What are we all so scared of? Being seen? Failing? Not measuring up? Thinking the rest of the world will see how often we think badly of ourselves?
All of these qualities are part of being human and being brave enough to step out into the world with something to say.
They’re also a part of what it means to be a truly authentic actor. But so often much of our life energy is spent reacting to things from a fearful place—dating, auditioning, booking a job—without having awareness that we’re even doing so.
There’s always going to be a part of us that’s fearful—sadly—as a response to our knowledge that our mortal body is going to expire, and also our being hardwired physiologically to respond from the flight-or-fight response. (That reptilian brain in us is alive and kicking.)
But the kind of fear I’m talking about that stops us from achieving our dreams is fear based in ego.
The ego is small, separate, stuck—our saboteur. The only way we can overcome that which our ego tells us is not possible for us, is by being open and being aware of that dialogue itself.
A lot of what we don’t realize is we let a fearful reaction to things be the overriding principle in our life. Fear masks itself in subtle ways so we don’t even know it. When we respond in a cynical or sarcastic way, when we procrastinate, or have excuses, or complain, or say “no” to things; when we ignore or avoid—these responses can often be passive forms of fear.
The goal is to become aware of when we respond habitually. For example, realizing when we don’t say “yes” to something. Maybe it’s because we’re scared to risk or be exposed—so we say “no” instead. Procrastination—we keep putting off that thing we know we can do, because to do so might mean we could get rejected, or fail, or discover we’re not so great at it after all. So we let fear keep us from even attempting.
If there was one thing I could help actors understand, it’s that there’s nothing to be scared of. Our work is a work of joy, and hope, and light, and possibility, and we’re all in it together. When people set out to make projects, they set out to make the best possible creation they can. That means they want you to also be your best.
So when you book a job, it means someone likes you. That’s why you booked it. There’s nothing to be scared of, but we let our old conditioning kick in and listen to the junk thoughts it creates in the mind.
Understanding that fear can really stop us from moving forward when we believe the things we tell ourselves in our head is already a step of awareness.
The next time you’re feeling triggered and scared, ask yourself these two questions:
1. Why is it not okay to let go of the fear? (You may discover some surprising explanations of how the fear is protecting you.)
2. What does this fear want to show me? (If you’re brave enough, and willing to listen, there is great insight into where you may get stuck in life and how to overcome it.)
Creating a new paradigm around fear will truly set you free from it.
So “feel the fear and do it anyway” as the saying goes, as we’ll never be completely devoid of it. But create a deeper understanding of it as well, and you might discover the fear part gets less and less.
Anthony Meindl is an award-winning writer, director, producer, and artistic director of Anthony Meindl's Actor Workshop (AMAW) with studios in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Vancouver. It was honored by Backstage three years in a row and named the Best Acting Studio in Los Angeles (Best Scene Study and Best Cold Read).
Meindl's first feature film, “Birds of a Feather,” won the Spirit of the Festival Award at the 2012 Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, and he won Best Director at the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles. It releases on iTunes and DVD in March of 2014. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Love, Backstage, and various spirituality podcasts. He has been featured in ABC News, Daily Variety, LA Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and CW KTLA. He has been a guest speaker at the GATE 2013 Story Conference, founded by Jim Carrey and Eckhart Tolle, and David Lynch's Masters in Film Program (Maharishi University of Management).
He is also the author of the best-selling creativity book, At Left Brain Turn Right, which helps artists of all kinds unleash their creative genius within. Check out Meindl's free smartphone app on iTunes. Follow Meindl on Twitter @AnthonyMeindl.