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"The aroma of fresh paint, dusty plywood, and intoxicating hairspray gives me the chills of past adrenalin rushes. This is the electrifying scent of the theatre."
Let me begin by stating the obvious: Humanity is inherently foolish and ridiculous. Even some of the greatest icons throughout history weren't completely perfect (no shit, Sherlock. Nobody is). But the past few generations have put extreme pressure on themselves by thinking that a confident person is someone who can easily throw themselves into a crowd, leave a good impression, and never compromise their dignity. These are false perceptions. You don't have to be the most flawless, the most likable, or the most dignified person to be seen as confident. In fact, those beliefs work against the very nature of it.
So, what exactly does it take to be confident? Let's go through some of these key lessons that I learned when I was involved in theatre.
1. Letting Go of Inhibitions
On the first day of my musical theatre class, my teacher instructed us (a group of 12 students) to get into character by just walking around the room...aimlessly. All of us were awkward, middle-school aged kids, at the time. What were we supposed to do? After five minutes of painfully silent, tense wandering, something happened... One of the students got on all fours and began to bark like a dog. She actually went up to other students and sniffed them. After she started doing this, other students became more comfortable. Another student danced throughout the room like a ballerina. One kid assumed the role of a crippled, old man. Soon, the class transformed into a diverse display of unique characters. I chose the classic, English gentleman—bowing to the ladies, tipping my hat, and waltzing around in an exaggerated manner. All it took was one person to act absolutely ridiculous in order to encourage everyone else to do the same.
This was the first step of stage acting. You had to accept the inevitable silliness and let go of your insecurities. Let your guard down, and others will let theirs down. It's not easy. It takes some warming up. But this lesson can be practiced. Confidence is the fearless acceptance of your own ridiculousness.
2. Blocking Judgment
Of course, it's important to be open to constructive criticism. However, most people have an irrational fear of judgment in everyday life. "What if I say the wrong thing to this person? What if I leave a bad impression? What if they think I'm weird?" I get it. But you have to simply accept that not everyone is going to like you. You'll have friends, you'll have enemies. That's life. But you have to block that fear of judgment and open up to those around you in an honest way.
If you've met anyone who was involved in Drama, you'll know that these people are very in touch with their emotions. And often, they're very honest with others--almost in an uncomfortable manner. There was one girl in my class that randomly asked me, "What did you dream about last night?" After telling her my rather boring dream about indulging in a Big Mac, she said, "I keep having dreams about dancing naked on top of a building to ABBA." She got a hard-bellied laugh out of me, and I was astonished by her honesty. She really didn't care about whether I'd find her strange or not. I would describe this as unapologetic truth. Confident people say what they mean and mean what they say while being unafraid of judgment. And if they receive a nasty comment, it rolls off them like water off a duck's back.
3. Dismissal of Dignity
This is the greatest lesson I learned from theatre. Never take yourself too seriously. Yes, there were more than a few theatre kids who put themselves under a lot of pressure, thinking that they had to be perfect. And they suffered because of it. Other drama students were more relaxed, and their line deliveries and dance routines seemed effortless because of that. Why? They knew that they would make mistakes. They knew that there would be a time when they would have to improvise. And they weren't afraid of humiliation or ridicule. To them, those things simply didn't exist.
During my first play in front of an audience, one of the actors missed their cue to come on stage. He was very, very late. A moment like that can make or break a performance. There we were, three people in the spotlight, standing in awkward silence. Then, one of the actors asked me in front of the auditorium of strangers, "So, how was the funeral, darling?"
Quick to go with the situation, I answered, "Just like every funeral, my dear. It was rather stiff."
To my surprise, the audience erupted into laughter. And we continued to improvise until the late actor stumbled onto the stage. The play commenced without any more delays. But that moment of improvisation left a lasting impression on the audience. Many of them said it was the best part of the production. I was amazed! Even though that entire situation was filled with corny jokes and ridiculous mannerisms, we let go of our dignity to keep the audience entertained. And it worked! Confident people know that there will be times when they have to act quickly and go "off-script." You can't be composed and wound as tight as a Swiss-made watch all the time. Dismissing your dignity allows you to go with the flow and make the best of a potentially disastrous situation. Imperfection is, in fact, endearing. It makes you seem more down-to-earth and comfortable with yourself.
I will never forget the lessons I learned from theatre. I stepped into that world as a shy, insecure preteen and emerged an outgoing, young adult. Practice these lessons, and you'll feel much more comfortable with whatever life throws at you.
"Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her."
I hope you learned something valuable from this article. If you did, please send me some love by giving me a tip! Share this article with your friends! Thank you so much for reading!