And thanks for reading! This is week 8 in the series relating to the psychology of the business, particularly as it relates to auditions and booking work and we will be exploring Confidence.
Just a reminder here that when I use the term “actor” I mean it to encompass all forms of acting including voice, stage, and screen. What follows applies relatively equally to all of these forms of acting.
Before we begin…
I know I am late this week…for those of you who care about that sort of thing; I apologize. However, my tardiness is a result of some pretty cool stuff. You see, we bought an RV this week. A BIG RV. It’s a 41-foot-long bus, to be exact. And let me tell you, buying a great big bus with a bed and FOUR TV’s (yeah, more TV’s than I have in my 4000 square foot house!) takes a lot more time than I ever expected. Eight hours to pick one out, then all the admin stuff (insurance, financing, a place to park the doggone thing) followed up by seven hours of walk through and signing every piece of paper on the planet (sorry if you can’t find any paper for your printer). We still don’t actually HAVE it either…we’ll pick it up in two days. All of this about an hour from home. Anyway, here’s a picture.
OK…let’s get started
In contrast to last week’s post about Desperation, this week I want to talk about confidence. I know they are not actually opposing things, but they are at LEAST 90 degrees from one another, and having a healthy level of confidence should help you to not be desperate.
What is confidence?
Just to set the stage, and to make sure we are all on the same page talking about the same thing, let’s look at what I mean when I say “confidence”. As I often like to do I turn to good ol’ reliable Merriam-Webster for a definition of confidence;
1 a : a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances
b : faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way
2 : the quality or state of being certain : certitude
3 a : a relation of trust or intimacy
b : reliance on another’s discretion
c : support especially in a legislative body
4 : a communication made in confidence
What I mean when I talk about confidence in the context of your acting career, obviously, is the definition found in 1a and 2 above.
What confidence is NOT
To be blunt, confidence is not arrogance. Certainly, confidence and arrogance are related, let’s call them parallel attributes; they are both related to self-esteem, but they are not the same. While a confident person has a positive self-image; they believe in their abilities, an arrogant person not only has a positive self-image and believes in their abilities, but also believes they are better than everyone else. Arrogance is confidence on steroids. Don’t be arrogant – be confident!
Something else it’s not
You know what ELSE is not confidence? Egotism. While egotism may look a lot like confidence, the thing usually lacking is ability. Well, in my experience anyway. I suppose you can have a big ego AND talent, but I haven’t seen that very often. I see egotism as arrogance without ability…if that makes any sense to you. Both arrogance and egotism result in a desire to be the center of attention (I know, it’s counterintuitive for actors to NOT be arrogant or egotistical) and focus only on self-interest. These attributes look for approval, accolades, and validation at all costs in order to be “right” all the time.
Confidence is important for everyone
Let’s face it, in our everyday lives (outside of our acting careers) confidence is important. We all know someone who lacks confidence, and they always seem to be stuck and unable to move forward. Confidence gives us the courage to make bold choices and stick with them, knowing we can pull it off and sustain it. For an actor? Confidence is CRUCIAL. Actors who do not have confidence tend to not book many jobs.
Why is confidence important?
Acting is a tough job, and very competitive. For any given role you are competing with as many as 100 other actors, many of whom are just as talented as you…and some who are more talented (just to keep you humble). You already know that productions are expensive, and since the production team likely doesn’t know you, hiring someone is always a risky business. If you lack confidence in your ability to portray a character, then it is going to show in your audition. And almost as important as your confidence in an audition is your ability to inspire confidence in the production/casting team. You have to exude confidence to give them the confidence they need to hire you and feel certain you will deliver and not cost the production extra money.
How do you build confidence?
I get it, some actors just ARE confident. It’s part of their DNA. But others need to build confidence, and how do you do THAT!? What follows are some ideas for building confidence. The first one is that experience (my dad used to say experience is the thing you get just after you needed it) creates confidence. Successfully booking and playing roles gives you the confidence to know you have what it takes. Experience is the number one way to build your confidence, so don’t hold back from auditioning because you don’t feel confident; fake it till you make it.
Yeah, I know…I keep harping on this. Find a coach who will not only honestly assess your abilities, but who also knows how to guide you to improve them. No matter how good of an actor you are, you should keep training. The best coaches I’ve found are working actors (in whatever genre you are going for) who also teach. Nothing better than a coach who consistently books work for helping you learn how to consistently book work. My coach, Katie Killacky who runs Capital Coaching Studio is a good example. She is a local actor/coach in the DC area who works consistently. I’m sure you’ve seen her on Dopesick and Swagger. Find a coach you have confidence in and keep training.
Feeling prepared makes you feel confident. Make sure that whether it is for a class, an audition or a gig you are always as prepared as you can be. Feeling unprepared can make you feel insecure and that will manifest itself in your performance.
When your confidence starts to wane, remember your successes. Sometimes just reminding yourself of the things you have accomplished can boost confidence.
Learn from your mistakes
First, remember that EVERYONE makes mistakes (I was once on set with an actor whose name you’d recognize, and he flubbed a line. He was cool, calm, unapologetic and just said “I’m going to start over” and then delivered the line flawlessly). You’re going to make mistakes but remember them only to identify why you made it, and then learn how not to make it again.
As much as you can, stop having negative feelings about your ability. Some 12-step groups call that “Stinking Thinking”. Negativity saps your confidence. Even more importantly, avoid negative, jealous, angry, or bitter people. The people around you affect how you feel about yourself. As much as possible either cut those people out of your life or avoid them as often as you can. Surround yourself with encouraging and supportive people and you will find your confidence growing.
Live a full life. Your career is only a small part of yourself and how you feel about the REST of your life affects how you feel about your career in acting as well. Stay out of debt (pressure from debt makes you feel insecure) and if you have a survival job, find one you enjoy (or at least don’t hate). Success in a survival job you enjoy will increase your confidence in acting as well.
At the end of the day
When all is said and done, if you want to be a working actor, you are going to need to feel confident. Confidence in yourself (without arrogance or egotism) will help the people who want to hire you (and make no mistake – they do want to) feel confident to hire you. And even still…with all the confidence in the world…You’re not getting the f*&^ing job!
Tune in next week
When we’ll discuss “Control”.
Michael Apollo Lira says
Congratulations on that sweet RV! That looks like one comfortable space!
And another amazing family quote in this one – I’m really liking the wisdom your father and family have shared with you. I can’t help but laugh because of how relatable it is. My agent once said “the best take you’ll ever perform is the one on the car ride home after your audition”.
And thank you focusing on the big picture. Life, family, everything that matters at the end of the day. Work is only a piece of the puzzle. I don’t think that gets emphasized enough in everybody’s push to success, when so much of life’s success occurs outside of work
Thank you for another great read Gary!
Gary Mason says
Thanks Michael. Check out the picture of me next to a tractor trailer in this week’s post!
My dad was a simple man, and one of the smartest (wisest?) guys I ever knew. I think he had a little saying for just about every situation. It’s fun to remember them, and Im glad you enjoy them as well! I sure do miss that guy!
Your job is just your job. Your family is FOREVER…it helps to focus on what’s important. Success at work and success in life are definitely two different things, and I submit you cannot measure real success with dollar signs!
Anyway, thank you for reading, and thank you for the encouraging comments!