Ever since I was a little tyke, I’ve enjoyed being in the back. I was short (still am), so class photos always put me in the front, but I’m talking about inside the classroom. This carries through to today: I always prefer taking a seat, in any situation, most like the back row of a classroom. I enjoy having a seat which affords me the best view of my surroundings. This has nothing to do with getting the best look at what I’m supposed to be watching (teacher, movie, whatever) because even if the front row offered the best way to see, I’d prefer the back. Why? I don’t like being watched.
This has been the case for as far back as I can remember, but after telling someone about my discomfort of having eyes on me, I realized it sounds a little odd when I hear it out loud like that. So, I thought I’d get into it here. Perhaps you feel the same way I do. Perhaps I’m just a loon. Let’s find out together, shall we?
The first question that comes up is whether or not I’m shy. No. Well, somewhat. That’s not the problem here, though. I have no problem being an idiot or doing things in front of people. I may not LIKE it, and I often choose not to engage in certain silly acts, but it’s definitely not out of an inherent shyness. I enjoy meeting new people, and have no problem carrying on conversations.
The second question – am I paranoid? Is this dislike of being watched somehow related to a common distrust of people and a belief that everyone is out to get me? No, definitely not. I’m a happy-go-lucky chap, always happy to give anyone the benefit of the doubt.
So, with those two things out of the way, let’s get into the details of what my freakin’ problem is :-). Example 1 – school/church. Consider it odd, but I can pay better attention if I’m in the back row. The back is generally given a bad rap – that is, after all, where the hoodlums and troublemakers congregate so as to better avoid the eyes of the person in charge from up front. For me, though, I just like having things to look at… people, especially. My mind is constantly moving, at a rate quicker than I can keep up with, so if I am stuck in the front of a room with nothing to stare at but the teacher, when my mind needs to wander elsewhere for a moment, I’m screwed. It sounds odd, but in order to concentrate best, I need distractions. I sleep better with the low rumble of the nearby freeway in the background. There is a fine line where I can become TOO distracted, but the key for me in this situation is that I need the option. Heck, as I type this, I’ve been staring around the room at various things: playing tricks with my eyes, looking at the colors of the books on a shelf in front of me, etc.. Haha, I sound autistic. Really, though, it just comes down to the fact that sitting near the front of a group of people gives me less to look at. That’s a backdrop, though, for the real problem comes with my next example.
Example 2 – performing. Like I said above, I’m not shy. I don’t mind doing things in front of other people. Of course, that doesn’t mean I do these things well. That’s what spurred the conversation that got me writing today. After my tap class Wednesday night, I was telling the teacher that I do worse when I’m being watched. This is true for anything I do. If I’m playing Guitar Hero: World Tour with friends, I’m fine until someone yells, “Go, Mark!” The second I know I’m being watched, I begin to make mistakes. I do the same thing with any type of sport, dancing, singing, playing real instruments… anything. Well, anything besides acting, really. For some reason I feed off of that. With any other activity, though, even if I’m good at it, I tense up and screw up when I know I’m being watched. The question is… why?
I’m not shy, but I do prefer perfectionism. I’m not a perfectionist in that I NEED everything to be perfect, but I figure – if I’m going to do something, why not make it as close to perfect as possible? Haha, we can actually thank my dad for that one. I’ve had it ingrained into my head since I was a kid – “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” Anyway, is that the issue? I’m afraid of people seeing me make mistakes? That can’t be it. In my previous years, I would get apprehensive about it, but now I can just laugh off my mistakes and have fun. So still, the reason remains elusive.
What else can it be? Some type of performance anxiety? No, not THAT kind of performance anxiety (not that I would know ;-)). What, then, do we make of my ability to act? If performing in front of others made me so nervous that I’d screw everything else up, than why not with acting? That’s the real wrench in the gears, here.
There’s also the notion that I’m just tired of being watched, perhaps as the answer to my problem. I’m an odd guy, no doubt – “very individual… you’ve always done your own thing” as my dad recently said, so perhaps this tensing up comes from a lifetime of being watched. Not a paranoia, per say, but if you grew up with someone tapping your left hand all the time – as an adult you’re going to hate it when someone taps your left hand. I grew up constantly getting odd looks, so perhaps that’s translated into my putting up my shell whenever I know I’m being watched. A defense against judgment, perhaps… with the result being a tensed up Mark who then proceeds to make mistakes because of this tension. Ah, that seems to be stretching it a bit, though. I don’t like it even when it’s my close friends watching me, who I know aren’t going to judge me, so for this idea to work it would have been a case of conditioning over my nearly 27 years. Again, though, why not with acting?
Hmm, okay, so I’ve been going over and over it all day, really, and I can’t quite find any other ideas right now. I’ve come up with a variety of possibilities, but nothing quite makes sense to me. How about you folks? Anyone else share my inability to continue doing something well after I know someone is watching? Am I insane? Do I have deep-rooted psychological issues?
Wait… don’t answer that last one ;-).