Are we all acting?

I recently had a pretty wild thought that has been staring me in the face for years on end, only I never knew what it meant. I’ll give you some context before I explain this crazy – but perhaps not so crazy notion.

I’ve always loved drama, theatre, music – any kind of performance or public demonstration and I’ve always wanted to perform. I applied to go to acting school back in 2016 and I didn’t get in – which was upsetting at the time because in my mind it was all I wanted. I think part of the reason I didn’t make it through is because I’m not actually very good at acting when it is my intention to act, because I’m constantly thinking: ok Sean, don’t think like you – be someone else. Immediately, I’m unconvincing. The best ‘performances’ I’ve ever done are when I’ve been totally myself , but joking around and assuming that people will know that I’m not serious – but I so frequently do get taken seriously. It’s almost like it’s easier to believe what’s false than what isn’t.

I’ve thought a lot about why I seem to have this ability to reverse-act and never managed to come to any tangible conclusion about it…until now. I’ve always wanted to be myself – to live and breathe as an individual and to have my own thoughts and opinions. As a child this caused me some trouble at times because I never understood why I felt that people didn’t value me. As I’ve grown up I’ve learnt how to better be myself, and also how to have a more relevant opinion – essentially one that isn’t just directly quoted from a book or parent or other role model. Something I’ve actually thought about.

Why is this relevant? Well I believe that people who spend a lot of time and effort trying to be an individual often become repressed by the social roof that we live under – in other words it becomes a lot easier to share the opinions and beliefs of the masses than to have our own genuine understanding of things. Through this repression we manufacture an identity – one that fits in with current social regimes and from a very young age we are all ‘acting’. There’s an incredibly big difference between wanting to help someone clean up their house after a party – because you want to – than to do so because you feel obligated. This is one of many examples where even though the act is the same – the emotion behind it and the emotional response you receive in return is totally different. We have simply been taught by society to feel obligated to behave in certain ways rather than to respond genuinely.

If you look at children, younger children especially, you so often see such a strong desire to give, participate and to be present in the moment. That’s not something they learn, it’s something they want – a reflection of how we are naturally, without large amounts of external influence pounded into us over the years. The older we get, the more we learn about how we are supposed to behave. It’s with this logic that I can only conclude that we are all acting, every day. And the best actors are the ones whose behaviour is impeccable…exemplary…

So perhaps many of the authentic actors that we love in Hollywood and Broadway are actually just very well-practiced at being themselves. They’re not trying to be anyone that they are not, they simply display themselves disingenuously – how they have learnt to display themselves for the role. They are so convincing because we seem to believe what is false more easily than we see the truth. We want to be fooled. If you create a false image on top of a false image – like if you were literally trying to embody a different person for a performance – this is where you become unconvincing. People don’t want to be lied to about lies – they see through it. They want to be lied to about the truth.

This is certainly something worth thinking about. Just how much of our personality is manufactured and how much of it is who we really are on the inside.

Thanks for reading!

Sean ❤

Decision Making And External Influence. Are Your Feelings Always Your Own?

The short answer is yes, I think we’re all responsible for our feelings. We may not be responsible for the things that have been said or done to us which can affect our feelings, but we are certainly responsible for how we respond.

There have been times in my life where I have been sure of something deep down, but at the same time insecure about the decision that I want to make. Insecurity plays a big part here, typically with the involvement of others. People have a tendency to project their own insecurities at you, especially when you are talking about making decisions that they themselves would have trouble with. Unfortunately it’s very easy to allow these situations to get the better of you and affect your actions.

To give you an example – Harry was really concerned about going to university, in fact he didn’t really want to go because he was far too unsure about what he wanted to study and felt that it would be a waste of time and money. He was pretty certain about this and tried to communicate it to his parents. However, being high achievers themselves who always pushed their kids to do well, it was hard to get them to receive his feelings about higher education clearly. They only saw where he was coming from through their own filters – insecurity about not doing well in life and wandering off down a bad path you can never come back from. Insecurity about their child not having a good career or enough money for the future. Fear of failure in general – you get the picture. Naturally Harry had some of these concerns too – it’s pretty hard not to take on-board at least some of your parent’s feelings, especially when you’re young and impressionable. Harry hit a brick wall whenever he tried to broach the subject. His parents simply saw him as nervous, just like they had been, and concluded that he would get over it. In time, Harry actually started to believe this too, and besides, all his friends were going to uni so he figured he would feel pretty left out if he didn’t go. Harry uneasily applied for an accounting course he wasn’t really sure about and attended the university his parents wanted him to go to. 3 years later he walked out with decent grades but no idea what he wanted to do with his degree. More than anything he just wanted to get away from the subject and get a job doing something else because he never went to university with a purpose other than to satisfy his parents and keep up with his friends, so he felt a bit lost and resentful about the whole thing. It’s possible that, had Harry listened to his instincts, he may well have attended university later on and studied a subject that he was passionate about, one that would allow him to build the career he wanted on his terms. Obviously he may not have chosen to go down that path, but as long as whatever he chose to do was his own decision, he would be able to learn from his situation rather than become embittered by the fact that he never felt in control.

These situations can include really simple decisions like attending an event that you feel is important to you or perhaps spending an hour with a friend, sibling or parent, but allowing yourself to be convinced by others that it’s not the right decision even though you know it’s what you want, or perhaps what you need.

I guess sometimes it can feel like you’re not even living your own life and I suppose this wouldn’t feel like much of a problem if you weren’t, in some way or another, aware of the fact that it was happening. There’s a lot to be said here for people thinking they know best. In my personal experience, people who are adamant that they know what’s best for you and press this belief firmly on you are the very people who are most afraid of being wrong, failing or simply not being good enough.

I also want to talk about responsibility. This is because, like I mentioned earlier, we are not responsible for how others behave, but how we allow that behaviour to affect us and dictate our actions is absolutely within our control. I was bullied in school, I complained about it, suffered with it, and the next day you’d find me in the principals office having bullied someone myself. I’d deny it completely of course, argue my case badly and worse yet i’d believe my own words because I could not and would not accept that I was also a part of the problem – that I was at all responsible. I think that those of us who are aware of an issue, owe it to ourselves and the rest of the world to consciously take care of our responses. I know from my own experience that it is absolutely a choice to allow other peoples insecurities to dictate your decisions. If you roll over and indulge the insecurities of another person, you might be giving them what they want on the surface but the fact that they are projecting these issues onto you in the first place is, in my view, an opportunity to defy fear and ‘break the cycle’ for all parties involved. If you do not indulge someone else’s insecurities and thus do not indulge your own, you grow, learn and develop, not only within yourself but you also help others who couldn’t see things as clearly.

The best advice I can give to anyone who feels like they are in a situation like this is to live purposefully, and not only for other people. If you don’t understand the purpose of your current situation and why it is important to you, then try to find out. If it turns out you’re in this situation for the wrong reasons then try to change the way you look at it, or change the situation completely. I think that the hardest emotional decision you can ever make is not to do what other people feel you should do, or what feels easy, but what you feel is right, deep down and underneath all the filters. In the end I think we almost always know what’s right, we just don’t believe in ourselves, or trust ourselves enough to follow through. It is developing that trust and self belief that we should work on most of all, both for our own benefit and the benefit of everyone we come into contact with.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!