A while back I became obsessed with the idea of wanting to be a more vulnerable person, simply because I thought it would improve my acting experience and make me a better actor. In my search, I found this fascinating article from Bustle by an incredible writer, Marlen Konmar titled, "7 Ways To Let Yourself Become More Vulnerable". After being a little turned off by the idea of my vulnerability - or as it seems, lack thereof - being fixed in seven steps, I started reading the first paragraph and was hooked. You should visit the original source material by Marlen here.
I briefly sum up each step she recommends, but then offer my own little anecdotes on the subject.
1. ACCEPT THAT YOU'RE WORTHY. When it comes time to strive for something you either A) believe you deserve a positive outcome or B) don't believe you deserve a positive outcome. Justify, validate or call it something else all you want, but at the end of the day, it's either A or B. Whichever belief you have will determine your approach. In order to fully fight for something, you MUST believe you deserve it. And guess what; you do!
MY EXPERIENCE: When I was a kid, there would be times when I wouldn't give something my 100% best effort because my belief was; If I give it my all and I don't succeed, the "fact" that I don't deserve it or it wasn't meant for me will be reinforced. Needless to say, I used to put a LOT of pressure on myself.
2. FIGHT YOUR SKITTISH TENDENCIES BY KNOWING WHAT THEY ARE. When you are feeling uncomfortable, like on the verge of feeling vulnerable do you flee? Do you change the subject, close off to the conversation that is making you feel that way or simply walk away? Marlen suggests that next time you close yourself off and miss a chance to be open up, rethink the thoughts that went through your head, the feelings you felt, and consider what you could have possibly done differently in order to open up instead of fleeing.
MY EXPERIENCE: I used to hate talking shop around other actors. Especially if it lead to the question, "How is your representation? Are you going out?" I even noticed that when that topic would come up I would literally excuse myself and walk away or try to divert the conversation to something I was more comfortable discussing, like current events or weekend plans. This one took me a while, but I practiced replaying an uncomfortable situation in my head, feeling those feelings, and having those thoughts. So the next time it came up I was able to deal with my discomfort differently; by honestly sharing my experience and not being afraid.
3. STOP YOURSELF WHEN YOU'RE RESISTING. It's scary to be vulnerable, because it doesn't feel good. But if you stop resisting that vulnerability, you can sit and actually feel those feelings. And then you move on!
MY EXPERIENCE: The other day, due to an instance where I left feeling really stupid, I get really emotional. I had just returned to my car and I started to cry. But instead of thinking, "I am sad because I was made to feel stupid," I just cried. I didn't label the emotion. I just felt my feelings. Within seconds those tears became laughter and I suddenly felt free and joyous. So weird! I didn't have to feel the negative emotions that my ego told me would come along with feeling stupid.
4. TRUST THAT YOU CAN DEAL WITH THE OUTCOME NO MATTER WHAT. And sometimes bad feelings stay bad feelings and it just sucks. But it's nothing you can't overcome. The feeling will dissipate in time and you'll pick yourself back up and get on with it.
MY EXPERIENCE: This reminds me of that old adage, something along the lines of "You can't control others." You can't control other people or situations-you just cannot. But you have total control of your own responses. So be responsible for that.
5. SHARE YOUR HURTS WITH OTHERS. Marlen talks about rather than going into your room to hurt alone, share your hurt with someone you trust. You will not only get some help in soothing that hurt, but you will have another opportunity to practice opening up to somebody; vulnerability.
MY EXPERIENCE: Because of a long conditioned fear of being judged, I would hate for people to think I didn't have my sh*t together. I would always say things were great, fine, awesome and would deal with the truth of the matter on my own. Once I started sharing my frustration with agency at that time, and in doing so learned that a LOT of fellow actor friends of mine shared the same frustrations and someone reached out to help me and I ended up meeting a great, new agent through that person.
6. BY NOT BEING VULNERABLE, YOU'RE GIVING AWAY THE POWER TO HURT YOU. Going back to #1, by being vulnerable, you are also acknowledging that you are worthy. So by opening up to people you are actually keeping yourself from being harmed because you already know in your heart that you are worthy and enough.
MY EXPERIENCE: There are days when I think I am completely worthy of all my hopes and dreams. And there are days when I think, "Who the heck am I? I need to get back to work in order to deserve that." I think a middle-of-the-road option is a good one. Something like, "I am totally deserving of all that I want-especially when I work smart and diligently in order to achieve it." Sometimes I'm so tough on myself that I stop myself from going anywhere. It's all me.
7. REALIZE THAT YOU'RE ALREADY HURTING YOURSELF WITH INACTION AND THAT YOU CAN ONLY GO UP FROM HERE.
MY EXPERIENCE: NOT being vulnerable guarantees continuous disappointment. By NOT putting myself out there for fear of looking the fool, I'm guaranteed to feel disappointed with myself and that just plain sucks. If I can go through that vulnerable moment, I at least have a 50/50 chance of being pleased with myself!
As it turns out, most things I think that will make me a better actor end up making me a better person. I think that's one of the best things about being an artist. This also just happens to be THE biggest life lesson I have needed to learn in my short time here on this Earth.
A HUGE thank you is owed to Marlen Komar! Please visit her website to learn more about this sharp and funny feminist writer. WWW.MARLENKOMAR.COM