• Brandon Lee Sears

How To Overcome Fear and Doubt in Auditions


  • Every thought and emotion we have is the result of physiological activity in the brain. The relationship between the brain and the mind can help us to understand what is happening when we feel fear.

Thinking of the brain as a three-part or 'triune' brain helps us to understand how it works when we feel fear in auditions.

  1. The neocortex is the thinking or logical part of the brain. In this part of the brain, we think logically and solve problems.

  2. The limbic brain is the emotional or feeling brain. We remember emotions and attach them to experiences with this part of the brain.

  3. The brain stem is the reptilian brain or the instinctual and primitive part of the brain responsible for the "fight or flight" modes when we feel fear.

Our ability to overcome fear depends on how we manage what part of the brain we are activating to respond and meet challenges. We can navigate the emotional experience of fear and self-doubt to perform well in auditions, rehearsals, or at our jobs when we can manage our state of stress by moving from reactivity to creativity. When we are in a reactive state, our brain activity is in the brain stem, and when we are in a creative state we are operating from the neocortex. In auditions, rehearsals, or while performing, we can manage our brain activity to move from the stressful states of reactivity into a state of creativity by

1. shifting our focus AND

2. practising mindfulness

It is possible to build resilience to overcome fear in ourselves to thrive in the face of adversity and challenging situations when we use mindfulness and focus shifts to change the area of activity in the brain.

Inspirational Quotes

Full Transcript

Hey there. Brandon Lee Sears here again with you, giving you tips, tools, and strategies on how to overcome your fear and self-doubt to tap into your potential for peak performance and exceptional success. Today, I want to talk to you a little bit about fear and the science of nailing that audition. Yeah. You have to understand our auditioning brain. Maintaining high-performance levels in rehearsals, auditions, and on-stage in order to achieve our goals and stay at the top of our game is crucial to our success in the performing arts. But how do we manage the stress and self-doubt enough to stay at the top of our game while supporting our health and well-being?

Now many seasoned professionals suffer in silence from stage fright, and public speaking is a crippling fear of many others. When performers do not know how to effectively manage stress, we suffer from health issues such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. The most important ability I try to cultivate and develop to be successful in the West End is the ability to manage stress and self-doubt to overcome and take action in spite of fear.

We all have within us infinite potential, if we will only gain an understanding of we are...the greatness of who we are, we could overcome challenges, meet adversity head-on, and take steps to achieve our dreams, so let's get to it.

Every thought and emotion we have is the result of physiological activity in the brain. The relationship between the brain and the mind can help us to understand what is happening when we feel fear.

Now we have a triune brain. We have the neocortex, it's the rational or thinking brain. The Limbic Brain is the emotional or feeling brain, and the reptilian brain, the brain stem is instinctual...primitive

The brain stem controls our basic body functions and what these body functions do when we feel in danger (flight, fight, freeze, or faint modes). Now the limbic system plays a role in emotional learning and emotional memory. The limbic system is where the amygdala links our memories to pleasure and pain in our brains. The neocortex is the seat of consciousness where we weigh the present, imagine a better future, and plan ways to achieve our goals. Also, the neocortex processes creativity, and logical thinking so we can make decisions. Fear is a natural physiological occurrence because our brains seek safety first. It is ok to feel fear. When we feel fear, it is because we have perceived a threat to our safety. However, we do not have to let this fear manage our decision-making process. Our ability to overcome fear depends on how we respond to meeting challenges. Are we in a reactive state or a creative state? Ah!

In neuroscience research reactivity is a state where we feel 'fight or flight'. It's a mode that is mapped to the brain stem leading to expressions of self-doubt and fear in low performance. However, creativity (when we feel inspired) is mapped to the prefrontal cortex and it's linked to high performance in those individuals who practice qualities of self-awareness, authenticity, achievement, and collaboration.

There is a relationship between the amount of resource and demand that our brain calculates to keep us safe. When we perceive that someone or some situation is demanding more resources than we have, we feel threatened and we move into reactive mode. When we are in reactive mode on a chronic basis, stress and self-doubt it leads to exhaustion, disconnection, and a reduced sense of self-confidence, but when we move into a creative mode we feel resourceful enough to meet the demands of the world. In this mode, we can handle a certain amount of stress while feeling challenged. We also feel a sense of love and belonging, because we feel competent enough to share and contribute. It is important to consider how we respond to challenges, so that we move from instinctual and primitive behaviour of seeking out survival in reactivity to acting in ways that are highly creative and self-aware.

Have you ever been involved in a rehearsal process and you felt communicative, open, and you felt emotionally connected to those around you, and you seemed to be having fun and intimately involved and focused when it came to any work the project was a part of? When we are in a creative state of being we are authentic, aware, courageous, and collaborate well with others. The feeling and expression of inspiration leads to high performance and fulfilment in a creative environment.

Now consider those times when you’ve been in an audition room and felt overly anxious to the point of confusion? Perhaps you seemed defensive and overly critical and negative toward others and yourself. Someone in reactivity will express the qualities of being overly passive or controlling, or defensive. Another expression of reactivity in many performers is perfectionism to prove our self-worth. The expressions of stress and self-doubt lead to low performance in a reactive state of being. I have been involved in processes before where the director, or the captains, or other creatives involved in the rehearsal process were negative. You know, they had a negative mindset, and they were in a reactive state, basically. Well, it was hard for others to feel comfortable enough to have creative expression in these reharsal processes. This overly stressful environment affects the learning, it affects the pick up of choreography. It affects the ability of performers to make inspired choices that contribute to the piece in an inspiring way. Spontaneous creativity. We can take individual responsibility for our own actions and for our own mental health and artistic growth by knowing how to control our mindset, and that comes with knowledge. It comes with understanding. It is your responsibility and no one else’s to take the first step and continue to build well-being into your creative practice. You will have a higher rate of personal and artistic growth and development when you are in an inspired and creative mindset. Anything is possible. All things are possible when we believe and draw from the deep resources of agency that we have in us to conquer our doubts and fears.

I'm going to give you some hacks right now for moving from a reactive state into a creative state. Six to flip the switch. That's the first hack. Look around the room you're in and notice everything that's orange right now. Now close your eyes. What do you see? Now you probably see orange or you may have had mental images of things that are orange, like fruit. You may have tasted an orange, if you thought of the fruit intially. We can change our focus. We can be responsible for the way that we see things through mental framing. Changing your focus, acute change of focus right in the moment. The next time your'e in an audition or a rehearsal, and you feel highly stressed. Step back, take six very slow deep breaths to hack your physiology, then reframe your mental state by repeating to yourself. "This is not a threat. This is a challenge." Or you can breathe in and out and associate some kind of cognitive cue like spelling out the word joy or faith. Pick one concept or skill to focus on. It can be as simple as smiling while you dance just say I'm gonna focus on smiling while I dance today. I'm going to focus on giving face. I'm gonna focus on giving attitude. You know, or you can focus on nailing certain rhythmic phrases. By narrowing your focus to one thing you lower the stress by decreasing the amount of demand your brain perceives. Rather than thinking of oh my god, I've got to get everything right. I've got to get this job so I can pay my bills. No, bring it down. Lower your stress levels by thinking on one thing at a time. By doing this, you move from a sense of reactivity to a sense of creativity and fulfilment and enjoyment and engagement in present moment awareness where you are.

Second hack. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention with a sense of openness, and curiosity for whatever is arising in the present moment. By making a deliberate effort to practice openness and look on whatever the experience is that I'm having right now with curiosity we can change the amount of stress we’re feeling to a manageable level that allows us to work in heightened performance state. When we feel curious, there is no threat but an attraction to the perceived challenge.

I can remember whenever I use to be a swing or a 1st cover, you know, in a West End show. The show always went well for me when I did not perceive it as a threat. When I took a breath. When I got enough sleep. When I was feeling good, and I was just having fun onstage I was always more successful. We joyfully jump at chances that we were previously fearful of, and we no longer allow fear to stop us from accepting those opportunities that are most challenging yet beneficial for our growth when we can look at situations with a sense of openness, acceptance, and curiosity rather than feeling it as a threat.

The more we overcome fear to take action and achieve results in the face of fear, the more resilience we build from our experience. This is where the ‘magic’ happens. This is when we begin to know success. This is when we begin to know success as a default. We can learn from experience through reflection, and that means by taking present learning and attaching and transferring present learning to prior experience. Change and uncertainty is necessary for our personal growth, but it may feel uncomfortable as the brain seeks out our safety which is what it is designed to do. When we begin perceiving new experiences, you may feel uncomfortable. You will feel anxious. There will be this sense of aaaaah I don't know what's coming next, but it's ok. Go ahead and jump head first into those situations you fear. When you can do that, success is yours.

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