Dealing with Shyness

Reader, Chelsey, writes:

Hello!  I just need to ask a question.  In your site, you advise to take as many acting classes as possible, but what if you are a kind of shy person?  I know that in voice acting you can't be shy either, but it's something I've always wanted to do.  I can't seem to stop being a bit shy, so I was wondering if you have any advice on that.      Also, what's a good age to start training?  I'm 16, and I haven't done anything to prepare because I just decided that I was willing to turn it into a career.  Well, thanks a lot.  Your site just helped me with the first step and I hope to do well in the field.  Thanks again!

James' answer:

Don't get stuck believing that you need to "not be shy" in order to be an actor. Shyness has absolutely nothing to do with acting ability. Acting is a means for outward expression that may be restricted as a result of personal shyness. Shyness is often based in fear: a fear of looking silly, sounding foolish, or not being liked. Fear is NEVER the truth. The best way to think about fear is as the acronym - F.E.A.R. This stands for "false expectations appearing real." The secret to overcoming shyness is to first realize that whatever the expectation is that results in shyness is not the reality. It may take some time to actually believe this, but as you gradually experience that moving through the fear doesn't kill you, the shyness eventually goes away.

Many of the best actors in movies and TV are very shy people in real life.  The secret to their success is (in part) is the fact that when they are acting, they are playing a role of someone who is NOT them! As an actor, your job is to create believable characters. In order to do that, it becomes necessary to find ways to present personality traits, emotions, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors that may be quite different from your own. The process for doing this is learned through acting classes and books like "The Art of Voice Acting". When you know how to create a character other than you, you are effectively working outside of your personal comfort zones (shyness). What it comes down to is being willing to take the risk to do whatever is necessary to make the character you are creating as believable and real as possible. If it is "you" trying to be the character, your shyness will get in your way. However, when you learn to get out of your own way, your personal feelings of shyness simply disappear.

Think of it this way: You, as Chelsey, may be very timid and uncomfortable talking in front of a group of people you don't know - and that's OK. Now, let's suppose that you are going to play the role of someone who is an excellent, authoritative, expert on a specific subject. Would this expert be nervous or shy when she's talking about that subject in front of a group of people? No! That person would be proud, comfortable, and conversational when talking about the subject they know so well. When you (Chelsey) take on the characteristics of the other person (act as if) to create a believable character, it is the character who is speaking - not you. You can use this trick in your classes or whenever you need to make a presentation. Just figure out everything you can about the person and how they would be comfortable in that situation, then take the risk to allow yourself to discover what it would be like to be that person for awhile. Start by practicing this in private, then go someplace where no one knows you (like a mall - OK, maybe not!) and simply walk around with the posture, attitude, and thoughts that you've associated with the character you are creating. You'll be amazed to discover how comfortable you can be (and not shy) when you take on the traits of a character you create. The key with this exercise is that you MUST allow yourself to temporarily become the character you are creating. You can't - even for a minute - think about what you are doing. The minute you start thinking about it, the real you will "pop" in. If you choose to do this exercise, please let us know what happens and how you felt as you were the other character.

What I've just described is part of what we teach as the Seven Core Elements of a Performance (The ABC's). Learning how to get out of your own way is "F" - Forget who you are and Focus. Being willing to take the risk is "G" - Gamble. The other 5 Elements are: Audience, Back Story, Character, Desires, and Energy. Our workshops are all about mastering these Seven Core Elements.

As for when to get started: 16 is an excellent age to begin learning about acting and voiceover. You're at an age where you won't be dealing with the issues of a "child actor". If you're serious about learning your craft, you'll be able to develop your skills and apply what you learn to everything you do for the rest of your life. In addition to acting classes (which, as you know, we highly recommend), I'd also suggest you get the best education you possibly can. The more you know about the world we live in, the more tools you will have at your disposal as an actor. That statement may not make much sense to you right now, but you'll definitely know what I mean by it if you are still studying acting in 5 or 10 years. By the way, the study of acting is something that will never stop. The craft of acting is about the study of people and personalities and there is always something new to learn and observe.

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