Everything I know about fear, I learned from acting class


In June 2008, I audited an acting class in Toronto.

Little did I know that it was about to transform my life.

When I first started out, I thought I had a good idea fo what “acting” was all about: you memorize lines from a script then act it out in front of a camera, you get to pretend to be someone else… doesn’t sound too difficult, right?

Within the first three months of being in that class, my views and ideas of “acting” were completely thrown out the door.

It’s as if I entered this whole other world where everyone was being challenged and pushed to their limits – people would be crying (with either joy or sadness), yelling in rage, standing in deathly silence.

It was like Fight Club – only the real fights happening were the battles we actors were having with our egos.

Our egos that were the ones being challenged with every scene as we lived the life of a different character every week. (You can bet my acting coach/mentor challenged us to the core by giving us characters who aren’t even close to who we are in real life). So each week, was a battle to face our fears.

As someone who was very shy and introverted, this completely kicked me out of my comfort zone.

I had to confront parts of myself I had either avoided most of my life or had never encountered before (for example, a 40-year old angry wife from Dogville or the character of Selby from Monster).

It was downright scary to live the lives of characters who I couldn’t fully understand at the beginning.

Every week for the next three years I was at my own “gym” where I’d workout my courage muscles so I can push through my fears.

I struggled (a lot).
I felt really uncomfortable (almost always).
I felt like quitting, giving up and running away (plenty of times).
I felt like I wasn’t going to make it.

But the most surprising thing was…. I pushed through it. Nothing awful happened afterwards.

And I learned that when you push through your fears, you’ll always find some sort of reward for your bravery. {click to tweet}

In my case, it would be finding the character. In other scenarios, it can mean: gaining new clients that month, selling out your program/workshop, ending relationships that no longer serve you, finding the love of your life…

What I’ve learned about fear

Lesson #1: You can’t get rid of fear, but you can push it away when it latches onto you.
Fear has helped us survive , it has kept us alive throughout history. But we live in a different society now with plenty of advancements – our ancestors had a much more difficult task of surviving.

Nowadays, society seems to feed our fears because it would make it easier for them to control us. Our society doesn’t want us to change or grow.

So you’ll need a lot of courage to push fear away and break through the “walls” put up against you.

It’s courage  that will move you towards taking action. Unless you start taking action, nothing will happen. Nothing will change.

If you try to get rid of fear, all you’ll do is paralyze yourself. You’ll stay stuck and you’ll be waiting for something that will never happen.

Lesson #2: Everybody is scared of something. Every single person.
This should be comforting. You’re not alone! We’re all insecure, we’re all terrified of losing our loved ones/jobs/money/security/pets/you name it.

This is what makes us human.

It’s now up to us in how we handle our fears – some will deny it, some will confront it.

Should we remain to play safe, or do we try  to change our situation?

What to do instead

Tip #1: Turn your fear into excitement.

That nervousness you feel – you can control that. Which would you rather have?

Spin your fear around and turn it into excitement. Think of the positive benefits/rewards you’ll get if you follow through with that particular thing that scares you.  (Thinking back to your big WHY can also help you with this)

Tip #2: Play! Tap into your inner child

When you were young, your imagination was on fire! You had no problem pretending you were the queen of an entire country or a powerful robot who needs to save the world.

Children are fearless and playful – if they’re compelled to ask, say, or do something, they’ll do it without over-thinking the situation. They don’t spend hours thinking of what can go wrong, they imagine all the possibilities that can happen!

So next time your fear creeps up on you, channel your inner child – what would s/he do in this situation?

Tip #3: Give yourself permission to break the rules

Our society thrives on giving us formulas and structures to follow. But sometimes, especially if you’re an artist or an entrepreneur, you have to branch out and do things in your own unique way.

Every single person will have a different journey to get from Point A to Point B.

If you notice that everybody in your field/niche/industry/city/demographic continues to do everything the exact same way, this is a perfect opportunity for you to break the “rules”.

Give yourself permission to put more of YOU into your work.

If you’re scared to do a particular thing, brainstorm ways you can do it differently while still getting what you want/need as a result.

Tip #4: Take an improv class or an acting class

Even if you don’t have any aspirations of being an actor or a comedian, taking one of these classes will help you deal with fear in a different way. You’ll be challenged to step out of your comfort zone, but in a safe and playful environment.

One important skill you’ll learn in these classes: learning how to trust yourself – to follow your impulse (or gut) and commit to that action.

Tip #5: Find yourself a coach/mentor

I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. If it weren’t for my acting coach, I never would have experienced the breakthroughs I had with my acting – and in all the other areas in my life.

By learning to be more courageous in acting, I learned to do the same with everything else in my life.

What you learn from having a coach/mentor can be applied to help you deal with other situations you face in life.

You can definitely practice courage on your own, but having someone else help you with this has great benefits: they aren’t inside your head so they can see what you can’t see, they’ll hold you accountable, they see past your excuses and won’t let you get away with it, and they’ll challenge you beyond your limits so you can grow.

You shouldn’t have to go through this alone. So get out there and start finding a mentor who would be the best fit for you.

How would you find these mentors? Start by asking those you already know and see if they can recommend anyone for you.

Get out of your own way.

You are more than capable of pushing through whatever barriers are stopping you from achieving your goals.

Nothing will ever happen if you continue to play safe and stay in your comfort zone.

Take the leap and go for it.

Whatever you’re looking for will be waiting for you once you push through your fears.



photo credit: Mait Jüriado via photopin cc

  • carol@thebrightbox

    I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today. Thank you for writing this and helping me to deal with the fear I’ve been facing all week xo

  • http://biancafiloteo.com Bianca Filoteo

    Hi Carol, I’m glad this post helped you out today! Whatever it is that you’ve been facing this week, I know you can break through it :) Keep visualizing the positive results you’ll have if you were to bypass your fear.

  • Tina Pruitt

    Love this post Bianca! So, so many great points here. So right about tapping into the inner child…how fearless she is!! And Get Out Of Your Own Way….yep, this is a biggie for me….

    Also, my fav I think is: when you push through your fears, you’ll always find some sort of reward for your bravery.

    AWESOME! Thanks!

  • Karen Christensen

    You have NO idea how much I love this post AND how much it resonates with me. My first professional life was acting in TV and FIlM way back when in my late teens/early twenties. I’ll never forget my first acting class in Los Angeles. It was a sense memory, method, class and I thought everyone had just about lost their mind. What I came to soon experience and appreciate is that they did, in fact, lose their mind. Through the 5 senses work we were able to be fully present and “lose” our monkey minds that told us we were too heavy, too ugly, too stupid, too worthless to be seen; to be heard. Very quickly I looked at this quacky class as my best kept secret. It was the place where I could finally be the real me, the full me, even if it was as some other character. Strange but true. I love what you said about “getting out of your own way.” That’s EXACTLY what my acting classes, auditions, and work on set allowed me to do. Thanx for sharing your experience. Fantastic insights and reflections. ; )

  • Megan Flatt

    What a great story and tips! I especially liked lesson #2, that everyone is scared of something. I think it is so easy to think everyone else has “it” figured out, what ever it is. But really we all have our own struggles and fears. This is SUCH a good reminder! Thank you!

  • Renee E. Pena

    I have to start that I loved your piece. “Battles we actors were having with our egos.” That is the truth! The fight is usually with ourselves and what we think what others have to say about us. I love how you present the connection. The tip that I think that I will work on is giving myself permission to play by breaking my rules that work should come first. :)

  • Christine

    Great post, loved the Lessons and the Tips. Lately I have been a lot better at telling myself that I make the rules for me and my business, and it feels so good! Now I just have to turn that other fears into excitement!

  • Sarah Yost

    I love that you called this your gym. That’s exactly how I view business. And I can totally see how acting would prepare you for this. It sounds terrifying to me. :)

  • Loralee

    I absolutely adore how you pull out the lessons & provide clear concise tips on how to be with your fear. I know so many people who still want to break through fear, or conquer it. I’ve made every attempt to be it’s friend. I’m pretty sure it will be with me for the rest of my life, so sometimes I just make deals with my fear, that I’m not going to do this terrifying thing for long (maybe a day or 2 – or even a month – but certainly not forever) and it seems to work. I feel a bit stronger each time, and even get to laugh when people tell me how brave I am. I’m not. Hardly brave. And I’m okay with it. Great post.

  • http://biancafiloteo.com Bianca Filoteo

    Thanks, Tina! And yes, our inner child is fearless and can hold some of the answers we’ve been looking for ;)

  • http://biancafiloteo.com Bianca Filoteo

    Karen, thanks so much for your comment! <3 I'm glad it resonated with you.

    That acting class sounds great! To others it may seem like we're losing our mind, but I actually think we're getting back in touch with who we really are – which is something that most of society tries to avoid. I love challenging myself to work all 5 senses and you're right: it totally helps us stay present!

  • http://biancafiloteo.com Bianca Filoteo

    Yes, break the rules, Renee! Have fun and see what you can make with your creativity.

  • http://biancafiloteo.com Bianca Filoteo

    Thanks, Christine! Being the rule maker makes it a lot more exciting, doesn’t it? ;)

  • http://biancafiloteo.com Bianca Filoteo

    It IS terrifying, Sarah ;) Sometimes I wonder how I got myself there haha But lots of lessons learned during those experiences, so I’m grateful for that. And yes, having our own businesses is one of the greatest workouts for personal development. Truly tests us ;)

  • http://biancafiloteo.com Bianca Filoteo

    Thanks, Megan! Glad you enjoyed it :) I have to remind myself of that, too, especially when I get too caught up in trying too hard to figure something out. Taking a step back and just remembering that we’re all figuring things out can help with our sanity ;)

  • http://biancafiloteo.com Bianca Filoteo

    Thanks, Loralee! It will be with you for the rest of your life, but instead of dreading that, try and work with it. Like how you make deals with Fear (great tactic ;) And you ARE brave, Loralee! Don’t underestimate yourself! <3

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