29 November 2019 by Tom Olsen

Improvisation: An Invaluable Way to Build Self-Confidence

Go with the flow.

Improvisation is an acting technique that involves no planning - just off the cuff acting. There is no script, no plan, no expectations. You make things up as you go along. I was introduced to improvisation by chance when I attended a random improvisation meetup group a couple of years ago (I often try out random meetup events on a whim to experiment and see what 'gems' I can uncover).

Since that time, I have attended many improvisation groups and I have found my confidence grow massively as a result. It hasn't only improved my confidence - I feel more charismatic, more able to connect with people and express myself to them. I have started to rekindle some of that childlike fun that so many of us lose as we mature into adults.

So why is improvisation so beneficial to self-confidence?

Get Used to Taking Action Without Thinking

As there is no script, and there is no time to think, the only thing to do is to take action without thinking. A lot of social anxiety (and anxiety in general) comes from an overactive mind - in other words, thinking too much, which then leads to not taking action.

Improvisation is like a 'nuclear option' for training yourself to act without thinking. You don't have a choice. Once you play some improvisation games, and realise that you don't have to think, you begin to have confidence in your instinct. You start to become comfortable taking action without thinking.

Exercise your Spontaneity

Improvisation is all off the cuff. It is a training gym for spontaneity. I can't recall how many crazy things that we have acted, or spoken about at the improvisation group that I go to that we definitely wouldn't have done in 'regular conversation'. Because when you are spontaneous, fun and exciting things happen.

Spontaneity is the natural, innate, creative spark, that ignites when you take action without thinking. The more you practice, the more spontaneous you become. You start to build confidence in your ability to 'wing it' and go with the flow. Your wit becomes sharper. You rediscover the fun part of you that, for many of us, got left in the wings when we stepped onto the stage of adulthood.

Embrace Imperfection

Probably the most important life lesson that you can learn from doing improvisation is that imperfection is OK. When there is no script, and you have to create something on the spot, perfectionism is redundant.

For so many of us, letting go of perfectionism, and all the constraints that is shackles us with, is an incredibly difficult thing to do. And yet, when you do improvisation letting go of perfectionism is relatively easy, because you don't have a choice.

This sounds scary. Where should I start?

You don’t have to be an actor to start doing improvisation. There are many improvisation groups that use improvisation as a technique to build self-confidence. These groups are catered to people who have social anxiety, so although this sounds scary, you often find that there are many people in the same boat as you when you go to an improvisation group.

The best place to look for improvisation groups is Meetup.

If you live in London, take a look at my latest improvisation confidence-building workshops here.