How Acting Off-Screen Can Change Your Life

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

I know we’re talking about acting, but do you have a song that instantly lifts you up, empowers you, and births some of the best imaginary music videos featuring you as the hero, beating all odds, slaying dragons, and staring straight into the crepuscular sky as if issuing a silent challenge to the universe itself? That song for me is Whatever it Takes by Imagine Dragons, who I believe have some of the most annoyingly motivational songs on this planet. Here it is for your listening pleasure:

As I was in one of my usual reveries, earplugs insulating me from the real world I was a part of, I glanced on my side and saw my reflection in the mirror. In the middle of an epic Wonder Woman-like scene that I thought I was in the middle of, I was slammed down to the earth with such determination that I could swear someone could read my immensely embarrassing thoughts and had finally had enough of them.

What I saw in the reflection was, well, myself. I was in an unintentionally oversized grey t-shirt that had stretched beyond borders and now went well past my knees. I had my dyed hair up in a bun because I had been too lazy to get the roots retouched, or shampooed for that matter. It was 12 in the afternoon and I had not washed up for the day. But more importantly, I saw myself staring back, the real me, the me so different from the me in my head. The real me who would not actually bother to do anything that the me in my head was so good at. The me who was stuck with the trepidation of everyday life that she would never — even physically with a simple change of wardrobe— represent the grand me who I had dreamt up in my mind.

In short, what I am is nothing close to who I want to be. Not truly, anyway. When what I see as the best version of myself — my alter-ego, perhaps? — is someone with with unwavering focus and unbridled energy, who I am is mostly a tired, occasionally inspired and rarely disciplined mess of an adult who has her head in way too many places at once. Nobody is more acutely aware of this disjunct than myself. I am not sure when it was that the awareness came to exist, but perhaps between the hundredth time I changed my plan, the thousandth time I promised myself that this time it was different, and the millionth time I fallen off track — yeah, that pattern is hard not to notice. Even more amazing recently is my awareness of this awareness. So meta. So futile.

So, I devised a short little plan to change things up — perhaps for the millionth time — but I made that attempt nonetheless. I am going to call it the alter-ego method of getting shit done.

▷ Don’t think, jump straight into it

If you think the alter-ego you would do something differently, don’t think about it and just do it. Think of it this way — you are not trying to be someone else, you are already that person. Acting, except you’re not on screen.

I know it’s easier said than done — I know — but the idea is to bridge that gap as much as possible so you are not led living a double life. You could start very small, perhaps with even physical aspects that are easier to change than your mindset. If you wish to be someone who is very organised and put-together, but you’re actually like me, start small. Go take a shower, for starters. Maybe, fix your hair up. Clean your room. Anything to get you living that alter-ego lifestyle. Every time an excuse starts bubbling up in your head, think about what you would be doing if you were the best version of yourself, and then deliberating about it at all. You are your alter-ego, feel it.

▷ Break your character down

Of course, all of this is harder to emulate with more solidified and hardened traits or characters. For instance, I cannot possibly wear jeans if they do not fit me at all. Neither can I pretend to be doing something I am, well, not doing. The key is to start asking questions and noticing differences between yourself and your alter-ego. For example, what would the alter-ego do to make something happen? Why does it fit my alter-ego? Maybe she works out, maybe she eats healthier, or maybe she genuinely just needs a new pair of jeans. Try to break it down to as many small, doable bits as possible, be that with your health, career or personal goals. Maybe you cannot work for Google right off the bat, but you can start chalking up a plan of action to get started, and act on it.

▷Be true when you’re fake

Oddest, and perhaps even oxymoronic, piece of “advice” I am leaving you with is this: If your need to change comes from your need to be anybody but yourself, you should probably take a while to reevaluate your self-improvement goals. As cheesy as it sounds, there is nothing more suffocating than living as somebody else, and you should try to be your authentic self as much as possible. Whatever that means. It is okay to borrow a few ideas from here and there, it is okay to look up to other people, admire them and whatnot, but in the end, what works for you is unique to you, your strengths and your weaknesses. I make good progress when I try to build up what I have got instead of belittling myself for what I don’t.

I hope this helps you in some way to get closer to your best version. It’s a long road ahead, for all of us, but I hope we make the journey worth it.

I will explore this more in-depth in my coming posts. This method cannot possibly be my very own invention. I haven’t bothered to Google, but my self-esteem has no doubt about it. If it is, do let me know with a virtual hug.