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by Darren Held

I have reasonably high self-esteem, in case you were wondering. Whatever. Self-esteem, like confidence, is more of an inner state of being than a reflection of actual, tangible achievements.

Yes, yes. This is going to be about improv, I swear.

First, and most obvious, is that improv can help improve self-esteem. When you discover you aren’t constrained by made-up limits or afraid of being in the gray area of not knowing, it builds your self-esteem and confidence.

Second, and something I just learned, is that improv can help you identify those areas where your self-esteem is lacking. Friggin’ yay.

The against type exercise on Friday got me to do some deep thinking about why “sexy” is so frequently against type for me (although this time they went with the more generic “girly girl”). The truth is, I don’t do sexy characters because I just don’t see myself that way. And yes, I get that it’s a character. And no, I don’t see myself as a swamp-dwelling redneck, or a cavewoman or most of the other characters I’ve played in improv. So what’s the deal with the sexy thing?

Then I remembered what Eddie Cardoza said to me in 7th grade. I’ve received worse insults since then, but I’ve never forgotten his. He said, “You look like you traded legs with a chicken and lost your ass in the deal.” In his defense, that was a fairly accurate description. But when you are a weirdly skinny, gangly adolescent with too-long limbs and no boobs, the no-ass/chicken leg assessment hits a little too close to home to laugh off.

And I realized that some part of my self-perception hasn’t progressed since that time, and the idea of the no-ass/chicken leg chick trying to pull off sexy would just be so far-fetched that a) there’s no point in making the audience work that hard, and b) if they did laugh, it would be because they were laughing AT me (and not in the good way.)

ARGHHHH. When it just seemed like I preferred other types of characters and was content to leave sexy to those more qualified to play it, I was okay with the choice. Now that I see it’s a subconscious limit I’ve placed on myself and that I don’t do it because I don’t have any particular self-esteem in that area, I have no choice but to bust through it. So, great… one more thing to add to my to-do list. That’s how it is with improv, you know. You learn that you don’t have to live with limitations, which means if you are living with limitations it’s because you’ve chosen to. I don’t choose to.

Ready to bust through YOUR limitations? H2g improv classes are starting at the end of October – sign up soon, cuz they always fill up!

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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