Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The roles we play

I watched the most beautiful movie last night, Hans Alfredson’s The Simple-minded Murderer, and it wasn’t just because it’s a Swedish movie (and I’m Swedish as you may know) and because I regard Hans Alfredson to be a genius that I loved it. It’s a really good story even though it’s a really sad story.

Hans Alfredson really knows how to tell a good story. He’s a great comedian, author, song writer, actor, director and a great human being. I told you he’s a genius! He turned 80 yesterday and he says he’s pretty much lost his creative spark. He still plays scrabble every day so in a way he’s writing just on a much smaller scale.

Watching the movie was like sampling from a smorgasbord of Swedish acting nobility. I know their faces so well even if I by now have to be reminded of what some of their names are. These are the faces of really good character actor. (This is the movie that got Stellan Skarsgård’s career going. Stellan is Alexander’s father in case you’re a True Blood fan. Stellan was the Russian submarine captain in Red October if you’re inclined that way, or the Saxon chief in King Arthur.)

That ability to be a chameleon is something I really admire in actors and not all are good at it. If an actor can be recognizable but still have us believe that in a particular moment he or she is someone else then they’ve really hit the mark.

To some extent we all face having to play different roles in our lives. Sometimes we do it well and sometimes we fail miserably. Sometimes we don’t even know what’s expected of us and so we fail to meet expectations or begin to feel insecure and confused. (This is why job interviews are so bad. How can you possibly get an accurate picture of a person in a situation like that?)

Some of the roles we play we have chosen for ourselves but most of the roles we play are forced upon us and we’re not all that comfortable with them. It happens at home, at work and when we’re with friends. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to be especially when a relationship you have with someone, be it personally or professionally, is poorly defined.

It’s not only the roles that we’ve had forced on us that can lead to problems. Many of us don’t have a clear view of what we would like to be, some of us don’t even realize that we can chose for ourselves and that we don’t necessarily need to be what others expects us to be not even at work.

There are times when you need to be or act in a particular way. If you’re a first aider in your workplace, for example, it’s no good to politely ask someone not to panic when they realize that they’ve seriously hurt themselves. In a situation like that you have to be forceful and take charge while you remain sympathetic to what’s happening with the the injured person and others around you.

Most of the time we’re not in situations that require us to go to take charge and we can realistically afford to relax a lot more about who we are than we generally allow ourselves to do. Giving yourself permission to choose who to be and what roles to play in situations can be very hard to do but it’s essential for our well-being and happiness.

We can't be happy if we continue to only be what others expect us to be especially if we’re unsure of what that is and if it comes at a cost of having a healthy sense of self. We need to be able to define ourselves to ourselves before we can do it for others. Getting a little more relaxed about how we appear to others can teach you a great deal about them too. Most of the time people don’t react like you thought they would when you change and when you relax you get a positive response from others because it allows them to relax too.

It wasn’t until I had to shed the persona I had so carefully created that I realized that people liked the more real me a lot more. That didn’t happen until I had my breakdown. I had fallen into the trap of thinking that I had to be and act in a certain way to be accepted but nothing was farther from the truth.

How long has it been since you sat down and let your imagination run free and imagined yourself as being someone entirely different? Do you ever play around in your mind picturing yourself as a different person and do you ever act on changing into any of those new characters you have created for yourself? Let me know. I really want to hear about it.

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