Stripper Talk with Sydni Deveraux: Unwelcome Criticism
Sydni Deveraux advises an anonymous writer on unwelcome criticism…
Hello world! It’s Stripper Talk time again! This is a place where I field questions and answer them to the best of my ability, hopefully giving anyone who’s interested in burlesque some insight.
This week’s question comes from Anonymous:
Hello Sydni! Huge fan of your blog and Stripper Talk. Thank you for all that you do!
I have a question that’s been weighing on me for some time now. I frequently work with someone who is becoming well known and admired in the community on a national level and beyond. We started burlesque around the same time and often travel together, and although we are not a troupe or group, we perform duets. Since earlier this year, as this person’s star rises, so does their ego. They consistently talk down to me in a condescending tone, as if I know nothing because I don’t have as many credentials. They are constantly name-dropping when we’re in the presence of others and have also tried to pass along all of the grunt work to me (sew my costume, fix my wig, etc.) If I do a good job onstage they offer a snarky, ‘well, that was okay’ in a joking manner. But after the twelth time it gets to me.
“…as this person’s star rises, so does their ego. They consistently talk down to me in a condescending tone, as if I know nothing because I don’t have as many credentials.”
They are constantly telling me that I need to step it up, what acts I need to do, what type of costumes I need to wear, etc. It’s not even constructive criticism at this point; it’s just petty and mean. They even went so far as to tell me that they would love to help me produce my next show because they can ‘see what I’m going for’.
On the surface, we would seem to have a loving and functional relationship, but no one truly knows how much this person’s attitude is bugging me. I thought it was just me and wondered if I harboured some unknown jealousy, but speaking to other performers it sounds like they are being treated the same way.
Help?! How do I continue a professional relationship and also a personal one without seeming overly sensitive? It’s getting to a point where I’m seriously considering ending our professional relationship.
Whooooooo boy! This sounds… challenging, to say the least! I can imagine this is taking a toll on your love of the craft as well, as someone constantly having something negative to say about what you’re doing is extremely hard to deal with on top of the already demanding life of a showgirl. However, it feels like there’s hope. If you have both a professional and a personal relationship with this performer, you’re going to need to be the bigger person and set some boundaries. It’s clear that not everyone can work and play together, but in this world that can be incredibly difficult.
I suggest emailing (or even snail mail – handwritten content is POWERFUL) this person and asking them to meet you for coffee in a neutral place that you both don’t frequent. Let them know that it’s important to you to talk with them about where you’d like your relationship with them to go in the future. I don’t know how close you are or how many real heart-to-hearts you’ve ever had with this person, but take this into account; sometimes it’s best to write your friend/partner a letter explaining in a neutral, non-accusatory way about how their behavior has affected you. Absolutely no name-calling or conjecture about why you feel that they do this. Also, no mention of how they treat other people; this is entirely about you and them. Let them know that you’re writing to them so that they will have some time to think about/process what’s being said and that it’s important to you that you talk in person about it. Make sure that you schedule a mandatory meeting that happens before you have to perform together again – this is especially important.
After you write this letter, and BEFORE you send it, see if you can get a super-rational friend outside of the situation to read it. Sit on it for at least twenty-four hours. Then send away.
Some might argue that just confronting them in person or calling them to ask to meet would work too, and you can gauge this. However, I know that I am a sensitive person, and I’m an artist. The person that you’re dealing with is an artist, and artists are – as you know – sensitive. Calling them and saying something like, ‘I want to meet to talk to you about a thing’ might make them make up all kinds of stories about what’s wrong before they even get to you.
“…you are ultimately the person that has the power to change the relationship. Only you. After you ask them to modify, if they don’t, you have to change.”
I often have the idea that the people in our life are indicators of our psyche, and how we allow people to treat us is a mirror of how we might be treating ourselves on the inside. It is also often a pattern; if a person was treated poorly before, unless they stop it, the cycle will continue over and over again with other people until they can learn to change the pattern. When you up your self-love, which you are already doing by exploring how you can change this relationship, you are showing the world and those you have a relationship with how to treat you. Stand tall in your decision to not only respect yourself but to be respected.
Often, when you bring up how the offending party has treated you, you will meet a great resistance. Calling people on their shit is tough; there’s denial, anger, sadness, sometimes even a strange mixture of all three. Often, though, unless the person is genuinely malicious (and let’s assume that you don’t befriend those who choose to be that way), you’re going to be dealing with a person that had absolutely no idea that they were doing this to you. Sadness and regret is often the outcome of this revelation, and it would be in your best interest to encourage them to investigate the causes of their treatment (perhaps it’s how they’ve always been treated by the ones they love) in order to stop the cycle. If you see them doing the work to treat you better, make sure to keep an open way of communicating with them. If they repeat their poor treatment of you, IMMEDIATELY call them out on it (and not loudly per se, but pull them aside and tell them that their behaviour towards you is not permitted anymore).
“I often have the idea that the people in our life are indicators of our psyche, and how we allow people to treat us is a mirror of how we might be treating ourselves on the inside…”
There are times when a person cannot change the behaviour that they’ve grown used to using on you, and that is when you would benefit by realising that you are ultimately the person that has the power to change the relationship. Only you. After you ask them to modify, if they don’t, you have to change. Either leave the relationship OR put up with it. I strongly suggest you not put up with anyone treating you poorly; it’s simply atrocious to the spirit.
As 2013 begins, I want to encourage everyone who reads this to carefully assess their relationships with those around them. If you are plagued by feelings of jealousy or lack consciousness (ie: ‘not good enough’, ‘don’t have enough’), it might mean that you need to stop looking outside (and this does include looking at what others are doing on Facebook/social media) and instead start congratulating the successes you see as you would your own. Blessings beget blessings. Go inside of yourself, celebrate your gorgeous uniqueness and understand that what you have to offer is different from those around you. Ask yourself to find what you can offer to your community and build esteem that way. We need all of you. We need all of us to fall blatantly in love with ourselves so that we might be able to share the idea of confidence with our audiences and those whose lives we touch. Spread glamour and revelry in this time of confusion and taupeness. We are all connected to each other (humans and strippers alike) and a success for your sister stripteaser is a victory for us all in getting this industry to be a viable source of art, income and illumination.
Be gorgeous to each other.
To ask Sydni a question about anything pertaining to being a fancy lady (or mancake) in our shining world of burlesque, please email GlitterWonderland@gmail.com.