How to reduce self-talk
Our thoughts, feelings and actions have the most power. Our words influence them. Actors often feel trapped in their heads, worrying, stressing, and overthinking about things that are beyond their control.
You’re not the only one. Both actors and non-actors are guilty. All of us have things that worry and concern us. It is possible to worry about Trump, world peace, or whether the casting director (CD) liked us at that audition. Sometimes, our worries can become so overwhelming that we cannot sleep at night, have trouble getting to bed or question our decision to become an actor. Usually, however, what we put our energy into and focus on is the thing that will grow.
If we focus on our fears and concerns, they can grow and become paralyzing. Instead of worrying or reacting to circumstances beyond our control (such as the audition’s success), we can focus our energy and time on those we can influence and control. The language we use in our heads is one of the most powerful and simple things we can influence.
Steven Covey is a legend in the business and management world. He was the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). His book contains some great insights for actors (especially habit seven if you want to improve your time management). Habit 1, one of the Seven Habits, is about recognizing what you can control and what you cannot.
Covey believes that when we recognize concerns and worries, we need to stop and consider whether we can make any changes. When we realize we cannot control it, we should ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?”
“Is that a lot of energy?” Covey suggests that we put our energy into things we can control instead.
Let’s take an example that is audition-based. Many people are nervous before an audition, job interview or public speaking …)… We should stop and consider whether we can make a difference if this happens. The ultimate casting decision might be no. However, we can influence the audition. Instead of worrying and telling ourselves that “I always get nervous and make fools of myself – I am a terrible actor”, it is possible to turn that around. It’s possible to remind ourselves that we aren’t “always” nervous. That the CD wants to see us. That the feedback that we received on a self-tape was excellent. We have a few days to self-tape the tape, and then we can watch it again and get coaching and advice.
Support… etc. Although it might not impact the outcome, it can affect our performance (which may influence the outcome).
The anxiety and self-doubt that naturally follows an audition can creep in. We start to question our choices and the things we “should” or “didn’t do”. Is it something we can control or not? No. No.
You can influence this. It happened. Why lose sleep? We can make a difference next time by taking note of the future.
Hence, why do we do it to ourselves? The inner voice of our souls is never quiet. Most of us find that we are interrupted by a chorus every time we hear a cheerful voice (sometimes they’re too loud, right?). It could be a defence mechanism to prevent risky behaviour from happening. Maybe we learned it as a child. It can be learned or at the very least managed using the power and wisdom of our inner voice.