*originally written for Terry Knickerbocker Studio*
“I love you.” A phrase with deep meaning and a feeling we often share with family and friends, but how often do we tell ourselves? How often do we stop and embrace the beauty of who we are, and the gifts we uniquely posses? The choice to be an actor requires deep courage and vulnerability, yet the life of an actor is ridden with daily rejection, pushing our self acceptance into a corner further out of reach. Like all else in life, self love is a journey which requires practice and consistency.
Here are 5 simple ways to feed your soul with love:
1. Practice Positive Self Talk. There is insurmountable power in the words that follow the phrase “I am.” Our lives are shaped by our thoughts, and we are the manifestation of the things we believe about ourselves. By flooding our brains with positive thought, we have the ability to rewire our self image by stimulating the neurons in our brains to create more positive feelings naturally.
Choose a few “I am _____” phrases that you believe about yourself, such as “I am talented” or “I am powerful,” and repeat them out loud each day and night. Try starting with 2-3 phrases for every 3-week cycle.
2. Honor Your Body. As actors, one of our biggest tools are our bodies. They carry us into audition rooms, they allow us to transform into distinctive characters, and they store all of our experiences, be they triumphs or traumas. They are truly resilient, magical, and unique. However, rather than cultivating gratitude for our bodies, we often harbor shame that we are not tall enough, thin enough, strong enough and so forth. Further, society has socialized us to harness our bodies’ natural impulses to experience feelings such as rage or even joy. As actors, these restrictions can be dangerous as they deny us from living out or even understanding our authentic experiences.
Make the commitment to observe your negative talk about your body, and the bodies of others. Take time each day to play music you love, and move freely and expansively. Be willing to be “ugly,” be unafraid to experience the joy and release that comes from freedom. Little by little, you will appreciate every curve and freckle, and you will feel more connected to your body as you learn its unique specialness.
3. Make the Decision. Trust yourself. It is easy to get stuck in insecurity when it comes time to make a choice, whether it’s a strong character idea for an audition, or what to eat for your next meal. Taking the easy route or allowing someone else to decide for you may feel safer; however, indecisiveness or the inability to use your voice fosters insecurity rather than confidence — a trait supremely necessary for an actor. A simple step towards trusting yourself is to practice mindfulness, which allows your brain and body to connect. The more grounded you are, the more true you’ll be to your needs, and the more you’ll feel confident in making decisions.
Try taking a minute or two to focus only on your breathing, or immerse yourself on experiencing a simple activity, such as drinking a cup of tea. Feel the cup in your hand, smell the aromas, savor every sip. By grounding yourself, you’ll become aware of what your body wants and needs without allowing your mind to flood it with over analysis and doubt.
4. Speak Your Truth. It can be scary to be the only one with a differing opinion, or to be vulnerable enough to express your true feelings, but using your voice to honor who you are is key to true self love. As actors, we develop this skill within acting exercises, but putting them into practice in real life is its own challenge. When we express how we feel, or have the courage to share what we want or need, for instance, we begin to discover who we truly are. Honoring your self discovery by using your voice builds courage, bolsters your self worth, and allows you to attract the right people and experiences into your life.
Before you’re able to share your feelings, you must understand what they are. Taking time to reflect alone by journaling, going for a walk or meditating allows the chatter in your mind todissipate, and creates room for clarity. Allow fear to take a backseat, and challenge yourself by voicing your opinions or feelings, even if you are standing alone.
5. Forgive Yourself. We are all flawed, imperfect, or blemished. We are all human. We will all fail, make mistakes, or have regrets, and at some point, harbor resentment for ourselves in some way. However, true self love means forgiveness. The poet David Whyte says “all friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness,” and this must be expanded to the relationship we have with ourselves. Self compassion is not indulgent, it is simply the acknowledgement and respect for your humanity.
Practice self compassion by writing yourself a letter the next time you are feeling overly critical. You can ask yourself what a loving friend or family member would tell you in your specific situation, and at a later time, receive your letter, read it, and digest the message.
Remember, your art is a reflection of your creative love, and without self love, you deny yourself the opportunity to share your unique treasures with the world.