We’re all guilty of it: Apologizing. The onslaught of chatter about Impostor Syndrome, vocal fry and pay gaps may have us thinking it’s a female problem, but we all do it. We backpedal. We trip over and lose our words. The internet has made creativity immediate and accessible but it has spread an almost contagious blanket of near-constant self-doubt. We apologize for everything—but mostly we apologize for ourselves.
Start listening for it. Watch it happen. It’s like a jealous best friend who can’t stand to see you happy. That great idea you just had? It’s been done, and better, she says. Good grief. You would never encourage a best bud to hang out with a friend like that, so why would you?
It’s a process: UNapologizing yourself. It takes time and courage. But the next time you have a glimmer of a dream in the corner of your eye and a voice inside tells you why you can’t achieve it, ask yourself—Why not? Follow it through. If it’s something you can’t immediately change—resources, safety or skill—you have work to do. If the answer comes in the form of an apology—Seriously, you think that’s a good idea? You’re just crazy. You’ll mess it up—it’s time to UNapologize yourself.
The work of UNapologizing starts and ends with awareness. Awareness of your body and of your voice. Awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. Awareness of yourself in time, space, content and form. Awareness of what you want to say and the impression you want to make. Awareness of who you are and what you have to offer and refusing to apologize for it!
Apologizing is easy, but only because it’s so familiar. For some of us it’s an impulse we can’t even see. For others it’s a habit we can’t seem to shake. For me it’s always been fear of fear itself. Anyone who’s ever had a bad experience public speaking knows that nerves breed nerves, and bad experiences lead to more bad experiences. But actors have nerves too. The exact rush that keeps an actor coming back for more can be paralyzing and crippling. Olivier had it. Gandhi had it. Even Hugh Grant has it. To combat the fear of feeling powerless an actor practices committing. They rehearse in a safe space so that they understand what they’re saying, where they’re going and why they’re there. Once they are confident in their choices, they can tell a story, get out of their own way and make a connection an audience will never forget.
It’s not about becoming someone else—that’s not what actors do, after all—it’s about harnessing all that you are and refusing to apologize for it. But it’s up to you to make the choice to UNapologize yourself. And when you do that, you trick your mind into believing everything you say to be true. Because it is, you just didn’t know it yet. And when you believe it, others will too. In UNapologizing, you stood up for yourself. You did something proactive in the face of fear instead of letting the big bad happen to you. And it felt real good. Maybe you’ll do it again sometime. That’s how it all starts.
Putting yourself out there is scary. UNapologizing is scary. But only because we’re out of practice. Once you become aware of it, you start to understand it and only then can you get underneath it, make it yours and ultimately use it. As Lady Gaga said: “Slowly but surely I remembered who I am.”