I’ve been playing every character in a one man show. When my therapist suggested it, I laughed. The mental image is kind of funny, right? I imagine myself running from one end of the stage to the next, half of one outfit and half of another while trying to remember whose line comes next. I’d adjust my wig and whip out my best southern accent.
That’s the only accent I can do with any kind of expertise. My British accent sounds like I’m a drunk impressionist and I don’t even attempt others. I’ve embarrassed myself enough.
But the reality of what this means is anything but entertaining. It’s not about some social media video I want to go viral. A dance others should replicate. No, it’s about the characters I play in friendships that fall short.
While I’m aware disappointment is inevitable in any relationship involving two people, there are a few people who fail to see how their friendship might fall short. People who forget that this is a two-way street where we show up for each other. I’m not talking about one disappointment or mistakenly missing a birthday call. No, it’s this pattern that portrays how someone feels even if their words are full of promise.
In these persistent patterns where boundaries are the obvious next step, my character comes alive to take on all the empty spaces this friendship has left behind. Where they don’t show up, I do – applying extra energy to an empty space. I don’t withhold my energy as their effort would warrant. Instead, I give more. When there’s a lack of communication, I talk. A lack of professional courtesy, I give more respect. The list goes on.
While I could sit and write out the story to explain why I have this tendency to act out every role, the reality is that simply knowing it exists is the first step to filling this space with something besides over exerting myself. I don’t care why I did it so much as learning how to interrupt this urgency to fill the space with what is clearly lacking.
Learning how to press pause on this play starts with noticing trends. Showing up for me. It allows space for grieving the way things felt, acknowledging when patterns are present, and finding a new way to approach the healthy love that is in my life. There’s no need to play out every part.
A hundred times I’ve been let down. A hundred times I’ve questioned my sanity. But I know I was playing a role, thinking I could model the best behavior and it would create some kind of connection I was clearly lacking. I was wrong.
But today and every day from here on out, I’m choosing to end this play I never wanted to write. I’m going to stop playing every part and believing that somewhere deep in my heart I am required to accept whatever feeling I’m left with. To set a boundary so that I have more energy to give to the friendships that fill my soul and never ask me to play a role at all.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.