For those of you who don’t know who said this quote it was Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Theodore served as the 26th president of the United States of America in the years 1901-1909. Scholars rank him as one of the greatest presidents the country has ever had.
But lets not make this into a history lesson now shall we.
Instead lets focus on the words used in this quote and the relevance it has to me and the impact I feel it has on many. Now, belief is such a wide area of topic to focus on and can come in many forms whether that be religious or not. In my case, belief has a lot to do with one’s state of mind and spirit. Believing in something can give you the utmost rush of joy whilst at the same time fill you with thoughts of doubt and worry. When you want something so badly you cant help but be blindsided to the things that matter the most. You’re not always level-headed. I’m sure all of us at some point in our beautiful lives have put so much effort into something all at one time but in reflection, when looking back we realise it wasn’t worth it after all. However in regards to the quote, belief means a whole different thing altogether. Something we all, at some point, have struggled with. And that is believing in oneself.
This is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Sometimes just the inability to progress and move forward puts you in a place where you’re left asking Why? What more can I do? Why isn’t this working for me? Why can’t I just let go? Am I good enough? These are all questions I’ve asked myself and I think every performer has their own set of questions they ask themselves in every class. I feel as though these questions daunt on me mostly in my acting classes. I have always said that this is the discipline I have the least confidence in and this is the one I try my hardest in, in order to get better. Despite the grades I’ve received in the past there’s just something inside of me that knows or rather tells me I’m the worst at this discipline. I guess knowing this is detrimental to my learning as if I keep acknowledging these thoughts and telling myself ‘yeah it is my worst one’ then these feelings aren’t ever going to go away. All I can do is try to flip them around or turn them off. But this is a lot easier said than done. I honestly don’t know why I have these thoughts because I know that I can act. That was meant in the least arrogant way possible, I promise. But for some reason I’m stuck on this cruel cycle that just keeps repeating itself over and over. When you lack self-confidence in anything you do you’re left knowing you could have done more or better. Over time I know this will get easier to manage but, with 3 more years to go I’m ready to keep on fighting and come out on top. A whole load of people experience performance anxiety and sometimes it can be the scariest thing in the world. It stops you from going out there and getting that job you want or experiencing different things and trying something new. You get comfortable, when really you should be throwing yourself out there. It happens in everyday life. We all suffer.
What I will say is that this has gotten a lot easier to manage now that I’m in higher education. Before coming here I said to myself ‘Right. Leave your old worries behind you and step up your game. They’re only going to get in the way in the long run so its best leaving them behind now.’ This is something I have to remind myself on the odd occasion. It’s usually when working towards acting monologues and so forth. Don’t get me wrong I do love acting but I’ve always found myself taking more of a lean towards the theoretical side to the craft. I like to sit out, watch, and give my suggestions. However when I do get these moments of doubt I like to close my eyes, conjure up my ball of stress and worry and panic in my hands and then throw them away. A technique my acting teacher, Abbie Rippon, showed me before starting improvisation lessons back at college. This has stuck with me and I’ve found it really helps. But when I can’t do that, in fear of looking like a psycho in front of my peers around me, I similarly close my eyes, inhale and say to myself in my head ‘Fuck it’ (pardon my french) and get on with doing what I’m doing. This always leads to me doing my best work and its a trick that’s helped me thus far. This sensation makes me feel like I’m flying, soaring across the air. I just forget about looking like a loon and I’m totally in the moment of just doing and creating without really putting too much thought into it. I find that when I over think and over analyse my work starts to plummet. I get myself worked up and it’s not healthy.
Last term we were working on duologues and this was the perfect boxing match for myself and my doubt. But like everything in life, I overcome it. I remember one of my last few rehearsals at Laurie Grove, a few days before my actual assessment. Helen was pushing and pushing and pushing me to find more of a sense of my character. At the time I was confused and lacking in confidence shall I say, but I’m glad she kept at it. She took me by the hands and spiralled with me around the room telling me to close my eyes, it was just me and her; everyone else disappeared, all the while asking me to find my character through my breath – something that was relatively new to me in an acting sense. There was something so magical about this moment that I’m really grateful for. Whilst spiralling there were, for a brief moment, glimpses of me just letting go and being free almost. It felt like I was teleported to a room where everything was white and serene. It was like being in a meadow full of daisies and greenery being 5-years-old again playing without a care in the world. I was lost but in a good way and when she finally let go of my hands allowing me to find my feet and embody the character through my senses, text and physicality I found it really helped me get to know this person and become him. This was another of those ‘fuck it’ moments but without my mantra so to speak. My mind was calm and at peace and I just went with it. It was beautiful. To me anyways. Whilst this may not work for you, it certainly worked for me.
You’re probably thinking I’m a nutter right?
What I’m really trying to get at is, just have the faith to say ‘yes I can do this’ and go with it. Let go of all inhibitions prior to that moment and leave them at the door. Having someone who believes in you even when you don’t always believe in yourself shouldn’t ever be disregarded. Thank that person. So Helen, if you’re ever reading this thank you. But when you do finally believe in yourself, like I did 5 minutes before my call, you’re already halfway there. What is left is the trust in yourself to know that the hard work and commitment you’ve put into this piece for weeks pays off. Like with anything in life, you have the power to shape your future, if you don’t take the risks and you don’t believe in what you can do, you’ll never get the chance to fly. It has to come from within. Its inside of us all. You can do it.
Yes, that is me and yes I am flying..