An Actor’s Ego

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Maintaining a healthy ego is possible… even in Hollywood

Ego has a bad reputation. “When someone struts too much or is too loud, we joke about their ego not being able to fit in the room. But is ego really that bad? Have we gone too far to denounce ego without looking at its positive aspects? The key to a well-lived life is balance, so ego should not be eliminated. Rather, ego needs to be fostered and embraced in a way that can significantly improve your performance and increase your self-confidence. Kept in proper check, ego is something every entrepreneur needs to succeed.” – Matthew Toren, mentor and founder of youngentrepreneur.com

“Of course, I have a healthy ego. Anyone who creates does.” – Barbra Streisand

In my book, “YOU GOT THE JOB!” I define ego this way, “The individual as a whole in his/her capacity to think, feel and act.” I also describe ego as an acronym for Energy Going Out.

Ego is energy. If this energy is the product of a positive and powerful success-oriented belief system, the world will recognize it as such. If this energy is unprepared, lacking in confidence and ready to accept failure, the world will recognize that as well.

A well-known casting director revealed that almost 75% of the time he knows if an actor has a shot at landing a role just by the way the actor enters the room, the way the actor walks from the office door to the desk, the first 10/15 seconds of an audition. “When they make their entrance, I can, as a rule, tell the quality of the talent that is entering the room. The next few seconds of small talk usually confirms what I deduced. That first 60 seconds of the audition and I’m pretty sure. The final confirmation is the reading itself which is by and large in agreement with my initial conclusion.”

The Two Egos

In the Barbra Streisand quote, you may have noticed she used the words “healthy ego.” Exactly what is a healthy ego? Some have described it as simply, “Knowing you’re good at what you do.” Others say, “It’s how you maintain self-esteem. How you take care of yourself. That you feel good about who you are, and you stand by your values.”
However, for me, it’s “taking pride with who I am as an evolving human being. And taking equal pride in pursuing my goals, dreams and accomplishments.”

Egotistical (The bad ego)

Egotistical is when you don’t have the competence to back up your bravado or swagger. In other words, when you pretend you know something when you actually don’t and you proceed with arrogance. Egotism is the excessive, obsessive, and objectionable focus on oneself while egoism is the habit of valuing everything only in reference to one’s personal interest. In other words, nothing has any value unless it’s important to me.

Ego Grid

While searching the internet I stumbled upon something called the Ego Grid. I found the example below to be extremely helpful in explaining the difference between the egos. It even takes ideas a step further by separating egos into two categories: small and big.

Healthy, Small Ego
Doesn’t need the limelight
Happy with self
Easy going
Emotionally level-headed

Healthy, Large Ego
Enjoys the limelight
Engaged and passionate
Okay if others disagree
Doesn’t hold grudges

Unhealthy, Small Ego
Doesn’t deserve the limelight
Highly sensitive
Wary of people
Afraid of being hurt
Afraid of making choices
Downplays value
Easily bullied

Unhealthy, Large Ego
Loves the limelight
Can’t take criticism
Anxiety filled
Surround himself only with people who ally with him
Belittles others
A bully

Empowering a Healthy Ego

“I want to get better. That’s basically what challenges me is my getting better and better and working harder.” – Bradley Cooper

Know yourself. You are not perfect and that’s okay. No one is. Self-knowledge is important to every human being, but most important to the actor. Remember, we are the instrument we play in performance.

Learn to love yourself. Wait, isn’t that giving into my unhealthy ego? Here is what the great, genius, comic actor Charlie Chaplin had to say, “As I begin to love myself, I free myself from anything that is not good for me—food, people, things, situations, anything that pulls me down and away from myself. I call this, healthy ego. I also call it, love of self.”

Love of self is also self-knowledge. As actors we are compared, judged, over-praised, under-praised, liked, disliked, loved and hated. We experience success and failure, all of which according to the wonderful Larry Moss, can make your life unstable. That is unless you have a strong idea as to who you are. You are not the opinion of others. As I frequently have written, you listen to the opinion of others. If the opinion is negative, you ask yourself first if you believe it to be true, if you do, then fix it. If not, forget it and go on with your life.

Next is commitment and diligently dedicating yourself to the choices you make. A fear of the choices we make in life is a way we have of giving into our unhealthy ego. This doesn’t mean we are permanently stuck with the choices we make. No, the wiser we become the more confident we become in our choices or the more we realize there are better choices to be made. Check your stance on things. Stance is a matter of posture. It is also an attitude or point of view.

Here are two stances to consider:

CONSI-STANCE
PERSI-STANCE

Consider these words and see how important a part they play or should play in your life. Commit to these two powerful words.

Ascension

At this point I would like to quote a portion of a paragraph from the wonderful, “Intent to Live” by Larry Moss. “The reality of being a professional actor is that you will be criticized both negatively and positively and you can’t let either stop you from your potential. Art, like life, is ascension. If you can’t tolerate looking at your own weaknesses as well as your strengths, you will not reach your potential or even have an idea of what your potential can be. And if you overreact to criticism, you are putting your career completely in the hands of others. I truly understand that each of us has a voice that wants to be heard and that we ourselves have to listen to. Part of listening to it in a way that really propels you forward, is being scrupulously honest about where you are in your ascension as an actor. I truly believe that actors never have to stop growing and augmenting their talent. Actors must try to die in ascension.

To clarify Larry’s last sentence, we never stop learning and growing as artist. Maintain a Healthy Ego! And remember, an actor’s ego can be good.

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