I don’t know if it’s because it’s “Oscar Season” or because we just started character analysis in my 6th grade Literature class, but I’ve got acting on the brain. My own acting career ended abruptly after a less-than-impressive performance as Gram Hawley, one of the lead characters in my eighth grade play, “Hollywood Hillbillies.” Yikes, it was pretty ugly. I wasn’t very good I think because my thirteen year old self was uncomfortable pretending to be a sprightly old granny (my terrible attempt at a southern accent still echoes in my ears).
Even with the shift toward social media and creating our own entertainment, there’s still something special and magical about actors: people who make their living playing different roles, being who they are not, people who can access different movements, expressions, and emotions to become someone entirely different. That kind of talent is impressive and mind-boggling to me. What’s scary though is that this same type of acting takes place out in the real world. On the screen, it’s amazing. In the world, it’s completely dangerous.
Wanting to be liked means being a supporting character in your own life, using the cues of the actors around you to determine your next line rather than your own script. It means that your self-worth will always be tied to what someone else thinks about you, forever out of your control.
In the real world, acting has become the norm. Always feeling like you’re “on,” holding your body a certain way, trying to craft the perfect response. When I was younger, I used to walk with my stomach always sucked in. It was a conscious decision that I thought would make me appear skinnier. I used to wait for someone to say something weak so that I could jump on it and say something that was rude but not rude enough to elicit any other response than my friends being impressed at my quick and hilarious wit. For being such a lame actor on stage, I sure was pretty good at being one during all of the other moments in my life.
But enough. Too many girls still act this way, the way I did. They’re all looking out at the world and acting. They act according to what they see, according to what they hear. But enough already.
Acting, instead of simply being, is what’s killing this world. It’s putting up a front, on a show, whatever you want to call it. It’s poison, and it needs to stop.
You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.
-Louise L. Hay
Because this way of living is so deeply ingrained, we may have to take the reactive approach. I’m not a huge fan of being reactive, but I get that it may be a bit too difficult to simply decide that we’re going to live life differently and then just do it.
Let’s start simple. The next time you’re caught “in the act,” just stop. Ask yourself, “Is this the real me or the actor?” Take a deep breath, and let the next thing out of your mouth be real. Let it be the real you. The real you is more valuable than any character you might be playing.