I had one rather embarrassing moment where the director asked me a question about my choice. He was trying to help me think through it and come to a stronger decision instead of simply telling me, "do this." I knew what he was doing. I'm a director; I know how to prod an actor into thinking. With all my vast experience it should have been very easy for me to take the suggestion he was giving me. Instead I tried to defend myself. I did it with tact, sort of, but it was still an outright defense of my choice. Why did I do that? Not because I was convinced my choice was better. I knew his suggestion would be stronger, and it proved to be so when I ran the same lines with the more decisive action. No, I didn't defend my choice because I believed in it. I defended it because I was embarrassed for having made a mistake (which was not what the director was implying at all). I defended it because I had this overwhelming need to prove what a good actor I am, an actor who never makes any mistakes. The unfortunate truth is that if you are an actor who never makes mistakes it means you are never trying anything interesting. You're a robot on stage mechanically performing the same rote actions, lines, and blocking each rehearsal and every performance.
But I digress. It is because of how often I work with my own actors on these issues that I was able to quickly recognize that I was stifling my ability to be present and respond authentically. This of course sent me through a brief cycle of frustration that I wasn't beyond being self-conscious, fearing mistakes and wanting to impress the world with how amazingly glorious I am. (No, I am neither dramatic nor egotistical, and I am absolutely never sarcastic.)
After a few deep breaths I began to take my own advice. I reminded myself that my worth is not determined on my performance. I don't need to earn acceptance. I don't need to impress anyone. I claimed the truth that I am fully loved, accepted, and worthy in Jesus. Repeating that to myself helped settle me. Then I was able to focus on the people I was acting with, to look forward to developing relationships with them, getting to know them, and working off of them instead of fearing being disliked. As a final step, I was able to exchange the fear of making a mistake for the excitement about the amazing gift God has given me in working with a director who can see my acting in a way I can't and who is there to help me.
I share all this to encourage us actors who struggle with self-consciousness, fear of mistakes, and trying to impress others. It's a battle, and I think it's a re-occurring one. Our temptations as fallen humans is to find acceptance outside of God, which is one of the reasons why I still have to fight against make theatre all about me. (For instance, Players of the Stage is not my theatre. Something I have to remind myself of often.) My soul is still not convinced that I am complete in Jesus. I know it's true, but my heart rebels against resting in that, preferring instead the angst of seeking rest in the approval of man.
This is part of why I love theatre, because it rebukes my desire to find worth in others and my desire to be worshiped by others. I am not able to act well when I am focused on myself. I am not able to worship God well if I am focused on myself, and I am in no way able to love others well when I am more concerned about me than them.
The other day in my Bible reading I read this verse: