I have a fear. I suffer from stage fright. I always have. My mother has forever said it takes me a while to settle into any situation. Many would be surprised to learn of this fear considering I’ve spent my entire adult life around radio and television, but alas this fear exists. In the end, it all boils down to one simple thing…I have a fear of rejection.
The other day I was reading a blog post from my friend Brian Haymond. He was talking about his fear of live VO sessions. Brian and I have spoken about this before, and I always found it funny. Why would someone as talented and charismatic as Brian fear having someone listen to him perform? Then I turned a similar question on myself.
What about the stage and auditioning for voice acting jobs cause me to be nervous? The answer is that I worry I am ‘not good enough’. 10 years ago, my then agent told me I would book on an average of 1 out of every 50 auditions. Recently, I read that statistic was now 1 out of every 400. I’m not sure which is accurate, or if either of them are, but the point is simple…actors hear the word ‘no’ A LOT. A WHOLE DING DANG LOT! Being told ‘no’ 399 times in a row can force you to question yourself and your abilities.
So, how to conquer a fear of rejection or a fear of not succeeding? As we all know, one must always confront their fears head on. Brian is getting over his mild phobia with help from his friends like Bob Souer. As for myself, a few weeks ago I decided to take a theatre class. In my first performance, I had to stand in front of the class and fold laundry as though no one were watching me. It forced me to confront my physiological responses to nerves. I had to control my pounding heart and shaking hands all while doing a very mundane task in front of an audience. A wonderful exercise everyone should try once! Our instructor, Martin, explained that we must all find a way to control the physical as well as the mental involuntary responses. There is not a single solution for all; we must each find the solution for ourselves.
I’ve been trying a few new techniques to calm my nerves. The first is my new mantra, ‘what is the worst that can happen?’ Truly think about this. If I don’t book an audition, so what? Maybe I’ll book the next one, or maybe that client will decide to use me for another project. I’ve been able to pay my bills every month since starting VO full-time, so I know I won’t go hungry. Plus, my family will love me the same if I book 5 jobs a day, or zero jobs in a year.
My next technique is to breathe deeply. My body has a very definite physiological response to nerves. The muscles in my chest tighten making my breathing shallow and causing my hands to tremble. If I take several deep breaths and shake out my hands, this helps tremendously. Plus, they say it is good for your overall well being to breathe deeply several times a day.
We will all have to deal with fear and nerves throughout our entire lives. How we respond to them is what truly matters. Take a moment to consider your own fear. What is at the root of that fear…money, health, rejection? If you can identify your fear, you can begin to control it. The best actors find ways to use their fears to their advantage. So, what can you do with yours?
Finally, it is important to remember Rome wasn’t built in one day. It will take repeated confrontations to truly conquer your fear. However, if it is your life’s passion at stake, then it is worth overcoming any obstacle.
As a side note, I'd like to thank all of our Veterans and armed forces currently serving at home and abroad. We celebrate YOU this Veterans' Day for your hard work and continued sacrifice.