Escaping the Grasp of Fear

We ADHDers tend to have a history of messing up. When you have not yet learned how your brain works best, you mess up a lot. This can lead to a lack of confidence, even in areas where we are naturally gifted. Unfortunately, we become prone to experiencing a great deal of fear, anxiety, and nervousness. However, that does not mean we have to be slaves to this fear. Instead, we can escape its deadly grasp and take back control of our life. This is something I learned through my experience in the theater.

Failed Auditions

Me as Dan in  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat  (not a real beard)

Me as Dan in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (not a real beard)

When I was a kid, I had a dream of being on stage and performing in plays. I had been watching my brother in plays for years, and I longed to do the same. After attending many plays and musicals at the high school I would one day attend, I found myself looking up to the actors I grew to love watching perform on stage.

Then, my time came. I was in high school. Unfortunately, I participated in the sports of football and wrestling my Freshman year of high school. This meant that my inability to see how organized sports took the fun out of games for me prevented me from auditioning for more than one play that first year of high school.

The spring musical that year was Bye Bye Birdie. As I took voice lessons and rehearsed “Put on a Happy Face,” I fantasized about playing Albert Peterson and being the first Freshman to land a leading role in my high school’s musical, showing up my brother who landed a lead role as a Sophomore. With great nervousness, I auditioned, and when the cast list went up, I was not in the show at all, not even a measly chorus part. I was crushed. I watched my older sister perform in that show, and cringed every time the guy who played a reporter delivered the line, “Is it true you found Conrad in a reform school?” with the gravitas of someone who has never understood how to communicate with other human beings. It boggled my mind how they could give that role to someone who couldn’t even deliver one line convincingly and yet not give me a single part.

Sophomore year rolled around, and I was done with sports and ready to finally be able to audition for all four shows my school put on each year. The first audition of the year caused me great anxiety once again. I had not made the last show for which I auditioned, and this was going to be a smaller cast than they normally had for the Fall play. Only five guys were going to make the show, and there were plenty of upperclassmen auditioning. Trembling as I did so, I auditioned, and once again, I failed to receive a part. Crushed, I blamed “the system.” I came up with reasons why they were biased against me and honestly felt I never had a chance of getting cast. None of this was true.

Breaking Through

Me as the Mouse King in  The Story of the Nutcracker

Me as the Mouse King in The Story of the Nutcracker

As the next audition drew near, I found myself analyzing my two previous auditions. If I did not make this show, I knew I would not have the desire to audition for another show. If I did not make this show, I was going to give up acting. I needed this audition to go well, and I needed to be honest about my previous auditions. I realized that it was not bias that held me back.; it was myself. My nervousness and fear was preventing me from performing to the best of my ability. I said to myself, “Look, if you want to perform on stage and make people laugh, this audition might be your only chance to do so. You can’t let fear stop you from doing what you aspire to do. Go out there, ignore your fear, and perform like it is the only time you will ever do so.”

On the day of auditions, my goal was simply to perform. I did not even think about what role I wanted.On the audition form where it said, “What roles are you interested in?” I simply wrote, “Any.” To me, that day was all about the performance. I put fear in the back seat, and I gave it my all. The day the cast list came out, all I wanted to see was my name on the cast list; I didn’t care where. Lo and behold, not only was I in the show, but I was also cast in a role a lot of people wanted, the Mouse King. From that point on, I was a part of every show my high school staged. Did I always get the roles I felt I deserved? No, but at least I was in the shows.

Mindset Is Everything

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As soon as I saw the above picture on Amazon, I knew I needed to hang it in my office. Your mindset can play a huge role in your performance, whether it is on stage or in a different area of your life. Whatever area in which fear is holding you back, take control. Does this mean you won’t be afraid? No. Whenever I have had an audition for a play, I have been nervous to varying degrees, but I learned in my Sophomore year of high school to not let fear control me. Put fear in the back seat, and take the wheel. You have the choice to let fear control you or not.

You are not your fears. Fear robs you of your true self. Choose to be your true self. Who cares if you are a scared little goldfish? Go out there and act like the badass shark you are underneath.

Granted, it is easier said than done. It was easy for me to set me fear aside for theater. It has not been easy for me to set my fears aside in other areas. Sometimes, it takes anti-anxiety medication and/or therapy to be able to do that. Coaching might be helpful for you, too.

Today’s Reset ADHD Challenge:

Tell Fear to take a hike!

P.S. The featured image for this blog is me as Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace

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