3 Tricks for Conquering Self-Doubt

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  • “I am the biggest/shortest/least experienced/oldest/youngest/worst person in this room.”
  • “I’ll never be able to do what they’re asking me to do.”
  • “I shouldn’t be here.”
  • “People are going to judge me.”
  • “I can’t do this.”

Ugh! Doubting yourself. It’s a nasty habit that can feel impossible to escape—especially in classes and auditions. But as we all know, if you want to work in this business, you have to audition. And if you want to actually book jobs on a regular basis, you have to train. And that means standing in front of strangers and pouring your heart out over and over again, sometimes multiple times per day.

And while you undoubtedly feel strongly called to this profession, putting your vulnerability on blast can definitely feel more like work than warm fuzzies. Some days, you don’t always feel connected to the music, the material, or your body. The mind churns and worries, doubts reach a crescendo, and the devil on your shoulder starts whispering in your ear.

So how the eff do you thrive in the room without sending yourself into a daily downward spiral of insecurity? Tricks, my friends. Tricks. Give these three a try:

1. Work from the outside in. Calm nervous energy by grounding your body before you do anything vulnerable. Stand with your feet hip distance apart, bend your knees slightly, and rock back and forth from heels to toes a few times. Then, settle right in the middle, pressing all of your toes to the ground. Imagine you’re growing two inches taller and stand up straight. Take three deep, full breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Each time you exhale, imagine your breath rooting you to the ground. When we get grounded, we lay a solid foundation on which to build great things.

2. Get present to quiet your inner chatter. Get out of your head by getting into your physical body. Close your eyes and do a quick head-to-toe body scan, identifying what feels good and bad. If something feels bad, fix it. (Examples: “My shoulders feel pretty close to my ears. I’m going to drop my shoulders a little.” “My hips feel nice and open today.” “My right hamstring is tight. I’m going to stretch it.” “I’m thirsty. I’m going to drink some water before I start.”) When we concentrate on what is, we cannot pay attention to what could be, and we gently shift our focus from fear of the unknown to freedom of the present moment.

3. Change the rules of the comparison game. After over 20 years in this business, I will not say, “Stop comparing yourself to others” because comparison is inevitable. However, if you can perfect the art of turning comparison into compliment, you will effectively shift negative thoughts to positive action. For example, instead of obsessing about how much better your neighbor’s abs are than yours, compliment her (out loud and to her face!) on her super cute bra top and turn your attention back to your badass self. You’ll make her feel great (and help her get out of her head) and you’ll both feel better instantly! Reminder: This is a practice and takes a little getting used to, but it works. (Plus, chances are someone is envying you from the other side of the room anyway.)

Once you can turn your attention away from your poopy self-talk and onto the steps, phrase, or scene, you’ve opened up space for magic to happen. Presence. Connection. Inspiration. Flow. Holla! Good luck, let me know how it goes, and thank you for your dedication to your craft and your willingness to put it all out there. The world needs more of you.

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

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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Erika Shannon
Erika Shannon is a choreographer, teacher, and movement coach, working with dancers of all levels, singers, models, and fitness enthusiasts to help them move their bodies with confidence and connect to movement so it makes sense. Her signature online dance program, Don’t Dodge the Dance Call, has been featured in several theatrical publications, including Backstage!
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