Shannon Curtis freely admits something in her blog post announcing the song: Sometimes she struggles against an internal voice that tells her messages of self-doubt (e.g. “You’re not good enough,” “You won’t succeed” “Nobody will care about your songs”). It’s messages like those that would keep a person from doing (or at least starting) something that they have always wanted to do.
It’s the questions of self-doubt most everyone has encountered in their lives — “Who do you think you are? Just who do you think you are?” — and the power to overcome all that self-doubt and do something inspiring that was the inspiration for Shannon writing and recording this song. Indeed, all kinds of people have had to hear and overrule that inner voice:
- A job seeker applying for (and maybe landing) that dream position heard a voice saying they aren’t qualified.
- Anyone going back to school heard thoughts that they will be overwhelmed by the work they’ll have to put in.
- A novel writer had to shut out the belief that no one will care about their work.
- And, yes, a crossdresser wanting to venture out of their closet has first had to withstand thoughts that they’re not pretty enough, let alone passable as someone of the opposite gender. (Uh, more on that later.)
To reinforce the “overcoming self-doubt” message that “Who Do You Think You Are?” addresses, Shannon put out a request in March to “do something inspiring with me.” Her request to anyone and everyone who had to overcome self-doubt to do something was this:
- Take a black Sharpie marker and write down (and write it really big and clear) a brief message of self-doubt they harbored on one blank sheet of paper (and set it off in quotes to illustrate it’s the inside-your-head voice talking)
- In that same way, write on a second sheet of paper something they set out to accomplish that overcame that self-doubt
- Sit (or stand or whatever) in front of a video camera and hold that first message (the message of “doubt”) on their left side
- Take that second message (the one showing their accomplishment) and hold it up on their right side
- E-mail their video in to Shannon for consideration
Shannon notes in her accompanying message that holds a firm belief that… well, let’s let her say it:
I believe that some of the most important stuff we do on this earth is work that starts with having to overcome this internal battle. I know this because when I see someone else blow past their fears to accomplish something they’ve determined to accomplish, I am INSPIRED.
From the looks of it, a whole lot of others in this world feel that same way, for she notes that she received more contributions than she was able to include in the “Who Do You Think You Are?” video, which she posted on her website and YouTube feed earlier this month (or at least both of the “left side/right side” portions from every contribution). Still, there are a lot of inspiring messages in that 4:50 video.
So, at this point, you’re thinking, “Gee, Allison, why are you highlighting this song?” Well, aside from my desire to trump your dismissive tone… and, oh, the fact that I appear very briefly in it (I’m being modest), my reason starts like so: I was surfing the internet at one point in mid-March and came across the link to Shannon Curtis’ request on Twitter (either her own feed or someone re-tweeting it, I can’t remember which). Reading that request struck a chord in me. Like Shannon, I have had lots of voices of self-doubt ringing in my head over the years, stating anything from “You won’t succeed if you move away from Green Bay” to “You won’t get that job you’re applying for” to, yes, “You don’t look very passable as a woman.”
But for each of those moments of self-doubt, I was able to overcome the doubts and set forth on what I desired to do: I’ve been in Madison for almost 14 years (my life in Green Bay is a distant memory). I landed a job I desired at a place of employment I enjoy working for (after several other employers took a pass on me). And, despite many thoughts of fear and apprehension that I still harbor inside me, I have indeed ventured out into the general public dressed up as Allison — including that great day last September when I blended in with the Willy Street Fair perfectly.
It was that last moment of overcoming my doubts and fears — the moment when I succeeded in showing to the real world my part-time feminine side — that inspired me to submit a contribution to Shannon Curtis for her video. I must confess, though, that before I did, there was one more voice of self-doubt that I had to overcome — the voice telling me, “No indie musician is going to give you the time of day, let alone their interest.” But I overcame that doubt, put on a comfortable top, applied my makeup and wig, sat down in front of my laptop camera, and sent my messages to Shannon. Truth be told, it took me a false start or two, several sheets of paper, and advice from Shannon and her crew on my video (“Yeah, it’s great, but…”) before submitting a video that really rocked their world. Yeah, that’s something else that you overcome, too: Combing what you want to say with someone’s requirements and expectations (although I should learn to write much darker).
If you think I submitted a contribution to Shannon’s video out of vanity, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The way I see it, if I admit to the world (even through a 2-second appearance in an indie rock video) that I can overcome my self-doubts about gender and beauty, perhaps it will inspire others like me to overcome their own doubts and fears and gain confidence in themselves.
I’ll even turn the beat around, so to speak, on this matter: I freely admit that self-doubts will still linger in my mind, just as I imagine it will continue to do so inside Shannon Curtis and many others. But the other inspiring people featured in Shannon’s video — from the man who “wrote a potential #1 hit” to the lady who will graduate from college next month — will inspire many others, including myself. And not just me as Allison, but Male Mode Me: There are other thingsthat I’ve been apprehensive about doing in my life outside of wearing a dress (applying for another job, running in a race, maybe even performing in front of others), but if I take those inspiring messages from others, there’s no telling what I am capable of doing, even with my inner voice telling me, “You can’t.”
So… to Shannon Curtis, thank you for the honor and privilege to be a part of your inspiring video for “Who Do You Think You Are?” (which is a great song in of itself). To the others who also contributed, here’s hoping we all continue to reach high and inspire. And to those who will gain inspiration from the video and these stories, here’s hoping whatever you aspire to do will be amazing… and prove to be inspiring to others as well.