairdressers there.  However, after I finished my scenes, I got called up to the boss’s office and was told that I needed to put the extensions back in.  I was mortified and embarrassed.  Had I really made such a horrible mistake by cutting my long locks?  Apparently.  Of course, I did what I was told and went straight to the hairdresser after work.  Why?  Because they were hard on me, therefore I was hard on myself.  I wanted to please whoever I was supposed to please in order to maintain goodwill in a job that I coveted.  If that meant putting 100 little daggers in my scull to lengthen my hair, then I was certainly eager to oblige.  It was all part of the unspoken agreement you make with the universe (and the network) when you decide you want to be a TV actress.

Lastly, the age thing was tricky.  First off, just let me say that I was 27 when I was hired for that job.  TWENTY SEVEN IS NOT OLD, PEOPLE!!  I can’t change the year I was born, nor would I want to.  That would mean that I would’ve missed the colorful carnival ride that was the 80’s.  I would’ve missed out on the youthful crush I had on CeCe from Poison!!  I would’ve missed out on MC Hammer pants at the eighth grade dance.  For God’s sake, I would’ve missed out on Fraggle Rock, people!  These were all incredibly formative influences in my life, so NO!  I will not participate in being hard on myself there.

In wrapping this up, I should touch on the topic of what I believe it means to actually be too hard on yourself.  In my opinion, there are many times when someone can truly be far too hard on themselves.  When outside forces like disabilities, economic challenges, natural disasters, psychological trauma, etc, come into play in your life and you feel like you should be able to rise above them on your own, you may be mistaken.  Sometimes, God will present us with challenges that we cannot control.  All we can do in situations like these is our best.  If you do nothing, then yes, you should do something.  If you’re doing something, but you are still able to push yourself a little bit further, then yes you should.  However, if you’re doing everything you can and it isn’t getting you where you want to be, then you should stop for a moment.  Recognize your efforts.  Recognize your strengths.  Recognize what you’ve done to get yourself as far as you have, and thank yourself.  When we realize that we are all only capable of our absolute best (and we push ourselves to achieve that), it is then we can find comfort in looking up and finding strength from above to get us the rest of the way there.

As my husband often reminds me, “Hope is not a plan.“  I hope to be a working actress.  I hope to have a thriving business.  I hope to be a great wife and, someday, a great parent.  However, I have no delusions about how much hard work it will take to achieve those things.  To put it simply, I believe to be good, we need to do good…..which is often doing things and facing things that are hard.  As the Coen brothers so poignantly stated in opening sequence of True Grit, “Nothing in life is free but the grace of God.”


  1. Standing up and clapping....I LOVE the honesty AND the content in your blogs, Martha.

    Have to say the paragraph that stated what you would've missed from the "colorful carnival ride that was the 80’s"...great smile from that!

    Your statement of "I have rarely uttered words about fairness, deservedness or entitlement"....I believe is what is missing in most parenting today...if only your words on parenting could actually be received as the positive message they are to today's parents...sad that the possibility of that is not the "norm".

    Once again...completely enjoyed your blog!

  2. Fantastic!

    Beautifully honest and beautifully written... that very large forehead of yours holds quite a sharp way with words!

    More please!!!!!