I knew I couldn’t do it. I was absolutely convinced. This wasn’t going to happen, they have to get someone else because I won’t, no can’t do it…
But I had to do it, and I did it. And it was amazing.
I suppose I should make myself clear, very recently I performed my own one man show. Sounds amazing right? A dream of any performer, getting to perform what they’ve slaved over for ages and ages. But initially I didn’t see it that way, when faced with the prospect, I couldn’t think of anything worse… We had to get another actor, someone, anyone… But there was no one available, it had to be me, and in the end I am so glad it was. But it’s made me think a lot about why I didn’t want to do it, and it’s scared me that I was SO against doing something incredibly enriching for my life and career. I had what we call The Fear. Sounds dramatic right? We are actors after all.
But what was I afraid of, and where did it come from? Why was I so ready to walk away from a brilliant opportunity with no real reason. It was a yes opportunity, and I was saying no… Danny Wallace would be very upset… (read Yes Man). It definitely wasn’t other people, in fact everybody was amazing, really amazing. Everyone I talked to encouraged me and said I could do it, and it really is them that I have to thank. If I didn’t have such a close support network, this would never have happened. So it had to have been me, but where does that come from??
I do have a quite a history of not being particularly cool to myself, as detailed here… But there seemed to be something else. A comfort perhaps? But comfort of what? I tried to think… What is LITERALLY THE WORST THING that could happen in this situation? I forget my lines? I break down on stage? I forget my lines and break down? Wet myself? None of these were really going to happen, but even if they did? Hardly life threatening…
I think a part of it was almost being afraid of myself, afraid of what I might feel. I hadn’t performed in over two years and was turning my back on performing, and I suppose there was some kind of feeling of returning to a lover that had jilted me. Did I really want to go back there to be hurt all over again?
I had completely lost my confidence
The crux of it is that I had completely lost my confidence. I just didn’t think I was good enough. As my long suffering (and wonderful), director (love you Sam) will tell you, I literally asked him if I was strong enough as a performer to do the piece. This may sound like dramatic primadonna-ing of highest order, but I genuinely felt it. I guess I was asking so that if it did all fall to shit, I could legit go ‘look, I called it first, and you didn’t listen.’ Such self doubt is so poisonous, and if nothing else comes from this experience (there will actually be loads) it’s that it’s helped me recognise those feelings and allow me to process them appropriately. It’s a terrible Insta-quote worthy cliché that you should do what scares you from time to time, but holy moley it’s true. Not only true, but healthy.
But this isn’t just a big luvvie rant about my triumphant, long anticipated, heralded after, fan-fared, predestined (OK enough…) return to the stage. It’s about confidence, more specifically the lack of, and how we get to that point.
Don’t let the bastards drag you down
Lack of confidence is something we can all relate to, and actually most of us don’t even realise it. I’ve felt quite a lot that there is an overriding sense sometimes, that ‘people’ don’t want you to succeed sometimes… And I use ‘people’ in the absolute broadest sense and ‘you’ as ‘one’, as I have already explained the individuals in my life were my saviours. I guess I feel that sometimes others subconsciously can take you down with their inadequacies, to have you join them on the plain of self depreciation. It’s the whole ‘don’t let the bastards drag you down’ thing. This can be terrible for people like myself who can be susceptible to such attitudes and behaviour. Though, as evidenced, I am getting much better at overcoming this.
But who are the bastards?
Well… Everyone and no one really.
It’s a bit of both, sometimes it’s other people, sometimes it’s yourself. By this I mean defining yourself by how others treat you, which you should NEVER NEVER DO! This also applies very heavily to relationships, but I don’t have the time or space to go in to that now. That’s a another article for another writer.
Sometimes, just sometimes, there’s the person who makes you feel like shit. It might be direct or indirect, but it still happens. This is the moment where you just want to crawl under your duvet and watch everything available on Netflix in a dark room forever because that is all you are good for you insignificant amoeba. But that’s all in your head, it’s not real. It can come from anyone, from your parents, a random in the street, that pigeon that shits on you. The shit doesn’t define us. Literally.
I suppose the point of this is that since doing the play, I have felt those feelings of inadequacy again, and the whole thing seems like a dream, but now I have the recent memory of actually doing it, and doing it well to support me. It’s a strange turn of phrase for someone who isn’t spiritual, but the whole experience has been a gift for me. It’s made me realise what I can do, despite what I occasionally think of myself. When I feel I down, I know that I did it, and will do it again. I’ve got pictures to prove it and everything.
We need to find the rock star in ourselves
Think about rock stars. Who of us hasn’t rocked out playing air guitar to their favourite song, imagining playing to thousands? Guys? Anybody…?Anyway…
Rock stars, like any famous person, make it by chance. Yes, everyone can work incredibly hard, but unfortunately that push to the stratosphere is invariably out our hands, and fame is a monster entirely made of opinion. But look how confident they are! Mick Jagger is 74 and still strutting it like a 20 year old. It’s confidence! That’s 50 years of confidence in action. But there are thousands of Mick Jaggers that never made it, doesn’t mean they CAN’T do it. Just means they haven’t been given, or more importantly, given themselves the opportunity to reach their full potential. To add another cliché to this already cliché ridden article, we need to find the rock star in ourselves. However that manifests itself.
I suppose a lot of what this comes down to, as most things do, is doing it for yourself, and not for others. To do things for validation from others is to be perpetually doomed to failure, as you are placing your happiness and satisfaction in a realm that you have no control over. Not the best option.
It’s very important to point out, this is not about arrogance, or lording it over anyone else. It can be difficult to define, but arrogance is doing something to make people feel small, confidence is doing something to make yourself feel bigger. It’s not about doing anything genuinely dangerous or that could hurt anybody else, it’s about making yourself a better, kinder, more rounded person. I suppose the point of this blog is to be an element of self help. I don’t believe in fate, but definitely feel I hit some sort of crossroads in my life, and left to my own devices, would have definitely taken the path of least resistance. Don’t do that.
When faced with something you think you can’t do, you can, and you will be happy about it. What would Mick do? Don’t let anyone or anything dictate how you define yourself and who you are. Never live in the shadow of ‘what if’… Life is too short for that.