How to Quiet That Negative Voice in Your Head

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Photo Source: Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

Do you have a tiny gremlin that lives in your head, constantly telling you what your “flaws” are? Why “no one needs you” in the art world? Welcome to the club!

That gremlin is your ego, your subconscious mind, your inner critic. But here’s the thing: your gremlin is not evil. It’s important to realize that because it’s here to stay—it has a job to do. It’s here to protect you from loss of love, money, and safety. That’s a critical job (perfect for a critic, right?). It’s trying to help you, but we all know most of the time it’s just plain incompetent. It seems the only way it knows how to get your attention is to shout at you about how you’re not talented enough, don’t make enough money, don’t have the right look...or is that just mine?

There are two significant fears everyone has:

  1. You are not enough
  2. You won’t be loved

These fears show up differently for everyone. For actors, your gremlin might suggest, “Don’t you think you’re too unattractive for that role?” Or, “All the other girls in this room are prettier than you.”

“Why would anyone want to hear your story? It’s nothing special.”

“You should just stay home today. Just skip this audition. No one will care.”

“That casting director hates you.”

Sound familiar?

Your gremlin loves safety and comfort and hates putting them at risk. Your gremlin would prefer you were comfortable AF.

READ: The 5 Questions You Need to Ask to Improve Your Actor Life

The problem with that? I’m sure you’ve heard that the magic happens outside your comfort zone. When we’re comfortable, there’s very little magic happening. Happy gremlin, unhappy life. So what are the rules for owning your gremlin?

1. Never feed it after midnight.
Your gremlin feeds off your focus. If you’re focusing on all the negative things it says, your gremlin eats it up. The more negative thoughts you focus on, the more “evil” your gremlin gets. You might as well go to bed early because, after midnight, those thoughts get worse. You’re tired, your defenses are down, and your gremlin will attack.

2. Don’t get it wet.
If you say the gremlin’s thoughts out loud with your powerful emotions backing it up, that’s like watering the gremlin to make it grow and multiply. Be aware of what comes out of your mouth.

3. Kill it with sunlight.
Unfortunately, your gremlin won’t actually die. However, plenty of sunlight—by which I mean positive thoughts—will keep it tame. To get rid of our old habitual thoughts, we need to replace them with new, positive thoughts. Even if you don’t believe them now, the more you repeat them out loud with emotion, the bigger and more powerful they get.

For example, replace “Skip this audition. No one cares if you’re there or not,” with “I get to act today and I love acting. I’m excited about this audition.” Replace “I’m not X enough,” with “I am Y enough.” Bonus points if you think of all the reasons why you are Y enough.

The most important part of this is to feel the emotions you’d feel if you were excited, talented enough, smart enough, pretty enough...etc. It just takes practice. When it comes to your new positive thoughts and emotions that replace your old ones, think about it this way: Most of your feelings are habitual. Most of your thoughts are habitual.

These new affirmations are a script. It's your job as an actor to find true emotions and be believable with these words that might not be your own. If we play by the rules, our gremlins are cute and harmless. If we feed and water our gremlins, they’ll try to murder us with their words. Instead, kill them with kindness.

Looking to get cast? Apply to casting calls on Backstage.

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Courtney Rioux
Actor and clarity coach Courtney Rioux helps actors go from stuck and unhappy to empowered and joyful. Her fun and easy approach has been described as “therapy without the therapy!”
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