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Get Over Yourself: How Your Ego Sabotages Your Improv

The instant you set your foot on stage, your ego is on high alert. This is true for every human on the team. When you sense that someone else is encroaching on a scene or idea that you perceive as your creation, you feel a need to protect your standing or authority or ownership and refuse to allow others to become the leading or even contributing voice. You will likely exert your ideas, your dominance over the scene. Later, you will be frustrated, and hold internal resentment toward your fellow improviser. Even worse, and overtly, your ego may take credit for the ideas of others, or refuse to allow them to stand in the spotlight. This can also play out as snark, cynicism, or extreme criticism of the work of others, either as “commenting” during the scene or unsolicited notes after the show. You immediately call out things as “too obvious” or “amateurish” or “not funny” in the effort to make your own work look more valuable.

There is at once a vast chasm and a narrow line between confidence in your abilities, and a harmful, over-inflated ego. Ego says “I can do no wrong”, whereas confidence says “I can get this right.” Confidence says “I’m valuable” while ego says “I do not know whether or not I have value.” This is a critical difference in mindset. Be aware when you are sincerely contributing and when you are simply trying to protect your imagined, artificial standing. Losing some of your “turf” will be scary at first, but it isn’t really your turf. Relinquish control. Let go of your need to be laughed at by the audience, which your ego artificially translates as “love.” “If the audience laughs at me, then they love me. If they love me then I have value.” Stop this cycle. See your own value. Trust your ability to contribute. Set your ego aside for just one evening, and allow your honest creativity to intermingle with the other members of your improv team. Allow your heart to open. When your heart is open, your eyes and ears will open. When your eyes and ears are open, your mind will open. And your contribution to the work on stage will be effortless and brilliant.

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