This Is Your Secret Weapon as an Actor
The wedding could not have been more beautiful. From the picture-perfect setting to the surprise family members to the impromptu singalong serenading the happy couple, the event was magical. Right up to the moment the officiant introduced “Mr. and Mrs. Harris!” for the first time. The problem? Harris is not their last name. The couple turned to the officiant with looks of utter confusion. A few audience members giggled. It was clear the officiant was mortified. I should know: I was the one officiating the wedding.
I was grateful for the good senses of humor among my friends and even more so for the wonderful life lesson learned through this moment: humility is essential to happiness.
In the acting industry, we often focus on attributes like confidence, charisma or vulnerability. While I am a big proponent and teacher of the aforementioned, I feel as though humility is just as (if not more) important.
I’ll be the first to admit humility isn’t very pretty. As I stood in front of the bride and groom—not to mention hundreds of wedding guests—I was overwhelmed with shock and embarrassment. I definitely wasn’t thinking to myself, “Wow, what a beautiful moment of humility!” But what I can tell you with the benefit of hindsight is that I have used this story countless times with my actors who have been in a rut because it reminds us all to take a deep breath and be patient and humble with ourselves.
As an actor, expect to be constantly told what you “should” or “shouldn’t” do. Expect to encounter moments (likely a lot of them) where you second guess yourself or your actions. An agent or manager or casting director is going to say something judgmental to you like, “Your eyes are just too expressive,” or “You need to do a lot less,” or “Just keep it all much more grounded.” One of the trickiest elements of this business is simply staying true to who you are in the face of all this judgment and criticism while always progressing and growing. This is where humility can give you so much value!
More often than not, our ego is the source of our temporary pitfalls. We’re so concerned with doing what we’re “supposed” to do that we lose track (and often faith) in what we really want to do. We’re told by enough people that our choice, our viewpoint, doesn’t have value, so we eventually believe it. Then we find ourselves in a situation where we finally build up enough courage to be vulnerable and fall flat on our face. This shot to our ego then makes us second guess who we are and the choices we make. We don’t know what’s right or wrong, up or down, and we slowly sink into the quicksand of doubt. At which point, well, we’re doomed. But, if we are able to embrace humility, we have a secret weapon against this common stumbling block.
Humility gives us the green light to be who we want to be. It allows us to wholeheartedly embrace our truest self (all our perceived faults included) and then vulnerably share it with the rest of the world. We’re not worried about perception or what might happen if we make a mistake. We are able to truly tap into our potential.
The outcome becomes less important and we can focus on the cause. We’re able to take risks. We’re able to reach for the things that might have seemed ridiculous to reach for. And when you’re able to make the choices other actors are unwilling to make, you start to separate yourself from the pack; you will become distinctive. If you’re distinctive enough, no one can be better than you.
Another blessing of humility is its ability to keep you hungry and rooted. One of my clients recently bombed at a showcase in front of her agent and one of the busiest casting directors in town. My client was devastated, right up until I told her of my wedding officiant story. I explained that seemingly rotten situations can often be the best opportunities to strengthen our humility muscle. And the stronger our sense of humility, the less we care about accolades and vanity, and the more we can put our focus on the things that really matter.
So humility allows us to not take things too seriously. Wouldn’t you love to play a little more in life? The majority of our time doing what we do should be done while having fun! But it’s hard to have fun when you’re concerned with being someone else’s version of perfect. We’re scared to have fun because we’ve been programmed to believe that if you don’t take things seriously enough, you’re somehow doing it wrong. News flash: we’re all going to run out of time to play. So we might as well have some flipping fun before we do!
In order to really enjoy our journey, we must be okay with messing up. We must be able to laugh at ourselves. We must be able to embrace our sense of uniqueness. We must embrace our humility. Because when, as an actor, you humble yourself to who you really are and weather the ups and downs of this industry, that’s when you can really bring it to the audition room.
Originally posted to https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/this-is-your-secret-weapon-as-an-actor-65934/
More Acting Tips from Erik + the Catapult Crew coming soon.