Anton Chekhov, the great Russian playwright, wisely wrote, “You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible.” But can’t the same be said about believing in yourself? The more you do, the rewards are endlessly fruitful.
Take Barrett Doss who stars alongside Andy Karl in the hit Broadway musical Groundhog Day, based on the 1993 film. Doss plays Rita Hanson, the whip-smart optimistic local Pittsburgh TV news associate producer. Hanson is the ideal foil to her arrogant, jaded, grouch of a weatherman, Phil Connors (Karl), as he is stuck in a time loop in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. “Groundhog Day is about looking outwards in order to look inward,” says Doss. “When you learn something new about others, it allows you to learn something new about yourself.” The role is a break-out part for Doss who last appeared on Broadway as the understudy to Rose Byrne and Annaleigh Ashford in the irresistible comedy, You Can’t Take It With You, with James Earl Jones.
Big juicy part. Hit Broadway show. A dream team cast and creatives like composer Tim Minchin, book writer Danny Rubin and director Matthew Warchus. “People think I must feel that I finally made it.” says Doss, who dreamed of performing on Broadway since she was a kid in Minnesota listening to endless cast albums.
But think again. Her hurdles and self-doubt remain. “For example, when you’re reviewed, you’re re-exposed to the feeling of failure, even though you’re supposedly at the top of your game,” Doss explains. “It’s a constant struggle.”
To help though the tough moments, Doss is a firm believer in unpacking and processing situations that are particularly hard. To that end she offers her best tips on how to trust and believe in yourself, especially during times of uncertainty.
When I feel self-doubt, if I can, I try to work with it. I try to acknowledge those feelings so I can release them and they’re not stuck in my head. That’s when I really think about trusting my skill set.
Push yourself in the direction of thinking about the things you like about yourself. Be aware of what you are good at doing. I think, what do I like about my sense of humor? What makes me laugh about myself? That way I can be more open to criticism because there is something I already trust.
The other day I was having a week where I felt I was not totally in sync with myself on stage. The words coming out of my mouth didn’t totally feel like Rita. I was missing a couple of laughs that usually come and I couldn’t figure out was that was. I began to feel very discouraged. All of those horrible feelings of self doubt rushed into my head. It helped that I was reminded of when I got the job and said, “I think I got this job because I have good timing.”
Even if I can’t come up with a clever bit all the time, my timing is good. So if I’m really at a loss, I can trust that I once told someone that I had good timing. That is something I believed. When I go back and uncover those things that I know I have when I’m at my best, I start to feel better. I remember, this is what I’m good at and why I got this job.
When you’re proud of yourself, give yourself permission to brag. It reinforces in your head that you’re doing something right. Tell people who you trust and know all the sides of you well. It doesn’t need to be all the time. Then you run into other issues. But when I have a great audition I find it really comforting to call my mom and say, ‘I just did something that makes me really proud.’ Even if I don’t get the job, it’s nice to share. I can call my mom, one of my best friends or tell my boyfriend, ‘I really nailed that.’ Even if it’s just one moment on stage.
Bounce your ideas off of people you trust. It helps you to keep learning, develop and further your skill set and trust what you already know. It continues to deepen your knowledge base. It’s so hard to ask for help, but it’s an important part of feeling confident.
Let yourself take risks. I’m not great at coming up with funny, super creative bits, like a physical joke on stage or a certain way of twisting a line that is funny, unique and weird. It something that I would like to do better. But because it involves a lot of failure, I’m terrified of it. Most people are afraid of failing. But as I work on the show and auditions, I’m working on the fear. Throwing things out and allowing yourself to fail publicly is really important to building trust within yourself. It allows you to say, well I failed at “y,” but at least I know “x.”