How Acting Affects Your Self-Esteem

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The theater teaches us to collaborate, to feel comfortable speaking in front of others, and to be able to take direction. It gives us a forum in which to express ourselves, and it makes us think and feel, as performers and as an audience.

We tend to be drawn to it at an early age. Many remember their first introduction to the theater, whether it be a play seen or performed in elementary school or watching a parent or older sibling perform.

It is a socially accepted way to fulfill the need for attention and approval, and I think most would agree that the sound of applause is thrilling, empowering, and sometimes addicting.

That said, the theater also tends to attract people with great needs, who try to use it to validate themselves, and are tremendously insecure as a result. They audition and take every job they don't get as a personal rejection and a comment on who they are. They sabotage themselves in their search for a career and find excuses not to attend another audition because they cannot face another rejection. Needy people frequently do not get cast because their "need" for the job is so obvious, and no one wants to have someone that needy to worry about.

After all, needy people aren't truly behaving like professionals, because they have an ulterior motive. They need to hear approval constantly and crave attention. Hiring a needy person is akin to getting a job as a babysitter for a demanding child.

Acting, or any performing, also can confuse those with a fragile self-esteem. All too often performers confuse their performances and talent with their identity. They are what they do. They hear that they are talented, and when they are performing they are told they are wonderful. It is understandable that they are confused!

When people who need validation and attention pursue this career in show business, frequently become bitter and resentful that they have to convince people to like them, to hire them, etc. Thus, they sabotage themselves precisely for the same reason they chose this career in the first place!

If I seem a bit harsh, it is only to paint a stark picture of the psychological makeup of many performers. Most performers have some feelings of insecurity about their place in the business. It is a business without much security.

It may be useful to ask yourself how this might apply to your life. Why are you in this business, and are you "too needy"? If the answer is yes, don't be discouraged. This is where some good psychotherapy can help, to build your self-esteem, to learn skills to turn down that needy "voice" in your mind that constantly craves attention, and to help you differentiate between your own identity and your "performing self."

Robert Curtiss, a former psychotherapist, works at Essay Management with personal manager John Essay, whom he helped to create

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