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Fear in the deepest darkest recesses of our imagination. Lurking there, always telling us we aren’t good enough, we can’t have it all, we can’t be everything to the stage or television or cinema. Fear telling us to get a real job and stop acting like an acting hooligan. Fear screaming at us in our dreams about all the other things we could be doing with our friends if only we weren’t waiting tables, or temping, or sitting at home with a cup of tea because we aren’t earning enough to get out there and take that holiday they’re on.
What’s the problem with these amazing imaginations of ours? They are wrong. In fact they are so wrong they may as well be this month’s top seller in the novel section.
Fear is actually a driver for change. Fear is a vehicle for moving forward. Fear is also a warning bell telling us exactly where we should be headed. Straight on into a collision with the very thing we are afraid of. See that’s how fear works. It haunts us in the most annoying ways until we come face to face with it.
Today I want to share are some of the ways that I become aware of fear and what these fears do to me. Because you see, sometimes, you as the actor trying to move forward, won’t even realise that your behaviours are being shaped and affected by your personal fears. Sometimes the fear has not even been acknowledged yet.
Take this example. I have wanted desperately to get to LA for some time. I want to try out pilot season, I want to see what all the fuss is about, I want to experience first hand why that city owns the catch-phrase “the place to be as an actor”. So I decided to go there in 2010 and check it out for myself. I flew over there and met actors who I had only known virtually, I made friends with new industry peeps, I went to parties, I did all the usual things that you can do in two weeks in LA. And I came back buzzing and hyped about the possibility of where I could go career-wise if I just let myself do it. Then I came back to London. And I did nothing.
I was afraid of success, I was afraid of failure, I was afraid of not being good enough or, worst of all, of not doing it at all. And as a result of this fear, I had done absolutely nothing (the irony). And equally I stopped myself from my own opportunities here in London because I was in this little transient headspace running on a mouse wheel in no particular direction. It wasn’t ideal. For me, I have come to realise that when I am afraid of something I usually go into a holding pattern. I won’t proactively come face to face with the fear and ask myself exactly what I’m afraid of. Instead, I’ll just ignore it and hope it goes away. Sadly in the meantime I will unwittingly self-sabotage other perfectly good situations by my non action.
Thankfully, I had an awakening and became more akin to what was driving my fears. Some of this even came about through the sessions I was having with my business coach at the time. I am still amazed at how simple things can be when you take stock of what is really causing your fear and frustrations. And you don’t have to plan how to fix it all in one afternoon. You simply have to take tiny steps in the direction of your goal, one foot at a time. So I have started to do just that.
Another example of fear, in a much more simplistic way, was my being scared to cut off my long hair…yes a nice simple silly fear (we don’t have to get too serious do we). You see, I had this fabulous, should-be-in-Pantene-commercials kind of sexy long dark hair that always fell in the right way on film sets but all I wanted was a short bob. I’d been carrying on with this thing in my head that said you have to have long hair. You are an actor, and you are a woman. Sexy is long hair! Sexy is a woman on the screen with long dark trestles and a gorgeous smile. Jeez no pressure there huh. And then finally I sat back a few months ago and thought, “what’s the worst thing that can happen if I cut it all off?” I hate it and I grow it again. It’s not like I’m Samson and will lose all my power if I don’t have long hair.
So I did it, and guess what – I have had more auditions in the last six months than I have in the last two years. I’ve been booking work constantly and I have a new look. I am being seen by new Casting Directors because they may not have seen me before (oh how clever haircuts can be). It’s such a stupid little thing but I was afraid to do it.
Fear, for me, is actually the most uplifting driver for change because it allows me to really tap into the things I am most afraid of and then, if I am willing [and brave enough], to try to expel those fears. Reaching into the deepest darkest recesses of my subconscious and allowing myself to tap into what I really want to do has actually helped me to grow massively as a person, and as an actor.
So finally, we should always have some ideas about how to fix things. And while there are various ways that you can overcome your fears, recently I read a blog post that brilliantly summed them up. You can read it in the Daily OM. In this post Debbie Ford elaborated upon the ways to get rid of your fear with Love. By enveloping it in love and facing your fear head on you can overcome pretty much anything. Her suggestions are spot on, and very practical, and I highly recommend taking a little peak.
But for now, take a moment to sit back and think, are you potentially putting something off just because you are afraid of success and the possibilities? Are you worried that you might fall flat on your face, so why bother trying. Why not just jump head first. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Oh, you don’t go anywhere with that and you come back and try something else.
You might just get even further ahead!