Hi, I’m an introvert and an actor (yes, we exist).
For me personally, this can make my chosen career path extra challenging at times (yes, the financial instability and cut-throat competitive industry wasn’t enough already). Acting is a team sport and far from lacking in social interaction. From networking, auditioning, rehearsing, performing, opening nights and closing parties, drama school and acting classes, you can bet most of your time will be spent around and with others. The long hours required of rehearsals, shows or film shoots is tiring for anyone, but for introverts can be especially draining.
There is a common misconception that introversion and extroversion dictate how outgoing a person is, but actually they describe how people gain energy (or recharge their brains!) For introverts, their energy is gained from within themselves and extroverts through others. This means that introverts recharge through alone time and are drained after social interactions, while the opposite is true for extroverts. While introversion and extroversion aren’t necessarily personality types (not all introverts are shy and extroverts outgoing), there are traits that are more common with each type. For introverts, there is a correlation with being quieter, a home-body and sometimes shy and socially anxious. As someone who identifies with all those qualities, I do feel I’m very much qualified on the introverted front. However, after a few years of braving various acting terrain I have developed a better understanding and knowledge of self-care for my introverted self. Here are some tips that have worked for me.
#1 Set boundaries and don’t always feel the need to ‘keep up’
Saying ‘no’ can be difficult and the desire to keep up with others and fit in with your peers or fellow cast and crew is strong. Parties and social gatherings seem to be particularly abundant in the arts (I’m looking at you drama school). Despite partying being the last thing I felt like doing after some mammoth weeks at drama school, I would felt guilty and stressed about not going to social gatherings, worrying about ‘falling behind’ socially. However, I eventually learnt to know and respect my limits. This meant sometimes choosing to get an early night or opting to organise a one-on-one coffee catch-up with a friend instead. It also meant that when I did choose to go to parties or events I enjoyed it much more because I’d chosen to be there mindfully so it was more enriching than draining. Looking after yourself means you can be a happier and more productive human and actor.
#2 Accept yourself
I know, I know! Cheesy, standard advice found in every self-help article ever but unfortunately very important. I used to harbour the belief that to be a successful actor I needed to be more outgoing, louder, talkative or charismatic. However, trying to put on a false front and constantly being someone you are not is not only energy zapping but is also a barrier to authenticity, which I believe is essential for an actor. I’ve learnt that while I may not be the loudest in the room or ‘sell myself’ the hardest, I can have genuine interactions and develop strong professional relationships in my own way. By accepting your introverted, quiet nature you can embrace your strengths and let them work for you, rather than viewing it as a setback.
(Side note: ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain is a wonderful book exploring the power of introverted folk and is definitely required reading. This book was pivotal in my journey of self-acceptance and confidence.)
#3 But know that sometimes you may have to ‘switch it on’ (and that’s ok)
In her book, Cain discusses the ‘Free Trait Theory’, which proposes that people are indeed born with natural dispositions but can healthily act against these traits when it comes to “core personal projects”, e.g. for work you love or consider important (hello acting!) There will undoubtedly be situations where you have to go against your quiet nature and act the extrovert part for a while, whether it’s a commercial audition or mingling in the foyer. Cain believes that there is a difference between putting up a false front and “stretching yourself in the service of a core personal project”. For the times you choose to stretch yourself, ensure you take the necessary self-care steps after the event to recharge and recuperate.
#4 Carve ‘time out’ from acting
Taking time to participate in hobbies or activities that restore you outside of acting can help make the stress and draining social situations much more manageable. Examples could be, reading a book, walking your dog, spending quality time with your partner or best friend, painting etc. Allowing yourself breathing space to recharge regularly is great for your mental health and energy.
#5 Find small rituals to help ground and conserve your energy
This tip is particularly important for when it comes to stressful, energy-intensive periods like during a show season or week-long shoot. Having small rituals that ground and conserve your energy are great to have in your introverted actor’s toolkit. I have learnt that the high-energy physical warm-ups and frenzied line runs some actors enjoy before shows is detrimental to my energy. Instead, I choose to find a quiet corner and do some controlled breathing and yoga as a pre-show ritual. Similarly, while some actors may choose to wind down after a show by going out for a drink or discussing the night’s audience and show, I usually opt for heading straight home, making a cup of tea and journaling or reading. Discovering what works for you will take time and experimentation but finding those small practices can make a big difference.
In conclusion, pursuing acting as an introvert can have its extra challenges but don’t forget the superpowers your introversion gives you too! Introverts are often great listeners and observers, highly empathetic and sensitive to others as well as deep, creative thinkers. These qualities are fantastic for an actor to have, so don’t underestimate your strengths. By developing a stronger self-awareness and self-care practices that work for you, I believe you can not only survive but thrive as an introvert in this industry.