By Darren Held

The Self-Censoring Monster

by Sonnjea Blackwell

Self-censoring sucks. Just sayin’. One of the hardest parts of teaching improv is watching people beat themselves up – figuratively, of course – before any words have even left their mouths.

The Self-Censoring Monster

Not everyone is plagued by the self-censoring monster, of course. But many are, and it makes me cringe to see someone’s eyes light up when they have an idea, and in the split second it takes for that idea to travel from their brain to their mouth, watch the light go out, a grimace appear, a shrug happen – and no words actually emerge.

Obviously, everyone’s experience is different, and I don’t know if people have had others shoot down their ideas so much that they’re embarrassed to even HAVE an idea, or if they are so super critical of themselves that every idea that pops into their head would have to be as brilliant as the Gettysburg Address in order for them to be okay with it, but something has happened to make them judge their ideas so much that if they manage to articulate them, the apology for the idea is bundled into the same sentence. And more often than not, they don’t even spit out the idea in the first place.

I Accept

One of the wonderful things about improv is that every idea MUST be accepted. The basic premise of “yes, and” means that I have absolutely no choice but to accept your idea. Not only do I have to accept it, but I have to contribute to it! Sometimes it takes weeks or even months of encouragement and coaxing, but eventually, students come to the realization that no idea is going to be shot down, rejected, ridiculed or otherwise negatively judged. Every idea will be accepted, acted on, explored, expanded, delved into – and when that happens, students start to feel more confident having ideas and even saying them out loud.

And then I get to see their eyes light up… and stay lit up, instead of being instantly extinguished by the self-censoring monster. Yay!