Nerves: How to Squish Those Butterflies

I audition often–probably not as often as I should, but that’s not the point. I audition regularly enough, so basically I interview, put myself out on the line, open my heart and soul, through a song or a text to complete strangers with a mere hope that they’ll want and choose me. Insert horrific kick ball team selection moments here–it feels terrible to be picked last, or if in theater, not at all.

At the moment of writing this I’m headed to an audition. It’s a big one for me. I’m on a subway and I’m trying to do breathing exercises and releasing tension in my shoulders and listening to other music–anything that will take my focus away from the flip-flopping in my stomach, the wiggly legs, and the voices in my head.
The thing about ignoring problems is that they always butt their head back in. I’m at a sensitive equilibrium, and any shift in my breathing, my stomach or makes me jolt out of it. I’m at an intermediate level of being able to keep my nerves in check, because I have to do it so often. But I’m not going to lie, sometimes I let the nerves win. I’m staring success in the face and I’m going to let my nerves get to me. Oh. I’ll fight them, but they’ll still win. WHY? Why am I going to let a flip-flopping stomach and some wobbly knees take over and ultimately take away my chance?

Lets break down nerves, in a logical thinking way. Ultimately, nerves are created by fears. If you figure out your fears and face them, they should be easier to conquer. Both LL and I live by the thought that if you look at your fear, figure out the worst-case scenario that the situation could bring and then come to terms with the worst possible, there is no reason to be afraid anymore. For instance: the worst possible situation that could happen in the audition I’m headed to is that I’ll say something completely offensive, look completely unprepared, and not perform perfectly: making a bad impression and leading the people in the room to think I’m unprofessional and untalented. Let me dissect this for you and for me, since it always helps to rationalize out a situation to ground yourself. First, I wouldn’t say anything offensive–I’m more professional than that. Second, I doubt I’ll look unprepared, I looked over this music and audition materials for five hours last night—I’ve got this. Looking like I’m unprofessional and untalented—well, both are perspectives, if you think about it. It’s someone else’s perspective of me—which might book me a job, but is ultimately none of my business what someone else thinks of me. They’ll see me and meet me for maybe 10 minutes, which paired with my resume is enough to give me a job, but not enough to know me. So, what I’m trying to say with all of this is the worst could happen, but I’m prepared enough that it shouldn’t all just explode. And, better yet, no one will die or be harmed in any way.

“Nerves” come from fears. We all know that. I’m nervous because I fear I’m not going to get a role. Actually worse, I’m nervous because I’m afraid I’m not an actress, and I’ve put all of this time, energy, and money into being one. Wait—whaaaaat? I AM an actress. I’ve booked many gigs—some that have actually paid me. So, seemingly my nerves and fears are silly.

So how do you beat them? By continually calling them out for what they are and confirming your status as a fantastic, wonderful, unique, talent in the world.

Here are some steps:

1) When you start to feel the nerves, call them out—hey nerves, you’re just fear.

2) Dig deep and figure out what the root of the fear is: For me and auditions and job interviews, its feeling like I’m not good enough (this is generally the root of all nerves.)

Going on a first date: nervous that they won’t like you (“Not good enough”). Nervous that they aren’t who they say they are (Fear of someone lying to you—which you can’t determine until you get there. But you CAN always leave).

Quitting a job, or telling someone some heavy information: fear that they will hate you forever and will spread it around that you’re a terrible person (sometimes these are really silly reactions. If they hate you forever, well at least your last act was honesty. And if a rumor is spread around that I’m a terrible person for being honest… so be it.)

Traveling nerves are a bit of a different creature, but still, it’s a rare chance that your plane will crash, your suitcase will get lost, you’ll die… just make sure to get insurance and take the precautions you feel will make you more safe.

3) Breathe and talk through that fear, or that worst case scenario. Find a safe place, and a safe person to talk to—this does work best with a friend. I find that talking things out to others, and/or writing them out help get them outside of your body and mind, and therefore are no longer part of you. So talk it out; write it out; GET IT OUT.

4) Understand yourself and your fear—I’m not a therapist and I can’t help you completely work through everything, but I’m sure there is a root of your terror. My theatrical ones are that I’m not good enough to book another job, because I see so many of my friends booking work when I don’t. Well, its just not my time. And my close friends, and mother will tell you I’m insane having these thoughts—I did seven shows in 2014. Already this year I’ve done two play readings, am cast in a show, and am in the process of booking another. It will all be ok. (Just FYI, I didn’t book the original show that inspired this post—on this side of it, I’m totally fine; not crying, berating myself, hating myself, etc. Just moving on to the next.

5) Move on to the next. Or the first. Once you’ve talked through the fear, told yourself that it is silly—yes, please use the verbage “its silly” because really, it IS silly that you don’t feel good enough, or that someone will hate you, or that you’re going to die for doing an every day thing. (If you’re terrified of scaling Mt. Everest, that is something I can’t help you with in this blog. At LCL we can coach you through it—email us at liveclarelesley@gmail.com to get started!!) Now that you’ve said the thing you fear is “silly” see how you feel.

6) Tell yourself that you are wonderful, awesome, courageous, and amazing. If you are not what this particular opportunity needs—GREAT! There will be another one that is BETTER for you, or you’ll understand reasons why you didn’t get this one. Maybe its because you didn’t really want it in the first place!

7) BE OPEN—this is a big one. After you’ve gone and done and got over your silly fear, listen to the world. If you’re looking for a job, tell your friends and listen to what they have to say. If you’re looking to date, get out there and try different opportunities—try joining clubs or groups instead of continually refreshing your Hinge pool. If you were afraid to tell someone big information, look at that relationship and question why you were afraid—is it you or them?

8) Dive back in! Yes, this is kind of part of number 7… but get back out there. The more you try the more you’ll get over the fears and nervousness. I’m nervous about singing auditions, but I’ll go in and give nary a care about reading auditions. I can cold read Shakespeare and you’d think I had it memorized. Because I’ve DONE so many and have achieved more success. The less nervous you are, the better you’ll do. I’ve conducted many job interviews and been on the casting side of theater—most of the time the person is hired because they are confident. Breed confidence!!

9) Check back in with your fears. If you can still tap them easily and call them “silly” then you’re doing great! If they’re still debilitating, you might want some stronger help than a blog!

Good luck! Remember, breathing is the opposite of nerves—if there is plenty of good warm breath in your stomach, there aren’t room for butterflies!

–Clare

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3 thoughts on “Nerves: How to Squish Those Butterflies

  1. Love this! I think butterflies to an extent are a good thing; it confirms that what you are about to do/think/say means something to you. You have enough value put into it that it makes you nervous. That being said, they can be all of the worst sometimes, can’t they? I really like how you called attention to calling out your fears. Let them know that you know they are there and kick those damn things to the curb. You are great and smart and amazing and fantabulous and have no reason to worry.

    P.S. YOU are great and smart and amazing and fantabulous and have no reason to worry, girl! Best of luck on your auditions! And please let me/us know how they go!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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