One of the things I love about acting is being able to step into and out of an alter ego.
I learned a long time ago that one way for me to be confident was to “play” someone confident onstage.
It took me a lot longer to figure out that I could use the same principle in my life offstage: that if I went into a situation with the right outfit / mantra / alter ego / attitude, I could fake my way into confidence.
I only learned this once life (in my case, having a baby) forced me to build a life outside the theater – and learning it is what propelled me to channel my theatre training into coaching.
The outfit took on a life of its own, and to live up to the image it projected, I became another version of myself: someone who is sharper, bolder, more confident in her weirdness.
You can try this too, and you don’t have to go onstage to do it.
You can create an alter ego that is another version of yourself: stronger, clearer, more spaced out, softer, meaner, louder, grungier. It’s not about being better. It’s about what you learn about yourself when you step into another character. (Those of you who have children, or who remember your own childhoods, have probably seen this with your own eyes: when we’re little, we figure out who we are by pretending to be something else).
You can use this alter ego to test out what you want, what you think, what you fear, what you hate, what you think you’re capable of. You might be surprised by what you find out. (For example, I was very surprised to find out in the course of making my show that I love new age woo woo stuff once you take out the element of control, domination, betterment and perfection).
To create your own alter ego, here’s a good way to start:
I’ll walk you through it:
1. PICK A NAME
- Look around until a random object catches your eye (here are some examples from where I’m sitting right now: stool, skeleton, iron, rainboots).
- Pick a nickname you or someone you knew had in childhood (examples from people I know: Face, Boo, Kaa, Jaja).
- Put the two names together (examples: Stool Face, Skeleton Boo, Kaa Iron, Jaja Rainboots). Voila! You’ve got an alter ego.
2. DRAW A TWO MINUTE SELF PORTRAIT OF YOUR ALTER EGO
- Set the timer for two minutes
- Write the name on a piece of paper
- Draw a picture of that character
- Color it in with crayons or markers or a weird red pen
3. FREEWRITE FOR TWO MINUTES
- Set the timer for two minutes again
- Write what you see in the picture you drew
- You could also answer these questions: Who is this person? What are their superpowers? What is their kryptonite? Where do they come from? What are they wearing? Who are they protecting? Who are they fighting? What car do they drive?
- Look back over what you wrote, and circle 5-6 words that stand out to you.
- Write those words in a list, then mess around with them until they become something like a mantra. It doesn’t have to make sense, but it needs to speak to you.
When I did this at our workshop last week, here’s what I came up with:
So now what? What do you do with this alter ego?
I’ll tell you what: you practice stepping into those shoes. You channel it at boring parties or endless meetings or conversations at the grocery store. When you need to speak up, you think, what would my alter ego say? When you aren’t sure what to do, you ask, what would my alter ego do? And when you’re at a thrift store, you ask, what would my alter ego wear? And if you’re brave, you buy that piece of clothing and you wear it out in public and see what happens.
That’s enough to get you started! Let me know what you find out.