Do the thing that scares you

I’ve been taking acting classes for about ten months on and off now. But before I go any further, I need to tell you a bit about myself.

I used to be incredibly shy. I remember once only being able to stammer “yes” or “no” when someone was trying to have a conversation with me. Or should I say, having a trying conversation with me. I could barely talk to guys (and if I did, I’d go bright red and look at my shoes. Sexy!) I’d never say what I really thought, and I’d certainly never show any kind of negative emotion.

So the fact that I’m taking acting classes is a big thing for me – it’s like one of those landmarks where you realize how far you’ve actually come. I feel like my 11-year-old self would be proud of me šŸ™‚

So now you know that, let me tell you about the classes I’m taking…

The classes are “acting classes for people who don’t want to be actors”. Sounds ridiculous, huh?!

But it is one of the BEST things I’ve ever done!

The company I go to (Actorium) was set up by an awesome woman called Michelle, who used to be an actor but left the profession for a while to raise her kids. She then wanted to get back into acting, and started running acting classes on Meisner (a particular technique of acting). Michelle’s IMDB has pictures of her from way back with Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon and Val Kilmer, which always makes me feel a bit excited. Six degrees of separation, and all that! šŸ™‚

Anyway… when Michelle described the exercises she was doing in the classes to her friends, they all said, “Oh my god, that sounds awesome! I would love to do something like that – and I don’t even want to be an actor! That sounds great for personal development and stuff.” (Or something like that. I don’t know what her friends actually said.)

So Michelle set up classes for actors – and forĀ non-actors. Which means that people like me canĀ go to acting classes and do exercises for actors, and grow and learn and push ourselves and have fun. It’s not something I’d ever thought I’d do – but it has probably been one of the most revealing, exciting, growing experiences of my life so far.

Where else can you slap a stranger full-force round the face and be hugging them a minute later (okay I wasn’t meant to slap him, I later found out – but he forgave me as we were “in the zone”), scream “FUCK OFF” at someone back and forth for five minutes until you’re practically hoarse and want to kill them, or be in tears with a woman you’ve just met, and then wanting to kiss them a moment later? These are just some of the many experiences I’ve had while I’ve been taking the classes. And it’s all encouraged! (Well, not the slapping šŸ™‚ No physical harm.)

Not to mention my self-discovery along the way. I’m stronger than I thought I was. But I can also be pretty weak and scared at times.

So my point is – after all this rambling – is that doing things that scare you can be a good thing. If there’s something that has been totally freaking you out, it might be a great idea to TRY IT. You don’t have to go full out – I’m not doing any plays, or signing myself up for auditions… Well, not yet šŸ˜‰

But the small, simple act of going to an intro evening at Actorium last year, with the thought of “what have I got to lose?”, has pretty much changed my life. I wanted to grow, push myself, and maybeĀ gain a bit of confidence. I’ve done all that – and it has affected other areas of my life as well.

As well asĀ all that…

Like many people, I used to HATEĀ public speaking. Like, really hate it. I would do anything to get out of it. Even in our weekly meetings at work, where I spoke briefly in front of 30-40 people every week, I would still shake, go red, and talk fast, just to get it over with. I’m not sure people couldĀ even hear what I said! But gradually, since I’ve been taking these classes, speaking in front of people has got easier and easier. The end result is that I can now talk comfortably in front of 250 people at a conference. Ā This is a HUGE deal for the shy, scared girl who shook just at the thought of public speaking.

Now your turn

So what scares the absolute shit out of you? What will you do about it? Cause once you really focus on that fear, you realize it can be overcome. I still don’t love public speaking, and I will never be the best at it – but I don’t go into freak-out mode if someone mentions it. I’ve done it many times now, and I feel confident that I can do it – and do it well.

Think hard about what really, really scares you, and then see if you can find some way to incorporate this into your life (gradually) – so it’s not silently hoveringĀ over you for the rest of your life.

Scared of spiders? Go to a zoo… and see if you can hold one! Scared of being on your own? Spend some time on your own, and build it up bit by bit – you’ll show yourself that you can do it and you’ll defeat the fear.

There is something so beautifully empowering about conquering a fear you’ve had for a long time.

To sign off, there’s no better quoteĀ to leave you with thanĀ the title of the awesome book by Susan Jeffers:

Feel the fear, and do it anyway!

Good luck, friends – I’m sending you courage!

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