Give yourself permission to believe in yourself and permission to fail.
I spent 7 years teaching video editing and producing videos in Los Angeles working for huge companies and small non-profit organizations, but all that time there was a little voice inside me that was struggling to be heard shouting "I want to perform!" I had done my best to rationalize it away. I made excuses to myself and I often lied to myself and to others about what I really wanted. I did it so often, that I started believing the lies that I told myself. I sabotaged myself out of fear and doubt of my own potential. When you deeply want something, sometimes it's easier to play it safe than to get your heart broken.
That all changed when I started listening to myself again. I watched a video a few years ago that inspired me to stop crushing my own dreams. It was this video:
I realized I didn't love the story I had written for myself. I had surrendered the role of author to others and they were happily writing my story for me. I decided that I needed to clear those voices from my head and go somewhere where I could listen to myself again. I had to take the pen in my own hands and write a new chapter.
That's why nearly two years ago I made a decision to travel alone to Thailand for a month and a half. I wanted to be alone with myself in a culture that wasn't my own, and I wanted to isolate myself from the authors who were writing my story and give myself time to listen to myself. When I stripped away everything I had built, everything I owned, and everything I knew, what would I actually miss? What would remain?
Travel has a way of throwing the unexpected at us. As I began to find myself and love myself again, I also accidentally found someone who fell in love with me. Nearly two years later, I am back in Thailand with a much clearer sense of where I want to go in life, and I am refusing to let others well-intentioned cautionary advice stop me from chasing my dreams.
There will always be a crowd of people trying to help you. They'll tell you to be careful, stay safe, and don't risk too much. Those voices are important, but we also need to find people in our lives who will hold our hands and help us leap. I found myself, I found my hand-holder, and I also found a small group of true friends who are in love with my dreams and ambitions too and they'll cheer me on from all over the world.
With all that in place, that's when I found the confidence to really go for it and say "I want to perform!" "I want to sing!" "I want to act!" "I have art to share with the world!!" When I finally admitted that to myself, and gave myself permission to try and fail over and over again, that's when things started happening. Who could have predicted that by following my heart, taking a risk, and leaving L.A., I'd actually book my first commercial?
To most people this is just a silly video for 7-Eleveni, but to me it's a big first step and a victory over my own self-doubt and the cautionary warnings of others. It's also a sort of validation - it feels like someone is saying "yes, we believe in your talent too." Throwing my old life out the window was a terrifying process, but sometimes rebuilding leaves you with a better stage on which to stand.
Every day we are surrounded by media and people sending us messages, capitalizing on our fears, and telling us how to live our lives. If there's any advice I'd give from this experience, it's to listen to the voice inside you that is struggling to be heard. When your purpose is crying out for attention, listen. Don't play it safe. Give yourself permission to believe in yourself and permission to fail. It's only after we believe in the potential of our dreams that they will even have a chance to become a reality.
Let's face it. The world could use a lot more dreamers.
Jeremy Stutes is a SAG-AFTRA actor, singer, producer, and creative consultant based in Bangkok and Los Angeles and available for work all over the world.