Don’t Bite The Hook
The most powerful words you will ever hear will not be spoken by someone else; they will be the words you tell yourself. Because every action begins with a thought and the mind will believe whatever you tell it, you must select your thoughts carefully. Elizabeth Gilbert, author ofEat Pray Love, wisely states that, “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes everyday. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
Self-talk will determine the direction your life will take. If your predominant thoughts are self-critical, you can unconsciously sabotage your effort and hard work. Starting each day with a malnourished view of yourself is like lugging around a bag of bricks on your back, it makes your journey unnecessarily difficult. Lucky breaks, talent, the best acting coaches and drop-dead gorgeous will not break through the powerful undermining thoughts of, “I’m inadequate, not good enough, and don’t deserve success.” Your journey will be a lot easier when your goals are in sync with your thoughts.
As actors, you face a unique challenge because you continually need to prove yourself again and again. If your thought before an audition is that you will never book the part, you have practically sealed your fate. In such a competitive field, you must give yourself every opportunity to reach your full potential. Take a minute and think about the last audition you went on, or the last encounter you had with someone, can you remember the storyline you were telling yourself? Was it a story of self-denigration or self-admiration? Negative thoughts will sprout bad feelings, which in turn create unhappy experiences. If you’d like to change your circumstances, begin to take a deep, hard look at your thoughts because that’s where everything begins.
Negative self-talk most likely has its roots in your past. It’s worth the time and effort in understanding the origins of your views so they no longer have power over you. Rather than wishing to be rid of these dislikable parts of yourself, bring kindness and understanding to them and their power over you will start to diminish. The poet Rumi saw clearly the relationship between wounds and self-empowerment when he said, “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.” Whether you set out on a road of self-discovery through therapy, the creative arts or mountain climbing, it is a worthy journey which delivers infinite gifts of wisdom and insight. Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance, describes this vital work beautifully, “When we look directly at the bandaged place without denying or avoiding it, we become tender toward our human vulnerability. Our attention allows the light of wisdom and compassion to enter. In this way, times of great suffering can become times of profound spiritual insight and opening. Nearly all of us have faced seasons in our life where everything seemed to be falling apart. At these times, all the beliefs upon which we based our life are torn from their moorings; we thought we understood how to live life but now we feel lost in a stormy sea. As the storm quiets, we begin to see our life with freshness and a striking clarity.”
You don’t have to stay stuck in negative self-thoughts that are rooted in what happened years ago. You deserve more than that. Change can begin when you make a decision that you no longer want to live with negative views of yourself and are willing to do the work necessary to make change happen. You can make the choice to not keep yourself in a prison of self-judgment and criticism.
Here are 3 steps to begin challenging negative mind-chatter:
- Start to become aware of what gets you hooked. For example, as actors, maybe it’s when someone criticizes your performance. You tense up inside and your negative self-talk starts pouring out: “Maybe I just don’t have what it takes to be successful, who do I think I am? Maybe Uncle Joe was right and I should get a steady, reliable job.” Become very familiar with what throws you off balance and the storyline you start to tell yourself. When you become familiar with the hook, you can choose not to bite.
- After you notice that you were just thrown a hook, pause and take three full breaths to slow down the process. This is a powerful moment because you are choosing to be kind towards yourself by not escalating the intensity. Just experience the moment without any struggle, in a very neutral way. Become aware of your body and notice where you feel tension. Do not speak, do not think, just feel the energy in an open, curious way.
- Then relax and move on. Go about your life and let it go. Don’t give it any energy or thought. Bring lightness and humor to all of this, just look at it as an experiment, something you’re going to play around with for a while.
Remember, your thoughts are like a navigation system that will take you towards your destination. Make sure your thoughts and your goals are going in the same direction.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”
– Carl Rogers
Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. She understands the unique demands and challenges of the acting profession because along with her experience as a psychotherapist, she has been a part of the acting community for the past 39 years. This unique combination enables her to have a deeper understanding of the struggles of actors. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice, visit her website. I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Click here for a free brochure on mindful meditation.
I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop.