Whether you are working in front of the audience as an actor, or you are backstage as a member of the technical team, creative team or front of house team, self-confidence is a hugely important aspect to working in the theatre. And yet, ask any theatre professional and they will tell you that they are not as outgoing as they may seem. You’ve heard the adage that behind every painted-on clown face there is a sad soul? To some extent that is true of us all.
The Importance Of Self-Confidence in the Theatre
An audience wants to feel safe attending the theatre. They want the cast and crew to exude confidence in what they are doing so that they don’t have to worry about it and can simply enjoy the production at hand. From the moment they step in through the theatre foyer, the audience wants to be greeted by smiling, happy, confident faces. They want us to be enthusiastic and want to share in our success as we confidently present the evening’s entertainment. This is part of the magic of theatre for an audience.
From getting the job of your dreams in the theatre, or being cast in the roles you are going for, self confidence is paramount.
How Can We Define Self-Confidence?
Self-confidence is the driver behind any success. In order to achieve goals and ambitions we all need to have skills, discipline, capability, determination and self-confidence. It is also about clarity in what we are hoping to achieve – and ensuring we have the right skill set to do so. The clearer our ambition and goal, the more focused we become and our confidence grows in being able to succeed increases. It is confidence that is key here – just having the ambition and the skills alone will mean we doubt ourselves too much, and we will never allow the strengths of our work to shine through.
As a young and emerging theatre company, or an aspiring performer, or even as a new theatre technician, we are determined and focused and know what we want to achieve. But as new-comers to the scene, our confidence can wane. The result does not necessarily mean we risk failure, but we certainly will not create the confident environment in which others have faith in what we do.
But we also need to be conscious that being overly confident can come across as cockiness, or arrogance. These are traits that cause many personality conflicts within a theatre company. Once you feel your self-confidence has grown, it is important to understand humility. Being humble is not a weakness, and can actually improve others’ perceptions of your confidence. Developing a reputation as being a reliable confident worker, but with the grace to support others is a valuable asset to your longevity in any career, but is especially important in advancing a career in the performing arts.
The Visibility Factor
Self-confidence, although felt inwards, has an annoying habit of being visible to everyone around us. Confidence can be seen (and as a result measured) simply through observing someone. See how they walk, communicate, work or socialise and you can instantly glean someone’s self-confidence. In a job interview, the very first handshake can indicate levels of confidence. In an audition, the manner in which an actor walks in to the space demonstrates how self-confident the performer really is.
A self-confident person stands miles apart. Decisiveness, commitment to approach, non-drooping shoulders and a genuine smile are common characteristics of a confident person. Confidence is also infectious. A team ‘feels’ the energy exuding from someone who is confident, and they can all feed off this to work towards the shared task. Respect is awarded to the confident person, and the environment around them becomes assured and relaxed.
Confidence is a Two-Way Street
Great things are seldom achieved without necessary confidence. You could have attended the best theatre school, you could have acquired immense technical skills and are proficient in your disciplines. All of this is useless if you have no confidence in yourself.
Imagine working with a theatre director who has low confidence. Having low confidence can become a major barrier to decision making. If a director cannot make the required decisions, the entire company around them will become lost. Low confidence will transfer to everyone working on the show, and nobody will feel secure in what they are doing. The cast will feel uncertain about what they are doing, and the creative and technical teams will feel that they have no single point of direction. Faith in the director will vanish, and the director will find they are soon swept away. Success for everybody on the show relies on a shared confidence, and if one major pivot loses that confidence it can all come tumbling down. As the old saying goes: you must stand for something or you will fall for anything – and it’s your confidence that holds you together or breaks you apart.
Confidence isn’t genetic nor it is hereditary. Nobody is born confident. Confidence is acquired. Confidence is learned. Confidence is improved. Confidence is practiced. And confidence can be generated. You need to first realise the importance of confidence before you can make any efforts to get better with it. It’s very much in your hands to develop a self-confident behaviour. This is where continued experience in mounting theatrical productions and working in these circles becomes important. The more you do, the more you will feel secure in what you are doing, the more your self-confidence will grow.
How Self-Confident Are You? Really?
Self-confidence means different things to different people and different groups. For a child it might mean to be able to recite the poem to her teacher the next morning. For an actor it might mean to be able to perform an audition piece to the best of their ability. For a freelance theatre designer it may be the ability to be able to balance a range of new creative ventures on multiple projects and so on. To execute their respective tasks, these people need a certain level of confidence, which would see them through. Every task requires a minimum level of confidence to be able to be executed. Do you have a task in your mind to be done? Do you have the level of confidence required? Let us check it out…
Following is a simple questionnaire. You have to answer to these in a YES or NO
- Does it happen too often with you that you cannot take a decision all by yourself and you seem to look for your colleagues, friends, or your spouse to sort the matter for you?
- Do you always seem to be in perpetual need of a support system wherein you can feel secure?
- Do you just sit and listen all the times in team meetings rather than contribute?
- Do you feel difficulty in reporting a difficulty to your director or head of department or you have an excellent idea that can improve your team’s efficiency but you cannot muster enough courage to go and talk about it to your line manager?
- Are you terrified to meet someone new?
- Is public speaking your worst nightmare?
- Do you timidly accept orders from your superior even though you know that you are already overloaded and you need to say no?
- Are you excessively concerned about what other people think of you?
- Do you fear taking risks?
- Do you feel dissatisfied about your appearance?
- Are you uncomfortable in social gatherings – being amongst lots of people?
If you happen to answer these questions with a yes, you seem to have a confidence crisis that might become an obstacle in successfully executing your tasks. Don’t Panic! It is good that you found out since now you are aware of a potential problem in your life. The very fact that you are aware of your confidence rating makes you ready to take further action and work towards eliminating the negative effects of low confidence levels and work towards building your self confidence.
Here are some more Yes/No questions you may answer:
- Have you accomplished anything in the past?
- Are you the one to go ahead and break the ice at a new place or wait for someone else to initiate a discussion?
- Do you feel you are well respected by others?
- Do you think you have the potential to succeed?
- Are you a happy and loving person?
- Are you satisfied with your career to date and where it is taking you?
- Are you satisfied with your skills and qualifications?
- Do you feel in control of your life?
- Do you imagine yourself to be more successful five years from now?
- Do you feel that you are a worthwhile person?
If you happen to answer most of these questions with a no, you have LOW self-confidence levels.
However, you need to remember that a YES is never decisive and a NO is never final. You need to constantly reflect on the good points and work towards converting bad points into good points. The good news is that it is very much possible. It’s important that you honestly answer the questions above, since only when you realise the present status of your self-confidence would you be working towards building self-confidence or maintaining and increasing your present levels.
Would you like to be confident? Your answer may be – yes; I do want to be confident. However, this answer is too generic. This is because to actually get somewhere in life, you need to quantify your confidence. You need to define the task for which you need to be confident so that you can execute it successfully. A mere wish to be confident won’t take you anywhere. The dream must have a deadline as well!
Now you understand where your weaknesses lie in your self-confidence you can work towards improving this. Challenge yourself and try to convert your answers above to the positive.
Developing Self-Confidence Helps To Take & Manage Risk
It is said that we all have to take risks to achieve something. There’s no gain without pain, as we’ve all heard. So what is it that enables one person to go ahead and take risks while another is held back? Again, this comes down to levels of confidence. You need to know that you can achieve your tasks, that you are skilled enough to achieve them, and that if you fail in what you are setting out to achieve you can learn from this and grow from this. It’s this belief in oneself that differentiates achievement from failure. It’s sometimes the bald guy who takes the girl because he has something more than the handsome guys around – yes, you guessed it right, he oozes self confidence that makes him irresistibly attractive!
In today’s world of competition, confidence isn’t just an asset. It forms the very basis of your survival. Getting a good job in the theatre means you need to be confident in the interview. Getting the role you desire, again, needs you to be confident at the work you know you can do. The confident ones are the ones who get attention. Attention brings acceptance and acceptance brings love, peace and energy that make you efficient. Efficiency makes you an achiever and achievement makes you even more confident.
And when you are confident, can happiness and riches be far behind? Make sure that you are never out of this magical spiral. Believe in yourself, get going; tell yourself that you have it in you. Because ultimately the person who wins is the person who thinks they can!