How Acting Can Help You Thrive as an Introvert

An introvert who is an actor

Acting gives introverts the opportunity to “hide” behind a character and express themselves in ways they usually do not.

The words “introvert” and “acting” just do not go hand-in-hand for a lot of people. For the longest time, I was unable to find the balance myself, as they didn’t go hand-in-hand for me either, regardless of my love of acting. Not to mention, I am one of those, um… “lucky” introverts who has dealt with anxiety and stage fright most of my life.

While introversion and acting seem like they exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, Laurie Helgoe explains it perfectly in her book, Introvert Power:Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. She says that many introverts love performing because, “the expression of internal contents without interruption is a very introverted desire.” She goes on to mention that “doing improvisational work may require more extroversion,” which I totally agree with. (Improv is where I draw the line — getting up on a stage in front of a live audience is enough for me, and I just can’t think that quickly on my feet to pull off improv.)

Acting Gives Introverts the Ability to ‘Hide’ Behind a Character

I suppose the ability to “hide” behind a character has a lot to do with it all, as well. Essentially, you can hide in plain sight as an introvert when you are performing. I get the chance to unleash parts of myself that I can’t in real life. For that matter, acting can be beneficial for everyone. Where else do you get the opportunity to express emotions like rage, joy, sensuality, and anger in a safe space? It can be highly liberating, to say the least.

For me, it is a continuous journey to find the balance between performing and my introversion, but it’s worth it so I can fully embrace and go after the thing that I love. It’s not always easy to regulate my energy in spaces where I am acting, but believe it or not, acting has truly helped me thrive as an introvert. Here’s how.

5 Ways Acting Can Help You Thrive as an Introvert

1. It can help you focus and put attention on your scene partner vs. yourself.

A common question actors ask in acting class  is: “Where do I put my attention?” There are a few answers to this, but putting your attention on your scene partner, an object, or a memory creates a structure that makes me comfortable and able to focus when I am performing. (And we introverts love structure, of course!) 

In the Meisner Technique, for example, you are trained to put all of your attention on your scene partner. You get your ideas, impulses, and motivation from what your scene partner is doing. This is fantastic, because it forces you to take the attention off of yourself. Focusing on yourself and your every move can often result in nervous and self-conscious energy that can just get in the way of an authentic performance. Focusing on the other person. On the other hand, takes away a lot of the anxieties of performing. 

Staying focused is one of the superpowers of introverts, after all, so use it.

2. It allows you to express yourself in ways you usually may not.

As mentioned before, with acting you can hide behind your character, allowing yourself to be the vessel to your own impulses and motivations of the character. Once you’ve done all your preparation and all that you can, you let go and become the character.

While many of us introverts tend to keep to ourselves, we all need a creative outlet to express ourselves. With acting, there is the opportunity to not just express yourself, but being able to express yourself through the eyes of various different characters brings with it so much freedom. 

On top of that, being able to express yourself in a controlled situation is a whole new level of liberation that you just don’t get in everyday life. It’s often messy and can sometimes be chaotic, but freeing nonetheless. As a result, I can take my own fears and anxieties and put them on a shelf for a while as my character takes over. 

3. It gives you the opportunity to not trip over your words.

One thing I love about acting is having lines. I do not consider myself to be the most eloquent speaker on a daily basis — like other introverts, I often trip over my words and struggle with getting my thoughts out eloquently. 

That’s where having lines serves me: I don’t have to think or worry about what is going to come out of my mouth because someone has already done that for me! You can allow your words and sentences to flow unimpeded and without having to be self-conscious of how it will sound.  My thoughts don’t get in the way,  and I  just talk.

In acting, there is a goal, purpose, and through-line for all the words that come out of your mouth. The only time I find myself tripping over my words is when I forget a line or I am so hit with emotion that the words are difficult to say. Either way, it is such a relief to not have to think about what I am saying and just speak!

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4. It allows you to spend time in your head, dwelling on your character.

For what it’s worth, many introverts spend a lot of time in our heads. This is great for acting, as you are often called to imagine the circumstances of your character, their emotions, and sometimes recall your own. Suffice it to say, actors spend a lot of time dwelling on the inner lives of their characters. 

To be clear, I’m not talking about “method acting” — more so the work that every actor has to do regardless of the technique they have learned. How does one relate to a character they have nothing in common with? You research, read, interview people, and dwell in your imagination. And, in some extreme cases, you can live as your character or put yourself in situations your character might find themselves in. (But all actors should take that last bit with a grain of salt.)

There is a whole inner world, good and bad, that many introverts feel comfortable dwelling in. For myself, this makes character study and preparation a very enjoyable process. 

5. If you are a highly sensitive introvert, it is a bonus. 

Whereas sensitivity may not be a trait society considers admirable in daily life, it definitely serves me on stage and in front of the camera. (And, by the way, society is wrong — sensitivity is a strength, not a weakness.) Via acting, my sensitivity is empowering and creates a depth that makes the work deep and engaging.

The greatest actors have a deep sensitivity to them, yet I find it funny that people still consider sensitivity to be a flaw. Sensitivity is a trait that many actors and actresses possess, and I would put myself in that category. 

Like me, some introverts are highly sensitive — we feel things more deeply, feel others’ emotions more deeply, too, and are very in tune with our surroundings. Being highly sensitive is an incredible tool for acting when you learn how to really use it and structure it for your performances. The deep and immediate access to your emotions is something many actors train for so they can make themselves available to play any and all types of characters. Actors train for years to be emotionally available for whatever a scene demands. But when you’re a highly sensitive introvert, you already have this capacity! Being highly sensitive is common among artists in general, and it really is a beautiful tool when you know how to own it. 

Acting Is Perfectly Tailored for Introverts

Overall, acting is the type of gig work that is highly geared and perfectly tailored toward introverts. I am grateful that these conversations have gained more and more exposure. I was recently listening to a podcast interview with musical artist Andre 3000 speaking about his introverted personality and all the years he dealt with social anxiety. 

It almost floored me, as I wasn’t expecting this from such a mega superstar. (In fact, many musical artists are introverts!) It also made me wonder how much it lent itself to his creativity, which is responsible for creating some of the most iconic and memorable music to date. 

Through the grapevine, I’ve heard that Tom Hanks, too, is quiet and focused in between takes, only socializing on lunch breaks. While there are so many benefits to acting as an introvert, I always feel bad for not socializing during rehearsals or cracking jokes to make everyone laugh, but I know that I need to focus in order to thrive and excel at my work. Giving myself the space to just focus and not feel like I need to be anything else continues to be one of my challenges, if anything. 

In the acting world, I still struggle and wince at the idea of spontaneous interviews, small talk, and “hacking it up” with people. Sometimes I make a real effort to socialize so I do not seem rude or standoffish, which sometimes comes at a price for me when I don’t regulate my energy as I need to for my introvert soul. All I know is, acting helps me thrive as an introvert and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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