The anxiety of getting bigger

All of us in the performing arts want to get noticed. We improvisers want to get recognition for our work, and most of us would love to be famous — in my case, maybe too much.

I have always looked at fame as something that would take away my years of low self esteem, would make me whole and heal me from a childhood of abandonment and neglect.

I always thought that when I started to get noticed and recognized for my work in improv comedy I would feel elated, joyful, excited. But lately, I’ve come to realize that attention doesn’t make me feel any better.

In less then a year the Improv Nerd comedy podcast has grown beyond my expectations. The comedy podcast keeps getting more and more fans, I am getting amazing feedback from the subscribers and my interview skills are getting better and better, yet I feel worse. Worse because I am much more comfortable dealing with failure than success. As a control freak, success sucks, because you can’t control it. Failure — that’s a feeling I know like a warm bath that I could sit in all day. So instead of joy, I feel anxiety that my life is getting bigger. I still think of myself as a poor schlub whose friends are only doing me a favor by being on my show, instead of thinking that people might want to do the show because it’s fun and I am good interviewer.

I am getting the one thing that is like Kryptonite to me, and that is respect.

You may be saying to yourself “I could take the fame. I want the big movie deal and the TV show and the millions of dollars in the bank.” But trust me, that might be harder to take in than you realize.

My girlfriend, Lauren, said the other day that if I had $3 million I would still be miserable, because I would walk around feeling that I didn’t deserve it. She is right. I’d be like the guy who worked at the liquor store part-time and then won $30 million in the lottery and five years later he’s back at the liquor store because he’s broke. Why? Because on some level he did not think he deserved it.

I think we all deserve success and recognition for our work, and I think we probably all need a little help at being able to take that success in. When I figure out how to take in success without having a panic attack, I’ll let you know.

3 replies
  1. Amanda Rountree
    Amanda Rountree says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately (some of it is even fodder for my next solo show). I hope that, with time and love, you are able to let yourself enjoy the success you’re getting!

    Reply
  2. Megon McDonough
    Megon McDonough says:

    Oh m’ gosh Jimmy, you are so very right on. And some of us are getting better and better every day.
    Sorry to tell you, I ADORE you!!!
    Continued success and loss of control, xoxo, meg

    Reply

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