In any part of life, doubting yourself is inevitable.
From working for a promotion to applying for colleges, there’s a point where you stop and ask yourself: Am I sure that I can do this? Even the most confident people have these moments of doubt, whether they realize it or not. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most common feelings in the world. And when you’re working in the arts? That feeling multiplies by ten at every email with an audition or job opening, thinking of the hundreds of others who probably received the exact same email. It may not help having the “starving artist” reputation that surrounds our decisions either.
As an eighteen year old, I’ve obviously thought that I’ve had it all figured out. Since I was nine years old, I’ve known that theatre is my passion; it’s my entire life. From the moment I took my first bow in Willy Wonka Jr. (the proudest Oompa Loompa #2 one could be), I was certain that this was the path I would choose. I went through school taking every opportunity that was possible to be in a show, whether on the stage or in the wings. I worked hard for my 3.7 GPA and took dual credit classes along with working in the theater. I slipped up from time to time, but my passion never left me. That was, until senior year rolled around and life after high school started to become real.
There’s a certain stigma that comes with wanting a BA in the arts, and as an incoming freshman at East Tennessee State University with a plan to major in Theatre, I’ve had my fair share of momentary lapses of judgment. What if I’m not good enough? What if I’ll never find a job? What if I find out this isn’t what I want to do after all? But the moment you take to remember why you’re doing this in the first place helps wash all of that worrying away.
So, in these times of trouble, here is something that might help when you doubt yourself.
First of all, breathe. We need to do this to live, so if you don’t, how are you going to eventually get those tickets to see your favorite show on Broadway? Breathing is important when any intense emotions that show their face, especially when they’re negative. Make sure to not get yourself worked up over all of these overwhelming questions. They are just what ifs; these types of doubts are the worst to handle. So, breathe and relax. If you can, focus on something that will make these thoughts go from the forefront of your mind to the back.
Take yourself back to the first time you realized that this is what you wanted to do. You know the one that I’m talking about; the moment when your heart felt like it just started to beat for the first time, goosebumps all over your arms, and a warm sensation spreading to your toes. It suddenly felt like everything was right in the world, a feeling you wanted to feel every day you walk on this Earth. Maybe you cried. (I know I did.) Maybe you didn’t realize that moment until now, but everyone has one. It could be minimal or monumental; it’s different for everyone. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it means something to you.
Remember: you are doing this because you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else. You are a part of something so much bigger than yourself that you may not even realize it. I doubt the 2009 touring cast of Wicked remembers the little girl in the orchestra pit that held her breath as she wished herself up on that stage with them. But I remember, and I will never forget. And there are so many other kids out there who have had that same experience at other shows, and you (yes, you) are probably one of them too. You’re not doing this for money and fame, because we all know we would be much better off doing literally anything else. We’re doing it because we have to. It’s that simple.
So, you’re breathing? Check. Nostalgic? Check. Now, for the most important part.
Do something. Pick up a play, put headphones in and listen to your favorite musical, or listen to one you’ve never heard of before. Reorganize your playbill stack, make a Pinterest board for your favorite shows, or watch Youtube videos of interviews with other actors. Don’t listen to deep-rooted fear that has been instilled in you for your whole life, telling you that you can’t make it in the arts. Look for auditions, practice your monologues, sing your cuts, just do something that gives you goosebumps because that’s what theatre does. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
And if you’re really doubting yourself, just log on to Lin Manuel Miranda’s twitter. If you don’t believe a random girl on the Internet, you’ll surely believe one of the greatest playwrights/lyricists/genuine human beings of all time telling you, “You are perfectly cast in your life. I can’t imagine anyone but you in the role. Go play.”
Shelby Tyler is an incoming theatre major at East Tennessee State University with a love for writing, random acts of kindness, and the 2017 Broadway musical, Amelie. You can find her Twitter here.