Self-Love or Self-Loathing
Imagine someone whispering in your ear, “Your greatest performances are within you right now.” What would your response be? Would you doubt it? Or would you say, “Yes, I know, thank you.” Most people don’t understand the importance of working on their self-belief. Instead, they spend lots of time trying to convince others to believe in them. That can leave you feeling powerless, exhausted and empty inside. Thinking you have to be perfect in order to be accepted can lead you to excessive self-criticism and not enough recognition of your wins. Long-term studies show, negative self-talk is associated with higher stress levels and depression. These bad habits make life harder than it needs to be. And, isn’t the acting profession tough enough? If you’re ready, you can ignite a positive transformation. Don’t wait for the outside circumstances to change. Start fresh, right now, by stopping chronic negative self-talk. Begin to build a positive relationship with yourself and you’ll walk through life less affected by what others think of you.
Authentic confidence, at its core, is simply knowing who you are and liking yourself. That’s it. It’s not having the world fall in love with you, parading a perfect face and body or morphing into Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. No amount of success on the outside will create feelings of genuine self-worth on the inside. I’m talking about dependable, relentless, self-worth that doesn’t get shaken when you hit bumps in the road and doesn’t disappear when you fall on your face. It means learning how to stick with yourself as if you are your own best friend. Oh, it’s easy to like yourself when you’re having a good hair day. But, more importantly, can you like yourself when you put on a few extra pounds? Screw up an audition? Say the wrong thing at the wrong time? Lasting confidence doesn’t come from trying to be perfect, it comes from unconditional self-acceptance. Which road are you on; the road to self-love or the road to self-loathing?
Self-belief takes practice. It doesn’t come naturally for most people who grew up hearing criticism instead of compliments. And, especially for those who were taught that love and acceptance only comes with accomplishment. Those beliefs turn you into a human doing, always working hard trying to please others so you can feel accepted. In order to live a fuller, happier life in the present, start untangling yourself from the past. Stop replaying those harmful, negative stories from long ago. Break the chronic negative self-talk habit! Stop repeating negative thoughts such as: You’re not talented, you don’t have what it takes, you’re not smart enough, or why can’t you be like so-and-so down the block. Those words don’t feed your soul, they poison it. If there is one small thing you can do right now that will make a big difference in how you feel about yourself, it is to become aware of your negative self-talk and stop it dead in its tracks. Start to think about what you’re thinking. For those die-hard self-criticizers, who are thinking, “Well, this sounds like an excuse to let yourself off the hook, be lazy,” —wrong. Set goals, but don’t tie your self-worth to them. It’s healthy to have goals, be responsible, work hard and strive towards being your best. But, it’s harmful to beat yourself up in the process. You can get where you are going a lot faster with self-kindness.
Here’ s what self-kindness can look like. You scrambled to an audition and unfortunately, got nervous and forgot your lines. Negative self-talkers think, “I’m such a screw up!” Positive self-talkers think, “Okay, that felt horrible, I need to look at what happened so it doesn’t happen again.” See the difference? One says, I am a mess, the other says, I did something messed up. When you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean you are a mistake. You’re more than one messed up audition. Right? Of course right.
Here are some simple steps to stop negative behavior from getting in the way of self-belief:
- Make awareness a priority. Be on a mission to use every opportunity to know yourself better. Become aware of why you think the way you do. Change happens from self-understanding. You can’t change it until you understand it.
- Strive towards being the best version of yourself. When you are not happy with what you did, know it is not the final version. Remember there are numerous more versions inside you waiting to happen.
- Be mindful of what you are thinking. When you find yourself caught in a negative self-talk loop: stop, take three mindful breaths, feel happy you were able to catch yourself and gently say, “NOT NOW,” to the negative thoughts. Learning mindful meditation is a wonderful way to practice awareness and learn how to let go.
- Embrace Your Imperfections, it will reduce stress and feel freeing to not hold yourself to ridiculously high standards. Perfectionism is destructive. Happy, successful people attribute their success to having the willingness to mess up and move on, not to being perfect.
It’s never too late to begin again and rewrite your story no matter what your beginnings looked like. As a therapist, I have seen the most miraculous changes in courageous people who had difficult starts in life. They simply made a decision to be happy because some part of them felt they deserved it.
This beautiful little story highlights the power of self-belief:
“I’m not old enough to play baseball or football. I’m not eight yet. My mom told me when you start baseball, you aren’t going to be able to run that fast because you had an operation. I told Mom I wouldn’t need to run that fast. When I play baseball, I’ll just hit them out of the park. Then I’ll be able to walk.”
~Edward J. McGrath, Jr.
Bonnie’s forthcoming book,”Life Skills for the Actor: How to Develop Real Resilience and Long-lasting Happiness in a Tough Business,” will be published in 2014.
Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. One of her specialties is working with artists in the Entertainment Industry. 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. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.