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Careers Clinic: I have always wanted to be an actor, but am not sure I have the ­confidence

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher

I have always wanted to be a professional actor but I am not sure I have the confidence.

I’m not talking about stage fright or anything like that: I have been performing in school and college shows since I was quite young, and my drama teachers have been encouraging me all year to apply for -full-time training as the next step in my career.

It’s just that, unlike some of my classmates who are already talking about the lead roles they are convinced they’re destined for, I feel I still have a lot to learn. I am never fully happy with my performances even when everyone else seems to be.

It’s strange because, put me into a ‘loud’ role and I have no problems storming the stage, but when it comes to talking myself up and getting myself out there, I’m -worried that I might not have what it takes.


John Byrne’s advice

Misinterpreting what being confident looks like can make us come across as arrogant and unprofessional, or, as might be the case with you, doubting ourselves to the point where we miss out on achievements within your grasp.

A definition of confidence, taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, which I think relates particularly well to the acting profession, is “A feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities”. A refinement I would respectfully make for the purposes of this discussion would be to add in the word ‘honest’ just before “appreciation”.

I have met many excellent actors who appear to be confident in the sense of being outgoing and gregarious. But then you never know what is actually going on in the backstage areas of these confident actors’ lives.

I have also met equally adept onstage performers who are quiet and self-effacing when not in character, often to an extent that they are the exact opposite of the types of character they are best known for portraying.

Neither approach is better nor worse than the other but the key factor that separates both the personality types described above from the dreaded ‘all mouth and no trousers’ type which you definitely want to avoid being, is the quality of their work rather than the volume of their presentation.

To achieve that level of quality you’ll need a combination of natural talent, good training and hard work, and also the degree of time needed to get all of those elements working in the right combination for you.

The good news about this cocktail is that it needs to be worked at; nobody should reasonably expect you to have it all in place from the get go, and that includes you.

Whether you are applying for drama school, meeting with your first potential agent or taking on your first role, a little bravery is certainly required to take the leap of applying in the first place.

However, as long as you are committed to doing the best job you can do with the skills you currently have, then that assurance you need to believe in yourself as an actor and encourage others to believe in you too, will come. Bear in mind though that it’s very important that you are open to learning about and polishing your craft as you progress.

It can be a long journey and, done right, probably a lifetime’s journey. But if you can muster just enough confidence to take the first step, who knows where that might lead?

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne [1]

John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne [2]

Top actor training options on your way to going pro [3]