Kobra Paige Pulls Herself Out of the Drama in Her Head
Kobra and the Lotus singer songwriter breaks the cycle of toxic thinking.
Posted May 07, 2018
“A world of humans with no humanity”
From “Losing My Humanity” by Kobra and the Lotus
We want people to “get” us – to understand who we are and what we are about. When approached in a healthy way, we understand our authentic self well enough to know what makes us tick and who we connect with out there.
But in some cases, the need to connect with others turns into something harmful, whereby we devolve into trying to be something we’re not in an effort to please others. Not only does this result in our feeling horribly about ourselves, but also we can wind up connecting with the wrong people – those who want us “their” way, not ours.
More, as we become enveloped in a cycle of self-criticism and people pleasing, we inadvertently become less available to be empathic towards others. Worse, we may inadvertently expect others to ignore their true selves in order to please us. The result is not genuine connection, but rather a fear-based system where everyone involved is hiding who they are and feeling lonely, misunderstood and disconnected.
Kobra Paige, the singer-songwriter behind the heavy metal band Kobra and the Lotus, knows this cycle well. “We put so much weight on identifying what and who we are every day, to the point of it being painful for ourselves a lot of the time. Because everyone is identifying what and who they are and what they want to be seen as – at the same time we’re all in our own minds and our own worlds. So when we’re stuck inside this feeling of being misunderstood it becomes frustrating,” Paige told me. “And it becomes victimizing in a way to yourself, to the point of where you’re just hurting because you don’t understand why people can’t really see you. Or they think you’re a certain way and they don’t know anything about you.”
One interesting way that this played out in Paige’s life was around her having tattoos. While she felt her tattoos were another form of artistic expression – no different from her music – Paige described how others’ judgment resulted in shifting her attitude to a negative one towards her tattoos.
“I have a lot of experiences with judgments from older people about tattoos. Even with my piercings I have friends’ parents saying ‘Oh you’re such a pretty girl why would you do that to yourself?’ That happened enough times that it became a story that I still carry with me. I still feel it coming up when I’m in certain situations,” Paige explained. “I really judge myself for having tattoos. I always cover my arms because I think people will put me in a certain peg because I have tattoos on my arms. I’m worried I’m not going to be taken as seriously or I’m going to be seen as rough around the edges or that I’m presenting some kind of recklessness.”
Another outcome of the negative feedback about her tattoos was that Paige began to feel cut off from people who admired her tattoos because she was not able to take in their positive feedback. “The tragedy of it was that I love my tattoos. It took me over ten years to put ink on my body and I love them,” she said. “People do say wonderful things about my tattoos sometimes.
“But I’m already under a rock about it.”
More, Paige’s self-loathing around her tattoos manifested in her being judgmental of others who similarly have tattoos, thereby causing a vicious cycle of being critical of herself, then others, then being critical of herself for judging others. “I have judged other people for their tattoos. That’s awful – but it’s the truth. I have seen people where I don’t know why they have a d*ck on their arm. Or a Pilsner can. And I’m just like, ‘holy crap, I don’t want to be seen as that,’” Paige described. “And I get this awful judgment that I’m putting on people. And I’m making it worse for me too. And it’s just ugly – it’s ugly all around. And it’s interesting that I’m so judgmental for what I am afraid of myself.
“It’s totally toxic.”
Sometimes the pressure to please others is based on subtle communications in which we infer what others want and try to present ourselves accordingly. But in the music business, there are times when expectations are more direct. Paige described feeling that she was pressured to create a persona that made her less known and available to her fans.
“When we signed to Universal Canada on our second album, I was definitely being encouraged to be more mysterious and to maintain this image. The label wanted it to be rock and roll and sexy – and not disclosing much information about myself,” she recalled. “So, when talking in interviews, don’t say so much – maybe wear sunglasses sometimes. It was not fun. That didn’t last very long.”
Paige soon found that she was disconnected from the purpose behind her music. “I experienced it as disempowering. If it seems like the attention is becoming more about the image than the actual purpose of why you got into this industry in the first place and what your passion is behind it, it can just feel very deflating,” Paige explained. “And I think if you weren’t intending it to be mostly about attention falling on your looks and it was really about the music for you … it feels very deflating.
“Like holy crap – I’m not fulfilling what I really care about.”
Perhaps because the request for her to change her public image was so overt, Paige was able to see the cycle of pleasing others more clearly in this experience and the harm it was causing her. “You don’t want to bust a fantasy for people but at the same time, everyone shits … If I see something about attraction it does nothing for my confidence or how I feel about myself because that’s internally cultivated. It can make it worse,” Paige said. “Because I want to live up to those expectations for them. And there’s this huge bar that seems impossible to touch all the time.”
While in the past Paige feels like she conformed to others’ expectations, in this case, she rebelled. “After this period of feeling like I was exploited a little bit at the beginning … I went the opposite of that and for many years dressed very androgynously on stage because I didn’t want to show my curves too much because I wanted people to focus on the music,” she explained. “I was putting all of my issues aside for other people.
“That’s not a safe way to be.”
Eventually, the initial rebellion evolved into a more comfortable sense of herself which helps Paige to work on the cycle of judging others. “At the core of being misunderstood, what do I have to recognize here?” Paige said. “It’s important to see how you’re deciding how people are. It feels badly to be misunderstood. But we do it to people all the time…I don’t find it easy to be mindful. I’m aware of what mindfulness can do but it’s really hard because I have to pull myself out of the drama in my head. It’s healing. It opens doors by showing a more compassionate space for yourself and everyone else too.”
And as Paige has become more compassionate with herself and others, she has also found a way to feel like an authentic musician who is comfortable with herself physically. Over the years, she feels that her fans have come to understand this about her and have continued to support her. The band just finished their fifth full length studio album Prevail II, and are getting ready for their upcoming North American tour in support of the album.
“As I got older and worked on myself, I was like, ‘well, I feel really great about being a woman and having the shape I have,’ so I’m just going to find a way to be myself but still be comfortable with what I’m choosing to show or not,” Paige explained. “Maybe I’m not the coolest artist but I can’t do it if I can’t be authentic to myself… I need to be passionate about what I do –and to be passionate about it, I need to be real with myself.
“Some people enjoy portraying this rock god, but it’s not my thing and it’s never been my thing.”