Let me tell you, in confidence, that my secret to confidence… is confidence.
Did you just roll your eyes?
Go ahead! I know, I know – it sounds like an abstruse fortune cookie, but wordplay aside, as a simple rule, I try to let my answers in life be “Yes!” never; “Yes, but…”
Think about it: when applying for a job (in entertainment as in any other industry) you don’t want to qualify your capability with any idea of potential failure. The goal is to inspire trust! This short scene provides an example.
INT. HYPOTHETICAL EMPLOYER’S OFFICE – DAY
You are eager to make a good impression as your resume folder lays on the desk, unopened:
We’re looking for someone who can do this job. Is that you?
Yes, I think so.
I don’t believe you. Please leave.
See? That may seem hyperbolic, but it’s basically the less verbose version of the exact conversation that takes place ad nauseam until the person with the right answer comes in.
You see, humility is a laudable trait, but only serves you once the achievement is made.
As true for any job as it is for the performer, the belief that you can do the thing is half of what you need to be invited in the room. Dismal failure may await inside, for any number of excuses you can muster, or reasons you can’t fathom…but that’s true of any situation, and surely a concern for later! The end result of your performance in the moment will be a consequence of (or reward for) your entitlement to the position.
Imagine an actor who comes in apologizing for being late, asking if they can move a chair, asking about the dates, asking how they should do the read.. that actor has an awful lot to overcome before getting hired. Now imagine another actor, same audition, thanking everyone for their patience rather than apologizing for being late. Moving the chair where it needs to be. Leaving scheduling questions for the callback, offering educated choices for takes on the read based on context clues from the sides. That actor is the one who inspires confidence. That is the actor who gets it.
Raw confidence is powerful. Sometimes even more powerful than confidence curated by careful preparation…but rarely as dependable. In a perfect world the creative artist manages a balance of the two. That is the secret superpower of the over-achieving-whilst-under-prepared.
People who seem too confident are a threat to others and sometimes mislabeled as having an ego. The word ‘ego’ is then used as a pejorative, referring to perceived confidence in condescending negative terms. In my experience, people who do that are the least burdened by success.
The fact is, the word ‘ego’ is misused in this application. Everyone has an ego, it’s not a thing you can avoid having. Ego is Latin for “I”. It is a reference to self and it’s nothing to apologize for, just a common shorthand for the path we navigate between our base desires and our moral compass. (The conscious and unconscious, as Freud put it.) Avoiding a deeper philosophical discussion, I’ll leave it at that.
Some believe confidence can be assumed or inherited as a genetic trait, obtained by nature rather than nurture. It is worth pointing out that confidence is also easily achieved by the average sociopath without any effort whatsoever. In my opinion, a sense of confidence is best rendered by meticulous preparation and training over years of application to a subject.
Many parents work hard to infuse a sense of confidence in their children, but end up over-validating them. Exposure to the outside world quickly rectifies any error in over-confidence their judgment may have instilled. Don’t waste time wondering about or hoping for validation you’ll never get from the audition room – a better course to set is to realize that you don’t need anyone’s approval if you have your own.
Now for those who seek tangible, rather than esoteric advice, I have three tips:
1. Seek out that which scares you.
Are you terrified of auditions? Go work as a casting assistant. Hate being put on the spot? Join an improv group. Nothing disassembles your fears like seeing others survive the situation you dread.
2. Remember that idiots succeed too.
You are probably way better than most of the people who have done the job already. Find ways to remind yourself that you belong. Observe how many undeserving people succeed with less talent. Watch bad performances in movies and on television. There are plenty of examples outside the entertainment industry as well; look at (insert corrupt politician of choice here) for goodness sake! You deserve success more than them. No reason you can’t have it.
3. Deserve your confidence.
The only way to achieve peak confidence is to put all your passion, all your time, all your love and all your effort into that which you were meant to do…regardless of innate talent. It takes years of preparation to be ready for the perfect opportunity. Need to improve something? Don’t just take a class for it, take all the classes! Read all the books! Ask all the successful people you can find all the questions you have and never take a day off.
One day, after you’ve lived your dreams and when you least expect it, someone may ask you for your advice, and you can share this twist on an old adage:
Proper prior preparation prevents poor performance. Absent that opportunity, blind faith in oneself will do in a pinch.
See you on the other side of the glass!