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.
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.