Banishing Perfectionism and Bettering Your Acting

beach-calm-dawn-267967“Don’t make perfect the enemy of the good.” It’s something my mom says a lot, and something I, in the tradition of daughters everywhere, frequently ignore to my detriment. I think a lot of artists struggle with lurking demons of perfectionism. The subjectivity of the entertainment industry makes it easy to fall into self-loathing echo chambers where no efforts are ever deemed worthy enough and each misstep is amplified a hundredfold. As you likely already have experienced, this mindset makes it incredibly difficult to practice fearless, organic, effective acting. It is an enemy to the art. Here are some particular rooms from which you should banish the temptation to achieve perfection:

 

Rehearsal

Please God, if nothing else, take this kind of pressure off for your rehearsal process. There is no perfect way to rehearse. Everyone’s process manifests differently. Rehearsal should be a place for messy attempts and spectacular failures. Being overly self-critical will discourage you from taking the chances necessary to learn and grow. You will deprive yourself of honest stimuli and the performance will suffer.

 

Auditions

You just have to get in the room. Remember that the goal of the audition is not to execute a flawless, finished performance. It is to book a gig. While of course you want to bring your best work to the table, remember that an audition just has to be good enough to get you a callback. If you are too focused on doing everything right, your audition is going to be stiff, and lack the sparkle of spontaneity and personality.

 

Performance

There is no such thing as a perfect performance. This does not mean you should give up, or stop reaching to be better every time. But stop condemning your work for its flaws. Stop defining your artistry in terms of your perceived failings. Allow your theatre performances to be ephemeral and focused on evolution. Allow your performances on film to chronicle your growth as an actor.

 

Your Head

Take this idea beyond the confines of your active working space. Trust me, I get it. It is so easy to diminish your successes, compare the trajectory of your career to others, and succumb to imposter syndrome. It’s easy to feel like being highly self-critical makes you a better actor, makes your work more valid, or at least provides a buffer from the onslaught of external rejection. But it doesn’t keep you safe. It erodes your work and your worth. It prevents you from seeing opportunities and convinces you you don’t deserve them when they land in your lap. Resist and reject this notion.

 

I struggle to practice what I preach. Keeping the perfection wolves at bay is a perpetual chore. But it keeps you on your toes. You’ll get better at it. You’ll develop and refine your techniques. As in all aspects of acting, rehearsal is key. Practice changing the way you speak to yourself (and about yourself). Practice taking pride in your vocation, and celebrating your successes. Practice loving flawed, messy, imperfect performances. Instead of trying to be perfect, try to learn more. Try to dig deeper. Try to connect more honestly. Be constantly reaching for better, instead of berating yourself for not being best. You and your work are enough. Remind yourself constantly. I will too.

 

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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