I have a good friend who is an accomplished singer and actor who recently got a great callback for a play she auditioned for. She put a lot effort into the audition and she was excited about it, but a couple of days before the callback, she started to doubt whether she really wanted the part.
“I don’t know. Maybe I don’t really want to be in this show after all,” she told me. “I mean, it’s during the winter. Maybe I won’t want to drive to the theater in the snow. Maybe I’ll want to go to Florida at that time.”
To me, this makes perfect sense. I can totally relate to wanting to back out of something even though she hadn’t even been offered the part yet. In my experience, the harder you work for something and the closer you come to achieving it, the more you want to talk yourself out of it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a call back for films, TV shows and commercials where I don’t even want to show up because I start telling myself that the process will be inconvenient for me. I’ll say to myself, “Ugh, why am I even going on this? They’re shooting in Atlanta, and I don’t want to go to Atlanta,” or “Maybe I shouldn’t even go to this callback. They’re looking for a chef, and I can’t play a chef.”
Sounds convincing, doesn’t it?
I have to constantly remind myself that the voice in my head that is telling me to quit is not the voice of my better self; it’s the voice of my inner critic. And that voice really does not belong to me. Maybe it belongs to your parents or to a teacher or a sibling that put you down. The hard part is we are convinced that that voice is really looking out for us. We think those doubts are our intuition. But let me tell you, the voice that is doubting yourself is not a voice that should be trusted.
Luckily, my friend did the thing that your inner critic hates the most, and that is to talk to other people about it. Your inner critic wants you to keep the secret to yourself so that you have better chance of not showing up for your big break. And when you talk to other people, they will remind you of what your true goals are.
Your inner critic will do anything to make you think that quitting is not only a good idea, but that you came up with it.
Of course if you really want to piss off your inner critic off, then keep going after something big. It will feel threatened. It will start kicking and screaming. It is like a trained actor who will try different tactics to achieve his wants in the scene.
My inner critic has become very clever over the years. Usually, when I am about to cross the finish line of something, my inner critic shows up as apathy. In this very convincing and concerned voice it will say, “That’s not really important to you; you really don’t want that.” Sometimes I can laugh at it. Sometimes I lash out, but most of the time it’s like an uninvited party guest who is there to ruin my birthday.
I think I have written about this before — we think that that when we reach our goals, like being cast in a movie or in a play or on an improv team, that we will be jumping for joy. That has not been my experience. For me, when I achieve something, my first response is never joy. It’s usually fear followed by dread with a little doom mixed in.
Can I stop the inner critic voice in my head? No way, I cannot. It’s too powerful.
But what I can do is reframe it. I can be aware that the bigger the opportunity, the louder the voice will be in my head telling me to quit or give up. Sometimes today I look at it as a highway sign that says Success Town is four miles away. I have come to accept that is how my mind works.
Take your improv to new heights this summer! Spots are still available in Jimmy’s Art of Slow Comedy Level 2 class starting July 11, and his summer intensives July 14-15, July 28-29, and Aug. 11-12. Sign up today!