In this Backstage video, casting director Benton Whitley spotlights what he believes to be the most important element of an audition: Confidence. He is half of the New York-based Stewart Whitley casting agency which seeks talent for national theater tours like Finding Neverland, Into the Woods, and Pippin. And earlier this year, the Casting Society of America honored Whitley with an Outstanding Achievement in Casting for Regional Theater East or West award. Whitley has seen just about everything in the audition room; but, what really makes him squirm are nervous performers. “Watching an insecure person try to sing a song or tell a story in front of you and do it in such a not-confident, insecure way, that makes me–the actual spectator, the casting director–incredibly uncomfortable to actually watch it,” he says.

With all the pressure that performers endure during the audition process, this might sound a little harsh. But Whitley shares this sobering outlook hoping that actors will focus their energy on what’s most important. After all, he asserts, “There are so many ‘talented’ people in this business that have really high skill sets. But they come into the room and they execute those skill sets with a really low level of confidence.”

For this reason, Whitley has come up with his own definition of the word talent. “Talent is executing skills with confidence,” he insists. To get in a positive state of mind before auditioning, he urges performers to genuinely accept whatever skill level they have presently mastered.

“Quit thinking ‘Oh, I need to be a better singer,’ ‘Oh, I need to be a better dancer,’ when you come into the audition room. That reads. That’s insecurity and that reads on your face, that reads in your body, that reads in your energy, that reads in your voice. But if you actually can come in and just bless and release that before you walk into the room, and be able to actually say, ‘What I’m presenting today actually is good enough, and I’m here to share it with you, and actually share it with a high-level of confidence,’ you can fool us. It’s amazing.”

Let’s face it, nervous energy seems to take on a life of its own at times. And insecurities can interfere with even the most celebrated actors in the industry. Incorporating Whitley’s blessing and releasing strategy is one way to promote a confident state of mind. Likewise, here are some additional perspectives from performers who found a way to cultivate their inner fortitude.

“When you love and accept yourself, when you know who really cares about you, and when you learn from your mistakes, then you stop caring about what people who don’t know you think.” –Beyonce Knowles

“I learned early on as an actor that confidence can be faked, and it’s not always a terrible thing to do. A lot of times if people feel you’re confident, then they’re confident.” –George Clooney

“I used to remember feeling I have to impress people, and now–it’s not really arrogance, it’s just me going, ‘I don’t really need to prove myself, it’s just whether I’m right for the part.’” — Toby Stephens

“I find that, ultimately, once you get in the room everything changes, and you just have to go with the flow. You can’t try to force anything you did an hour or five minutes earlier.” –Jennette McCurdy

“I was never good at [auditions]. Ever. Ever. I would study the script and try to get ideas and I guess finally, I don’t know when it was, I just stopped trying too hard and I tried to be natural and that’s when I got better.” –Kathy Bates

What do you find helps you enter the audition room with confidence?

Here are scientifically proven ways to improve confidence.