“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
That is probably the most famous quote of the twentieth century. It was proclaimed by president Franklin Roosevelt at the beginning of World War II. Never were truer words spoken.
Fear has been described as an acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real. Translated, fear is the result of the unknown or perceived. Giving into fear creates a roadblock to any and all goals.
Fear surfaces our insecurities: What if Iʼm not good enough? What if I fail? What if there are others better than I am? What if I donʼt have talent? What if…?
Letʼs eliminate from this exploration of fear the words “What if.”
We are all aware of the speed at, which a child learns. During itʼs early years a child is fearless–nothing is impossible. That eventually begins to change. For example, nothing develops fear in an adolescent faster than the belief he will be ridiculed or laughed at by peers.
The older we get the more we realize that fear immobilizes us. Learned or perceived fears of making fools of ourselves, fear of success or failure, of inadequacies and others keep us from our dreams.
(Because my main interest is those who dreams involve a show-biz career, I will focus my attention on those individuals. However, everyone can learn from the following.)
Letʼs confront a possible fear: “Am I good enough?”
If this is one of your fears ask yourself this question: Am I spending too much time processing my feelings of inadequacy and not enough time developing my skills of adequacy? If you have a low opinion of yourself as a craftsperson, do whatever is necessary to change that opinion. If you donʼt know enough about your craft, learn more. Put yourself out on the limb.
A Tony award winning actor, Michael Jeter, when asked about his successful career, said “I never go out onto the limb. I go out onto the twigs.”
Believe me there is more pain in never having tried than falling on your face occasionally. Numbness is the result of not trying. Not feeling or experiencing life because you cut yourself off from what you want the most.
The great Robert Schuller said, “If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been.”
Be aware if one of your fears is the opinions of others. You know who these people are. They are your family, friends, peer groups, even strangers. No one has the right to have power over you, your thoughts, and your dreams.
There is a story attributed to the painter Rossini, which begins with his visit to an art gallery. The dealer showed him around the gallery introducing the master to many up-and-coming artists. Not being particularly impressed when the tour was over,
Rossini asked the proprietor if he had any other painting in the rear of the Gallery. The proprietor led Rossini into a large storage area. Rossini was drawn to a stack of paintings leaning against the far wall. He headed to the paintings. He had to turn each around as the proprietor had placed the paintings so the front of the paintings faced the wall. Rossini’s eyes lit up as he turned over one magniﬁcent painting after another. Enthusiastically, he asked the name of this talented artist who so excited him.
The dealer admitted they were his own. He had painted them forty years earlier. He had never painted since that time. “Why,” Rossini asked. The proprietor responded that critics had convinced him he wasnʼt very good. He believed what they had said, and never painted again. With tears in his eyes the art dealer asked, “Where were you forty years ago when I needed you?”
My feeling is that yes, it is wonderful when we are encouraged. The art dealer loved his profession enough to stay in the ﬁeld: he opened an art gallery. However, had he listened to his heart he would have spent his life doing what he loved, encouraging himself despite the opinions of others.
The great dancer, Martha Graham, once said, “If you block your unique expression it will never exist and be lost. The world will never have it.”
Will you go through life free of fear and anxiety? Of course not. As actors we know it is impossible to enter onto a stage with tension and expect to do even passable work. Tension limits the ﬂow of creativity.
I teach if itʼs true in acting itʼs true in life. You canʼtlive life at it best and fullest with tension which is the result of fear. It is important to learn the difference between nerves, butterﬂies, and tension. The butterﬂies we feel are energy producing, which can get you moving and create excitement. Your enemy fear, on the other hand, creates tensions which closes off your creative juices and leads to inertia.
Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren says, “Fear can sometimes stop you from doing stupid things. But it can also stop you from doing creative, or exciting, or experimental things. The control and understanding of our personal fears is one of the most important undertakings in our life.”
Donʼt be afraid that who and what you are isnʼt enough. Is one of your fears your physical appearance? In the business of show the question of being the right look and age frequently arises. It is true that beauty is an important part of the business. We like to look upon that which is attractive.
I mention in my book, Beyond the Moon, the ﬁlm “The Bostonians.” The movie starred ﬁve actresses: Vanessa Redgrave, JessicaTandy, Nancy Marchand, Linda Hunt, and Madeleine Stowe. One actress was very tiny, one was quite tall, one was elderly, two were middle aged, one was young, some were plump, while others thin. There is no one thing physically you have to be in the craft of acting and donʼt let anyone tell you otherwise. You are enough just as you are. Now develop your craft and become great at what you do.
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Steven Spielberg says, “Acting is about courage.”
To overcome fear, you must let it go. A butterﬂy in a cocoon knows, when the time comes to ﬂy, it must let the cocoon go…can you imagine the butterfly dragging the cocoon around? Let go of the past. Let go of false ideas. Let go of what people think. Let go of statistics.
Understand that success is not a station at which we arrive, but rather, it is away of traveling. We think of success as the end of the road, instead of knowing it to be the process that leads us down the road. We can fear making mistakes, but we must learn that what appear to be mistakes are actually steps forward, and we can step over them. But, if you let mistakes become road blocks, you will never get anywhere.
Many of todays successful youth get it. Taylor Swift shares this bit of wisdom: “Fearless is living in spite of the things that scare you to death.”