Where EVERYONE is a maker

Episode 9: The Self-Sabotaging Mrs. Maisel

**Please note that this episode includes spoilers!**

Season 4 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (available on Amazon Video) is an excellent case study in self-sabotage. But did Midge Maisel’s career destruction begin in Season 4 or did it start back in Season 3? Is she motivated by fear of failure or fear of success? The answers aren’t so simple, but it’s a great jumping off point to discuss how else self-sabotage plays out in our own lives.

After this episode you’ll be able to identify several different ways self-sabotage can occur for you, recognize how your own internal dialogue can make you susceptible to it, and how small changes in this communication system can help you overcome it.

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Scroll down for a full episode transcript.

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In this episode:

  • 8:45 – Episode 4: Celebrating Your Wins
  • 11:50 – Episode 6: Lies We Tell About Ourselves

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[00:00:00] Hola y welcome to The Maker Muse Podcast, the place where child-free Spanglish-speaking mujeres fuertes are inspired to find their confidence through creativity. I’m Paulette Erato, the Maker Muse. Today, I’m going to talk about the fourth season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and self sabotage. So, if you haven’t watched it yet know that there will be spoilers.

[00:00:28] Before we jump into it, here’s what I want you to get out of this episode. One, what self-sabotage can look like. Two, a few reasons why people do it and some, without even realizing it. And three, that you can overcome this, if you’re willing to make a few small, but significant changes.

[00:00:47] So back to the marvelous and self-sabotaging Mrs. Maisel. If you’ve never watched the show, let me give you a quick rundown of what it’s about. The story is of a woman named Miriam (she also goes by Midge) Maisel living on the upper west side of New York in the late fifties, early sixties. And she’s got what looks like—from the outside—a perfect life. But in the very first episode, her husband leaves her for a secretary and everything goes downhill from there.

[00:01:13] However, in a half drunken rant, she comes to realize she’s actually a really damn good stand-up comedian. Which wasn’t a really popular career choice for women at the time, especially the upper-crust Jewish women like Midge. This wasn’t the kind of thing a classy lady got into , as her mother Rose will continuously remind her throughout the run of this show. Anyway. The next few seasons are about Midge, our main character our heroine, finding her footing, establishing her career, and finally getting her big break. She is set to open for Shy Baldwin on a countrywide tour. This is the equivalent of opening for like Bad Bunny for his entire North American tour. You get what I’m saying? It’s a big deal.

[00:01:54] And she freaking nails it, every night. Remember she’s really damn good at what she does. She even befriends Shy and he lets her into his private world. He lets her know that he is a closeted gay man. And being a gay black man in the sixties was something that unfortunately, even for a super famous person, like Shy, wasn’t something that came out publicly. So he must have really trusted her to let her in on this secret.

[00:02:20] So at the end of season three, the tour finally gets back to New York and they go to perform at the Apollo Theater. This signifies the tippity tip of the pinnacle of Midge’s career because the tour has gone so well that Shy signed her to continue on with the tour in Europe. It is huge. This has put her in a position to buy back that apartment that she had with her husband, to take care of her family, to be the one, to be the Chingona who is taking care of her shit. And the last three or four years of bullshit that she’s been putting herself through to take care, to establish herself as a comedian in her own right. She has made it.

[00:02:57] So, they’re at the Apollo. She’s got the crowd warming up to her, she is killing it. But then she makes a joke that references Shy’s orientation and oops.

[00:03:07] Fast-forward to the opening of season four with the whole Shy Baldwin crew is boarding the plane to Europe. Everyone’s already on board except Midge and her manager, Susie. Midge is just standing out on the tarmac with her two taxi cabs worth of wardrobe ay yai yai. Well, Shy’s manager, Reggie walks off the plane and tells them she’s not going.

[00:03:26] That crack at the Apollo just burned her entire career to the ground. The aftermath of this is not pretty because of course it’s not. This was a pretty public humiliation because obviously she had to be replaced before she was told, right? And then it was reported in all the newspapers. It sends Midge reeling, and not without reason because she just bought that apartment, right? How is she going to take care of her kids if she no longer has any source of income?

[00:03:52] So she picks up a gig as an emcee at a strip club. Now, at the time, this was illegal in New York city. So she’s basically performing at an illegal strip club. It’s actually more of a burlesque show, but you know, that didn’t matter because this wasn’t the kind of place that her manager, Susie could send talent scouts to go check her out.

[00:04:10] But she grows really comfortable at the club. She’s getting a steady paycheck. She’s looking out for their dancers, ensuring they get some privacy, even some good coffee. And she gets to do all that while keeping all of her clothes on.

[00:04:20] So Midge establishes a new comfort zone. And this new zone isn’t making her a lot of money, but regardless she makes a huge decision. She is never going to be the opening act ever again. She is only going to be a headliner. She knows people have seen her. They know she’s amazing, she knows she’s amazing. So she is only ever going to headline from now on.

[00:04:43] So the last episode of the season: she’s given the opportunity to open for Tony Bennett. You know who Tony Bennett is. Yeah, you do. He to this day, he is still very famous. And even in 2012, he became the first non Hispanic person to get a primetime show on Univision. He did a record with Lady Gaga. So yeah, Tony Bennett’s still a big deal. And he was definitely a big deal in the sixties.

[00:05:10] And what does Mrs. Maisel do in this situation? Well, we wouldn’t be calling it the self sabotaging, Mrs. Maisel if she didn’t fuck it up.

[00:05:19] Remember how she decided she’s never going to be the opening act again. She’ll only headline nada mas. It doesn’t matter how big the headliner is. She ain’t gonna do it.

[00:05:28] So she says no. And at the very end of this episode, and if you haven’t seen it, please do because the guy who plays Lenny Bruce is amazing! But he also gives her the best verbal ass kicking we could have asked for! It is. It is so good. And he says everything to her that you might also need to hear if you suffer from self sabotaging behavior too.

[00:05:51] I’m not going to spoil that hell I couldn’t even do it justice. Just go watch the very last episode of season four. And if you’ve seen it, hit me up on Instagram tag me or DM me. I want to know what you thought about it. Let’s chat.

[00:06:04] So why did Midge Maisel sabotage her career? Could it be that she was still recuperating from the public humiliation of being fired from the Shy Baldwin tour. Or that her mother hen role in the burlesque club gave her comfort to lick her wounds. I mean, we can safely say that being booted from the Shy tour was a huge setback because not only did it hurt her ability to perform, but also to provide for her family. And at the end of the third season, we see a Midge Maisel that is on top of her world. She’s leveraged her contract for Europe to buy that apartment so her kids can grow up in what was originally their first home. She’s invited her parents to come live with her, so they don’t have to suffer under the roof of their uppity former in-laws. She’s a woman taking care of herself, her people, her shit. She is a chingona

[00:06:51] And all of that comes to a screeching halt. Suddenly she can’t pay her mortgage. She can’t pay the milkman. So it’s understandable that she’s feeling vulnerable and doesn’t want to expose herself to the same ridicule or risk again. So she hides. It’s a defense mechanism. Self-sabotage is usually done to protect yourself just as Midge is protecting herself and her family.

[00:07:15] I’ll tell you a story about what was probably not the worst, but the one I remember best example of self-sabotage. When I was 17, I had to take the ACT exam. And I really didn’t want to. And I had to for, I don’t know, some stupid reason. And if you’re not familiar, it’s a college entrance exam. Like the SATs. I don’t even know if kids are still required to do that these days, but anyway. The night before the test, I went out with friends really late and I ended up, well, I didn’t crash the car, but I drove over something that ripped open the gas tank.

[00:07:48] I did not do well on that test. Thankfully in the end, I didn’t need to, but it was yet another example of a self defense mechanism. I didn’t want to do it, so I created a diversion from having to and then an excuse for doing it poorly.

[00:08:02] No se preocupen, my dad took it somewhere to have it fixed after I got home from the test. Honestly, I’m surprised that car didn’t catch fire. God, that was stupid.

[00:08:11] So we know the fear of getting hurt is one of the reasons we do this, what are some others? They could be avoiding emotional pain, low self-esteem, ambivalence. Like you don’t really know if this option in front of you is really what you want to do. So you just don’t, and then by making a decision, you’ve made a decision.

[00:08:30] And then we’re back to good old fear. Fear is a big one and it can be a fear of a lot of things. Fear of what other people will think. Fear of failure, conversely, fear of success. So, how do we manage self-sabotage? How do we avoid it? It starts with how we talk to ourselves because that inner voice, that inner critic is loud and it takes our negative experiences and magnifies them.

[00:08:54] Especially when the horrible experience is in a public facing way. And as an aside, this is why you need to celebrate your wins as often as possible. Not just for the great dopamine hit it gives you, but also for the protection against your inner critic’s more insidious tricks like this, like magnifying your bad experiences. So go check out episode four for more on celebrating your wins okay?

[00:09:17] So back to horrible public experiences. Like Midge being publicly fired from the tour that can feel devastating. And it can take a long time for the sting of that to heal, to rebuild that vulnerability, to re arm yourself, to reinspire yourself, to feel strong enough to deal with that again.

[00:09:38] But the truth is you have to. When you break a leg, it’s hard to walk on that as it’s healing. But eventually you have to, and it’s not going to be comfortable at first, it’s going to hurt. But you have to do it otherwise you risk losing the leg completely.

[00:09:55] And all of these reasons can keep you doing what they call playing small. You’re not going to grow if you let this continue. Because growth happens outside your comfort zone. So how exactly did Mrs. Maisel’s self-sabotage play out?

[00:10:11] Was the joke itself the sabotage? Did she subconsciously know that making the joke about Shy was going to crater her career because I don’t know, she was afraid of success? Or was that simply a mistake that spiraled into self sabotaging behavior? I’m not going to answer that question, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. DM me on Instagram and let me know what you think. I’d, I’d really love to know what you think.

[00:10:34] But let’s do talk about Midge’s behavior. She did two things after she was fired. First, she made her goals impossible to reach so she didn’t have to try. You know, she can’t be a headliner if no one can see her perform, so there’s no harm in saying she will only take headlining gigs.

[00:10:52] She’ll safely never achieve that goal because she’s never going to put herself out there like that again right? So that’s one. And two, she grew comfortable in her new shady place of employment. So she continued playing small in a space where she couldn’t grow if no one was coming there to potentially book her on something bigger. Huh.

[00:11:11] Remember what I did? My little stunt before the ACT was definitely linked to a fear of failure. I didn’t want to take that test because I didn’t feel ready for it. So I sabotage my ability to do well by staying out late. The freak accident was definitely not on purpose, but it was the cherry on the cake of a bunch of bad decisions that night.

[00:11:32] So what can self-sabotage look like for you? Any, or all of the ones that me and Mrs. Maisel displayed. And here’s another two. Procrastination or expecting everything to be perfect. Actually scratch that because that’s actually just one. Perfectionism is a subtype of procrastination. I have a friend that likes to say “perfectionism is just procrastination in fancy shoes.”

[00:11:55] And for those of you who’ve always thought the procrastination was just you being lazy. No. It’s a self defense mechanism. It’s an emotional response. So how do we arm ourselves against these emotional responses against, self-sabotage?

[00:12:10] This can take a lot of forms from the ones that you can do yourself all the way up to and including seeking professional help. And there’s no shame in that. You know, when you break a leg, you go see a doctor. So if you need mental health help, go see that doctor.

[00:12:23] One you can do on your own is reframing the stories you tell. A few episodes back in the “Lies We Tell about Ourselves” episode, I talked about how the stories we tell about ourselves might not be true anymore.

[00:12:36] I gave you some examples of my own stories, about how I say I hate fish all the time, but it’s categorically untrue. It’s an absolute outright lie. And yet I cling to it. And I shouldn’t, because I don’t want to hate fish. I don’t actually hate fish. But it’s so deeply ingrained and it takes a lot of effort for our brains to rewire itself around new ideas. No matter how much we might want them. The deeper that those beliefs go the longer it will take to unravel that wiring. To do away with the old stories. But first you have to recognize that they are stories, that they’re just stories. And the only meaning that they have is what you ascribe to them.

[00:13:17] So, if you want more on reframing your stories or removing labels you’ve had for yourself, go check out that episode. It’s number six of the season.

[00:13:25] If you want to change how you talk about yourself, then you have to change how you talk to yourself. The way you talk to yourself is monumentally important because if you always have a negative idea in your head about yourself, how are you going to overcome that? How are you going to become the best version of yourself?

[00:13:44] If you’re constantly breaking yourself down, it’s just like Sisyphus trying to push that rock up a mountain and then he gets to the top and it just falls again. He’s never going to reach the top of that mountain with that rock but you’re not Sisyphus. You’re not damned to a life of failure. You can change your course. You can change your stories. You can improve your trajectory. You can use every opportunity of things not turning out the way you wanted to, to examine what went wrong.

[00:14:10] And then do it better next time. Athletes watch the game film of themselves to see how they performed and how they can improve for the next game. Or they watch recordings of their opponents to figure out their weaknesses and take advantage of them for their own gain.

[00:14:23] What if you did the same thing? What if you started to examine what you perceive to be your weaknesses and sought to improve them little by little one at a time? You can do that. I think you could do that. It just, it takes time. So you want to gather your patience and your courage because this might sound scary.

[00:14:44] So give yourself a little vapuru, a little sana sana colita de rana, and then decide what small action comes next.

[00:14:52] Why small actions? Because change doesn’t take huge grand gestures. Change happens when we take small, but sustainable steps. Think of the ocean. The vast ocean, that huge body of water we’re all surrounded by, is made up of a trillion billion tiny little drops of water. Every drop of water adds up to this massive ocean. Just like every tiny step in progress also adds up.

[00:15:21] You want another example? You know how I love my exercise analogies, so let’s talk about weightlifting.

[00:15:26] Most people can not walk into the gym tomorrow having never lifted weights and expect to suddenly be able to deadlift 300 pounds. No, you have to work up to that. You start with like five pounds. And then the next time you add a little bit more. And then a little bit more. And then just a little bit more until you get to the 300. It’s these small incremental steps that get you from the ability to go from never lifting to lifting 300 pounds.

[00:15:52] I’ll tell you, I started weightlifting in June 2013. My first deadlift ever was 95 pounds. It took me until March of the following year. So nine whole months to get up to deadlifting just 240 pounds. Nine months to gain 145 pounds in strength. And I got that by going to the gym consistently three days a week and adding just a few pounds to each lift. It’s literally five to 10 pounds. Every lift. That’s it.

[00:16:21] Because I had to make sure my hands could grip it. I had to make sure my back and my butt and my legs were ready. And that all happened in tiny little increments of five pounds. And, you know, what? It took nearly five years to get to the next big lift. That’s a story for another time. But the point is that big changes are made up of a bunch of tiny, consistent ones. So do what is sustainable.

[00:16:46] So, what can you take away from this? One self-sabotage is a self-defense mechanism that shows up in a bunch of different ways. But they’re all rooted in trying to protect yourself. So go easy on yourself. You can change your stories if you want to. Part of overcoming self-sabotage is recognizing what your stories even are and whether or not they’re true.

[00:17:09] And then deciding to rewrite them. Finally three. Changing yourself, sabotaging ways. We’ll take a lot of patients from you and it takes some time and it takes small steps. And if you need more assistance, you can seek the help of a professional.

[00:17:27] Bueno, what can you take away from this? One self-sabotage is a self-defense mechanism that can show up in a bunch of different ways, but they’re all an emotional response rooted in trying to protect yourself. So as you start to examine these roots, go easy on yourself. Two, part of overcoming self-sabotage is recognizing how you talk to yourself. And what stories you tell about yourself. Are they even true? And if they’re not, then you have the power to rewrite them. Finally three. Changing your self sabotaging ways might take a lot of patience. And it does take time. But it happens in small steps.

[00:18:07] If you have any questions or feedback I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to email me or DM me on Instagram to share your thoughts. Oh, and don’t forget if you think Midge’s self-sabotage started with the joke at the Apollo and not in the aftermath, then, let me know, send me that DM. Please! I’d really love to hear from you. All right mis amiges, stay hydrated, and that’s a burrito!

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