Advice About How to Deal with Nerves, Anxiety, and Self-Doubt

public speaking

Last year—it seems like ten years ago!—my sister Elizabeth and I went on a multi-city tour doing live shows for our Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.

Because we were doing these shows, I read everything I could find about live performance—which led me to read about auditioning. (As a Hollywood TV writer and producer, Elizabeth is extremely familiar with the process of auditions, but not me.)

This interest led me to read The Best of You: Winning Auditions Your Way by Craig Wallace, who created the “Wallace Audition Technique” for preparing for auditions and an acting career.

The book was interesting, though most of it wasn’t really relevant to my experience.

But in the chapter on “Nerves,” the discussion turned to the kinds of anxieties that I face, and I think most people face, even if they aren’t auditioning for an acting role. Because if we aren’t “auditioning” for an acting role, we find ourselves in many situations that are auditions of some sort, in all areas of our lives.

Wallace lists people’s doubts and his answers to them, and his responses apply just as much to non-actors as to actors.

  1. I am not good enough. You’re as good as or better than others auditioning. Everyone brings something different. Your job is to offer yourself and not worry about other people.
  2. I am not right for the role. If the casting team knew exactly what they were looking for, they would’ve called the “right” person. But they’re trying to figure out how to fill a role, which means they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for. You can’t be “wrong” if they’re still deciding what’s “right.”
  3. I don’t think my choices are strong enough. Remember, if you made choices that are compelling, that are an honest representation of who you are, and you stay committed to them, they’re strong enough. Don’t doubt them or yourself.
  4. That person in the waiting room looks better for the part than me. The casting people see a range of possibilities for the role. No decisions have been made at this point. The field is wide open.
  5. They’ll probably go for a name. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. You have no control over that decision, so focus on what you can control.
  6. I am nervous and I shouldn’t be. Instead of fighting your nerves, say “Yes, I am a little nervous.” Nerves calm down when they’re honestly acknowledged. Your nerves may even work in your favor, by providing extra energy and life to your reading.
  7. I have to be perfect. Wallace observes: “Perfection is not the goal in an audition. The goal is to show the people in the room what you have to add to the words on the page. You are a human being, auditioning to play another human being…humanity has very little to do with perfection.”

I’m always interested to see how advice from one field applies to other fields, and I love listening to shop talk of all kinds, so I like reading books like this. Sometimes, for me, good advice makes a bigger impression when it’s presented from an unfamiliar context.

Have you ever taken helpful advice from an unexpected source?



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