I’ve always felt like change is one of our biggest unexamined fears.
If you ask most people what they’re afraid of, you’ll get some visceral responses (spiders, big dogs, snakes), some environmental ones (earthquakes, fires, floods), and some philosophical ones (failure, loss, pain). But rarely will most people consciously realize how much the fear of change guides their actions.
But change is a universal thing that touches us all. And while we can’t control our lives in ways that keep everything squarely in our comfort zone, we can dictate how we respond to the inevitability of change.
Few people understand this quite as well as my guest on this episode.
“As with anything in life — as you grow, and you age, you have to find your new self. And it’s always one of the bigger transitions in life, I think. So I’m still navigating it myself. But you just put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.” – Felicia Day.
The word “prodigy” gets tossed around a lot, but rarely does it fit anyone as perfectly as Felicia Day.
As a kid, her early interest in all things creative found Felicia splitting her time between acting (she first appeared onstage at just seven years old), ballet, singing, and violin. Her strings skills were so considerable that she received interest from a Juilliard feeder program in her early teens.
After graduating at just 16 years old (as a valedictorian and National Merit Scholar, no less), Felicia elected to attend the University of Texas at Austin on a music scholarship. There she double-majored in violin and mathematics.
Hollywood soon beckoned. After moving to Los Angeles post-graduation, Felicia racked up memorable roles on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, House, and Undeclared, as well as in films such as Bring It On Again and Red: Werewolf Hunter. She is currently recurring on the CW show Supernatural and the SyFy series The Magicians.
But it wasn’t until Felicia took the reins as a creator that she really came into her own.
As the driving creative force behind the award-winning gaming-focused web series The Guild, she notched massive geek cred. She appeared opposite Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion in the fan-favorite Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which brought her to an even wider audience. And her YouTube channel “Geek & Sundry” reaches over 2 million subscribers with gaming and indie culture-focused content.
She’s got a new book out now called Embrace Your Weird: Face Your Fears and Unleash Creativity that became an instant New York Times Bestseller as soon as it was released. In this wonderfully quirky book, Felicia Day provides several exercises and techniques to help you defeat everyday anxiety, self-doubt, and procrastination when it comes to working in your creative outlet. She also shares personal stories of her own and tips on how you can find a creative community.
But in keeping with the theme of the day, change comes to us all. Today, Felicia balances her creative empire with the rollercoaster ride of motherhood. And during our conversation, she opens up quite a bit about how she handles the challenges of change and of raising her daughter while simultaneously juggling the seemingly endless aspects of her multi-faceted career.
I’m obviously not a mom or a parent for that matter, but I imagine that it’s exhausting. Even having just one child drastically changes your life. It’s a whole new human being, a whole new mouth to feed, a whole new person to take care of and love. Parenthood is a beautiful thing, but when paired with a career, it can be stressful and taxing.
When it comes to her career, Felicia Day has always been a “workaholic.” She’s one of those dreamer types, who tries her hand at everything and anything, whether it be acting, music, or hosting an online book club. After having her child, she struggled with letting go of that workaholic mindset:
“I mean, you evolve as a person. You just have to let go of what you were in the past a little bit, which is a struggle. I mean, I was certainly a workaholic … but I think as a woman and a mother [in Hollywood], the perception of you changes in a radical way.” – Felicia Day
Before her own child, Felicia had never really held a baby in her arms before. Motherhood was a completely new experience that gave way to a bunch of new challenges. On one hand, she felt the need to step into that mother role and raise her baby girl, and on the other, she was afraid that her creative identity she had worked so hard on would be compromised.
I asked Felicia if she had to completely let go of that past self and transition into a new identity. “Not exactly,” she said. An identity shift has definitely taken place, but it hasn’t erased who she was. Instead, she has made conscious decisions about which things can stay and which things have to go.
She gives the analogy of buying a couch online to illustrate this concept. So like, you buy a couch on Amazon and it arrives, and it’s way bigger than you expected, but it’s a nice couch and you’re happy with it! How do you fit that in your room and make the rest of the room work? It’s probably going to be crowded, so you’ll have to move things around and possibly cut things out. It’s the same thing when it comes to your identity. So you become a parent — that’s obviously an important life change. Does it mean you have to cut everything else out? Not at all, but if you don’t make some changes, things are going to get a little bit crowded.
“So, yeah, it’s hard. It’s very hard, but I think it’s a good thing because a lot of us dissipate our energies and give [them] into a lot of places that aren’t really important to us …. But at the end of the day, our time is precious. Don’t spend it on stuff that is not long-term important to you.” – Felicia Day
Whether you’re a mom or not, you’re going to experience change. And change will inevitably cause an identity shift in your life. That’s when you have to take a step back and reflect on what is important to you. What makes you who you are? It’s good to sacrifice, it’s good to adjust, but never compromise who you are.
Felicia Day is ultimately in an industry where her self-worth is based on what other people think of her. As a creator, your worth is inherently influenced by what you create and whether people like it or not. That can set you up for some major self-doubt. If the mass public doesn’t find you “interesting” enough, then you suddenly don’t feel good enough for the world, or even good enough for yourself.
Felicia’s got some wisdom on how to combat those feelings. Basically, embrace your awesomeness and your inner weirdness. Ultimately, you have to value yourself as the unique, creative, and beautiful human being that you are. Having that self-confidence is key to staying above the ever-changing voices of the public and the inner critic of self-doubt.
So how do you get there? How do you embrace your awesomeness? Felicia says that to get to that place, you often have to hit rock bottom.
“You have to lose everything. You have to feel like you can. You have to feel like the ultimate failure…you really just have to get to the point where you can get out of your own way and realize your worth. You are valuable and should love yourself no matter where you are in life … get to that place where you have unconditional love for yourself.” – Felicia Day
In order to love ourselves, sometimes it’s necessary for us to fail so that we can see that our worth and value does not depend on other people’s opinions. Felicia encourages us to wake up every day and do something that we love to start this process. For her, it’s being creative and raising her daughter. For you, it could be running marathons, making business deals, or teaching kindergarten. When you have that self-love on your side, you’ll be unstoppable.
“Value yourself every day for your uniqueness.” – Felicia Day
One way Felicia learned to love herself was by taking care of her daughter. Children are sponges and absorb everything around them, so if Felicia is constantly self-deprecating herself — her looks, her career, her whatever — then her daughter’s going to grow up to do the same thing. Felicia doesn’t want that for her daughter, so she’s super conscious of building herself up to promote the same unconditional self-love in her child.
I don’t mean to get too morbid, but here’s a reminder: You’re going to die one day. This helps you put everything into perspective. Oh, this stress I’m feeling right now? Doesn’t matter. That person who flipped you off the other day? Doesn’t matter either. Make the most out of your life. Choose joy over pain. Choose self-love over self-depreciation.
For Felicia, her primary mode of self-care is being creative. Her new book Embrace Your Weird: Face Your Fears and Unleash Creativity is all about unleashing your own creativity to face your fears and love yourself. When Felicia is being creative, she feels like she is most herself. She thinks that all people are inherently creative, because by being creative, “we are trying to fill the walls of who we are.” We’re throwing something at the world that comes from deep inside of us. “We’re trying to figure out how we work within this world.”
So how do you overcome the need to be perfect when you’re being creative? Like I’ve already said, that pressure is there, whether it comes from the world or from your own inner critic.
Let’s say you’re working on a book. You’ve written a chapter or two, and it’s like “okay” but not lining up to be that next New York Times Bestseller you had in mind. You probably want to scrap it, right?
Felicia Day says, “You gotta get to the finish line before you go back to the beginning.”
In other words, respect the process. Finish those other chapters. You can’t look at the project as a whole too early, because it’s not ready to be looked at then. It’s making a cake and stopping at the batter stage and being disappointed that it’s not ready yet. Of course, it’s not ready! You got raw eggs in there! It’s gotta bake, and that takes time.
You know, it took Lin-Manuel Miranda about six years to write Hamilton. Can you imagine how many drafts he went through?
Once your project is finished and you release it to the world, you’re probably going to get all kinds of feedback. Maybe you get little-to-no feedback, and you’ll end up feeling like your project isn’t relevant. Or maybe you get a lot of feedback, but it’s mostly negative and judgemental. Or just maybe you get tons of amazing feedback and everyone in the world loves you (yeah, this never happens).
Ultimately, you have to ask yourself: Does your creation mean something to you? Does it help you express yourself? Could at least one other person maybe relate to it? If the answer’s “yes,” then your creation is important and has worth. When you’re famous, this gets even harder, because both criticism and praise can get to your head.
“Fame is very warping, right? … You can only control your work. And so you should really base your high on where you are most fulfilled and [what] you are making that is [the] most meaningful to you.” – Felicia Day
Everyone can be creative — we all can make things, whether it be art, music, business deals, or friendships. Resist the urge to be perfect and embrace your inner uniqueness. Your worth doesn’t come from what other people think of you.
There’s no denying that Felicia Day has always been a force to be reckoned with when it comes to forging her own path as a creator. But simply taking in the output of her work is only the tip of the iceberg. In this interview, she offers a frank and vulnerable peek behind the curtain of her process, and it’s as inspirational as it is revealing to take in.
I think a lot of people are afraid to be weird and express their weirdness. Just the word “weird” has a negative connotation. The fact that Felicia is courageous to talk about depression, anxiety, self-doubt, the challenges of being a mom, the constant chaos of Hollywood, and the ups and downs of the creative world is just really inspiring. Felicia is not afraid to be who she is.
Also, don’t forget to check out Felicia Day’s new book Embrace Your Weird: Face Your Fears and Unleash Creativity. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a creative or artsy person, Felicia’s book can help you unlock your best and most genuine self. Anxiety and self-doubt hit us all, especially when we’re pursuing something creative, but Felicia has some wisdom to help us all out.
Not to mention, her definition of greatness is GOLD:
“Oh wow. What’s my definition of greatness? Feeling full in your heart, like you ate a really big hamburger …. You’ve made something in your heart [and] you know you’ve done something good. You just feel so full, you’re just like, ah, I want to snuggle, you know?” –Felicia Day
Even if you’re a vegetarian, you know that feeling. Chase something that makes you feel warm and allows you to create something beautiful. Join me on Episode 892 with Felicia Day to learn how.