How to Defeat Self-Doubt

Photo courtesy: Tertia Van Rensburg

By Marci Liroff

My Los Angeles Audition Bootcamp starts May 16, 23, 30th, 2017. Only a few spots left – sign up here!

I started casting a new film this week. In the days leading up to it, I got extremely anxious. It happens every time I start a project. The loop in my head goes something like this: “I have no idea how to cast this film. They’re all going to find out I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Can you imagine? I’ve been casting for almost four decades and I still have self-doubt.

Once I start the project, within the first morning, I realize I actually do know what I’m doing and I’m very good at it. As the ball starts rolling I immediately recognize the familiar day-to-day back and forth of the casting process.

Since I’m an independent casting director, I don’t keep an office. Like a gypsy, I move to a new space each time I start a project. Perhaps that’s part of the issue; I can’t picture where I’m going to work or who I’m going to work with. Once I get relaxed into my new surroundings, I can marinate on my casting ideas and they start flowing. Like riding a bike, it all comes back very quickly.

Then why the anxiety and self-doubt? I’ve taken great pains to analyze this to try and nip it in the bud. As a perfectionist, I find that that quality can actually work against me sometimes. There are such huge expectations on me when I’m in charge of a project. I’m so swept up in doing everything right that I forget the big picture.

Renowned acting teacher Howard Fine wrote this about self-doubt and insecurity in terms of the acting community. I think it’s a great lesson for us all: “Let me explain the positive benefits of self-doubt. Those who question their talent work harder. The doubt translates to a work ethic. The insecure actor will not take anything for granted. To those of you who feel insecure about your talents, it is your very sensitivity toward life and toward your fellow human beings that is a core part of your talent. You must seek to find balance. It is OK and natural to question your talent. Do not think that this disqualifies you from having a wonderful life and career. In fact, you share the trait with many whose work you admire.”

I agree with Fine on many of his points. What I’ve learned to embrace is that this feeling keeps me humble and keeps me on my toes. I don’t rest on my laurels. I’m constantly pushing myself to be better at my job.

As an actor, you’ve got to exude confidence in your work. Even if you don’t feel it inside, you can act “as if” and it will telegraph. I’ve often cited social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on this topic. Take a look at her video. It’s life-changing.

There’s nothing better than an actor who comes in to audition, who is comfortable in her own skin, and who’s there to “play”; it allows us to relax and feel like we’re in good hands. Confidence is sexy and it’s infectious.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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Am I Worthy?


By Marci Liroff

How do you feel when you’re walking into the audition room? Are you truly feeling confident? Or do you think it’s like the lottery and hope that they “pick me. Just give me the job!” When you’re coming into an audition you have to ask yourself, “Am I worthy?” If you don’t think you are, then you’re not ready and you’re sending the room that signal.

Casting my latest film, I’m seeing several actors walk into the room in a very tentative way. I can almost see the thought bubble over their head: “I’m never gonna get this. I’m so bad at comedy. All the other girls looked like models.” I can tell that they don’t feel like they should be there and we’re going to discover that they’ve been fooling us all along. They don’t deserve it.

Years ago I was casting a pilot that called for a sexy young woman to work in a men’s high-end shave shop. A funny actor we loved came into the room (which included the creator, producer, writer, and director) and blurted out…

“Gosh, I never get these roles. I’m such a tomboy—everybody thinks I have a dick!”

A hush fell over the room for a moment and then we all laughed. She then did the scene with our lead actor and was truly funny. After she left, all the people in the room looked at me questioningly, like, ”Does she really have a dick?!” That’s all they could think about. They obsessed about it for the entire session. In her nervousness and self-deprecating humor, she had planted a seed and now they couldn’t see past it because she truly didn’t believe that she deserved to be there. She had successfully shot herself in the foot.

Some say “fake it till you make it.” In her TED Talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy talks about how body language shapes who you are. She shows how “power posing”—standing in a posture of confidence even when we don’t feel confident—can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain and might even have an impact on our chances for success. In her video, she suggests going into the bathroom before an important meeting and adopting the power pose for a few minutes (think Wonder Woman: hands on hips, legs firmly planted and slightly apart). Hey, even I do it before important meetings with executives. It definitely works!

So much of how you present yourself is in your head. Once the preparation has been done, it’s all about perspective—and this is the good news: You are in control of how you view the audition process. You have the choice of how you’re going to view your audition and how you view it thereafter. Are you going to kick yourself time and time again that you didn’t do what you wanted to do in an audition? Or are you going to learn from it—specifically what went wrong or what sent you off the rails? Are you going to continue to let that voice inside your head tell you you’re no good? Or are you going to master that voice and banish it not only from the room but your head forever? You have this choice. Take back that power.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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