Questioning If You Belong

October 17, 2013

Have you ever felt consumed by the feeling that you don’t belong while you were waiting amidst a group of auditioning actors, or on the set of a commercial or film? You know that feeling when you look around and it appears that everyone has a rapport with one another, and they all seem to be both experienced and confident in their abilities–meanwhile you’re feeling consumed with awkwardness and self-doubt. Like school kids sense they don’t fit into the smart class, or in the athletic or cool-kids click, adults are certainly not immune to such sensitivities in the work force. Unfortunately, doubt can pop up every now and then and disrupt your ability to adapt to new situations, and inhibit you from doing your best. Well, as much as you may feel convinced that you are alone in your feelings of loneliness and insecurity at that moment, you really are not alone. After all, many of the most successful actors have admitted to feeling they don’t belong at times during their careers. Jessica Alba, for example, once revealed in Cosmo“I was always insecure about belonging and felt that my success was probably going to go away, so I’ve overcompensated.”

So what’s to be done when you want to bolster your sense of belonging?

Actors may doubt if they are sufficiently creative, original, talented, skilled, or confident as they navigate their careers. First of all, try not to be so hard on yourself. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” So make sure to challenge that kind of self-talk. Take stock in what makes you unique and give yourself credit for each of your strengths. Make sure you appreciate the special person that you truly are, including all your gifts, and thoughts, and acknowledge the good work you’ve done to get where you are today. And research has shown that if you are feeling detached from a particular group, just by finding even one or two others who you feel comfortable with fosters a sense of belonging that helps to bring out your best. Sure it’s common sense, but it can really help you to shine.

th-2Also, be sure to plan ahead when you know you’ll be experiencing a transition, and give yourself some extra nurturing and perspective. In other words, don’t be caught off guard when you’re about to venture onto the terrain of a new project. It can be helpful to remind yourself that your role models felt unsure of themselves when they were starting out and persevered regardless. So, reread those passages from their biographies to remind yourself that moments of doubt are par for the course. Doing so can increase feelings of belonging and improve your performance. Michelle Williams said in an interview with Another magazine“Every day feels like the first day, and every day you think ‘They’re going to fire me; I don’t know what I’m doing; I don’t know how to do this; I don’t know why I’m here, Everybody’s going to find out.’ But the comforting thing is everybody feels like that, every actor that you talk to says ‘I have no idea what’s going on…’ the feeling is a very common one… if it felt safe it wouldn’t feel exciting.” Indeed, it can be argued that feeling like a misfit has the potential to inform your performance by making your character more vulnerable and relatable. 

amy-adams-jpgIf you can really internalize that the actors or role models you most admire in fact did struggle, you’ll have a better chance of accepting your own struggles and believe your aspirations are attainable. And doing so can make you feel that you belong in their company. Amy Adams said to Elle UK“[After 2002’s ‘Catch Me If You Can’] I choked. I felt this pressure to suddenly be this level of actress that I wasn’t confident enough to be. Being an actress hasn’t made me insecure. I was insecure long before I declared I was an actress … I had an existential crisis at the Oscars, sitting next to Sean Penn and Meryl Streep and being like, ‘What am I doing here? I don’t belong here.'”

Social psychologists have documented how corrosive this self-doubt can be: eroding our motivation, reducing our expectations, even compromising mental resources that we could otherwise apply to adapting and focusing on our work. The feeling of not belonging has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, it’s wise to take it seriously. Remember, if you find yourself auditioning or if you find yourself on set or on the red carpet or at an awards ceremony… you belong! It’s that simple; indeed, it’s axiomatic.