Well, as much of a conversation as a blog post allows. To be clear, inhibitions are not the same thing as common sense. Common sense is the interior voice that says, “Immortalizing your special parts in quick-drying plaster after having just gotten a Brazilian bikini wax and an hour before your mom and dad are due to arrive for dinner, is a bad idea.” Inhibition is what stops you from busting the “running man” at your niece’s wedding reception, even after you’ve been practicing for two and a half weeks.
Actors have fewer inhibitions than the average person does. We have to be less inhibited to be able to do what we’re asked to do. Frequently we are tasked with roles and situations so far away from our own personal comfort zone that toilets flush in a different direction. Nevertheless, we do it. As scary and nerve-wracking as it may be, we do it. We hurl ourselves over the line of inhibition, knowing full well that we may fall, crash, stumble, fart or fuck-up completely. But, we do it. “Why,” you might ask? The answer is simply this: because we can see the other side and it’s a thing of beauty. Yes, bad terrible things might happen, people might laugh (and not in a good way), but dear God, when it works, IT WORKS! And THAT, is what propels actors forward.
In my classes and seminars, we discuss inhibitions as length. I know the people I’m speaking with are not actors. I know it’s more difficult for them to examine their inhibitions. We talk about “Evaluation Apprehension.” It’s the fear of being judged and found wanting. Evaluation Apprehension increases exponentially with the numbers of eyeballs on you. You might be able to twerk your ass off in your living room in front of your kid, but out on a dance floor with actual people watching, the situation suddenly becomes akin to being a Christian catnip toy in the Coliseum. I feel your pain. Once, after a 7th grade choral performance, it was my job to give the teacher a bouquet of flowers and to express our thanks. The moment I stepped off the riser and realized the entire auditorium was looking at ME, I froze. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t think, I didn’t know my own name. And so, I did what anyone in that situation would do – I threw the flowers at the teacher, ran off stage and promptly vomited all over my new shoes. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be an actor.
How do you overcome the fear of speaking in front of people? By doing the thing that scares you. By putting one toe, even a small one, over the line of inhibition. Doing that enables you to do the things you want to do. The things that are scary (in a good way) are the things that make our lives better, richer, fuller and certainly more fun. We don’t have to hurl ourselves over the line. All that’s necessary is enough courage to put one toe over the line. As writer James Neil Hollingworth wrote, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” One toe.
LB Adams is the Owner of Pragmatic Dramatics based out of Charleston SC. Her company uses basic acting techniques and theatre games to train business professionals to communicate more effectively.