ACTING “AS IF” – What If You Were Confident, Girl?

Hello m’fitties!

I want to share with you a concept–“acting as if”. Throughout my years training in theatre, feeling the way you want to feel when you have that thing–that career, that dream house, that dream body, that ideal partner allows you to live in a place of abundance and you don’t have to wait until you’re “there” to live out that life. For this particular school assignment I had to propose an applied theatre project to positively affect a certain population. I chose to explore how I’d construct a self-empowerment workshop (if I ever chose to carry it out) and how the use of drama can be used in conjunction with therapy to boost self-esteem in women! 🙂 I did some digging into research which you can see in my works cited.

year three acting class carried away on the crest of a wave backstage

ACTING “AS IF” – What If You Were Confident, Girl?


Where do your own interests lie in relation to exploring the particular population or site you have selected through an applied theatre focus? Why? How are you located in this work?

I personally want to work with this population because I have dealt with low self-esteem. I resonate with girls who go through the same and so it fulfills me to help them because in a way, I see myself in them. I have a huge passion for life coaching (which I have a certificate for). I can see myself being the facilitator in an acting working for a group of 10 girls (and so to reach a larger audience I’ll hold this workshop 5 times to reach 50 women), as I like to keep my connections intimate and sacred. I will lead them through exercises that embody power in their stance and visualization so they will become more confident in their daily lives.


What questions do you need to ask, in order to begin to develop an applied theatre project with this population or site?

Where will I find these particular population of women? How would I advertise this event? What kind of experiences shaped these women to be the people they are today? What holds them back from being confident? Was it their upbringing? Was it bullying in school? What kind of romantic relationships have they had in the past? Have they had any artistic training? What MAKES them feel confident? What attachment style did they have with their parents? (Ambivalent? Secure? Anxious?) What is their cultural background? Were they allowed to express anger, sadness, or any sort of emotions or was it shunned? Does guilt or shame play any part in their family history? What sort of traumas have they endured? How can I create a safe space for them to share their experiences, and feel safe going through the exercises? When venue do I use? How big do I want these groups to be?

These questions will help shape the applied theatre exercises I will lead, and the acting explorations. I already have some answers to these questions.

Granted, not every woman from the age of 21-35 struggle with low self-esteem; that’s why my current social media following already targets specifically those girls. Those that do follow me definitely resonate with the self-empowering messages I’ve been publicly posting, and if they’re following me I’ll send out an invitation to promote my workshop event on social media. This is how I’ll attract the right audience. In addition, if I need to, I can poster around community centres to gain more awareness. I could look into coworking spaces located downtown Toronto.


What do you need to know more about if you were to move forward in developing an applied theatre project with this particular population or site? Where can you find the answers or resources?

I’ve answered some of this aspect in the question above (such as the location and how I’d advertise the event).

I need to know more about how a creative outlet provides confidence. Would it be due to a placebo effect? Does it change the physiology of a person to produce more neuro-chemicals that elevate confidence and feel-good hormones in a person? What ARE these feel-good hormones called, and what are their functions? I need to know what makes us as females biologically different than males so that my approach resonates with girls specifically. Is there a specific evolutionary part of us that makes us more vulnerable?

Following the workshop, I want to see if these results are long-lasting. So perhaps in 6 weeks time, I’ll ask them to fill out a self-report on how they’ve felt and if they’ve seen changes in their perspective.


What applied theatre practitioners or programs are already engaging in the kind of work would you want to do with this population or site? What methods of applied theatre practice were used?

Regular therapy and drama programs help boost self-esteem.

Drama/acting workshops and intensives are cathartic and thus, therapeutic. When the negative feels are purged, one is left feeling cleansed! Applied theatre practices would involve “acting as if”; for instance, the way you act becomes the way you feel. If you act confident, you’ll start to feel more confident. A good example would be the _____ located near _______ station. I’ve personally taken their classes and in my 6 week’s have found myself to have more confidence!

Therapy helps with acceptance and boosts self-awareness through uncovering some of the negative, self-limiting beliefs we have. From there, we create tactics that rewire our thinking into less self-destructive ways. For example, reframing is a tactic used in cognitive behavioral therapy that turns a negative thought (“I’m fat!”) to a positive one (“I’m strong!”) A good example would be the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships on 790 Bay street Toronto. They offer individual therapy for those struggle with self esteem using tactics like acceptance therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamics, and other approaches.



Related research: What arts-based applied practices or programs (e.g., visual arts, music) can you find that are already working with this (or similar) populations or sites? How might these other models be helpful examples to your project? And similarly, what fields of research outside of applied theatre might intersect with or support your interest in the population or site you have chosen to examine?

As mentioned, drama intensives/drama therapy aid in boosting self-esteem by releasing negative feelings and developing positive ones through “acting as if”. This “acting as if” exercise would be one that I’d take the group through in my applied theatre workshop. Therapy helps, so taking this content into my own workshop, we will reframe limiting beliefs.

Fields of research outside of applied theatre that might support my interest involve fitness. Exercise is a fantastic way to boost confidence! When you feel good on the inside, you look good on the outside and vice versa (and gain a better self-image; body image is often a sensitive topic with women). Exercise boosts feel-good hormones like endorphins so you feel good from the inside out, too. Kicking and punching is a helpful outlet for anger and frustration. “Regular exercise makes your heart and bones stronger, lowers your risk for chronic disease right along with your blood pressure, keeps your weight under control and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression. While you’re boosting your energy levels, oxygen capacity, muscle tone and general fitness, a side benefit is an increase in self-esteem. Just the success of creating an exercise plan and sticking to it allows you to enjoy a sense of achievement. Getting a move on is good for your body and mind.” (Crawford 2017) I can start my workshop off with some intense exercise, like 50-burpees, to get everyone’s blood flowing and warmed/amped up for the rest of the workshop. Kicking it off with endorphins is the perfect way to start!

Also, public speaking clubs like Toastmasters is a good area outside of applied theatre that boosts self-esteem. Toastmasters gives a safe space to practice speaking up in public. “A Toastmasters club, essentially consists of a very supportive and encouraging group of people who get together to help one another improve in the areas of public speaking and leadership.” (Gauraw 2013) Mentors and other members provide feedback on each others’ presentations. Taking this into my context, in my workshop, I’ll have each woman take the spotlight to practice speaking up/presenting themselves. They can do this by sharing any personal story–the goal is to get them being comfortable being the center of attention.


What contexts do you need/want to know more about in order to develop an ethical and responsible practice with this population or site? What kinds of ethical dilemmas might come with this work and how might you prepare yourself to handle them?

I need to know if people are open to being touched—some of the exercise would involve contact improvisation. I’ll need to know if they have any health concerns that prevent them from exercising (a twisted ankle, a medical condition, etc). I’ll tell them that they have emotional permission to share what they want to, but if at any point the emotional work is too deep and they feel unsafe, they have the right to pull out and not participate in a certain exercise. I’ll have each participant sign a waiver that they acknowledge all these risks and will not hold me reliable for anything happening; I need to have this legal documentation to protect myself.


What title would you give your project? And finally, what exit strategy might you devise for your participation with the community/site?

I would name it “ACTING “AS IF” – What If You Were Confident, Girl?”

I’ll do a follow-up with all the participants 6 weeks later in the form of a self-questionnaire to access how the workshop has benefited their daily lives. Were the results long-lasting?

At the end of the workshop, I’ll tell the participants that I’m a certified life coach and they have permission to work with me one-on-one if they liked what they got from the group workshop. This way they get more intense training with me to work on some of the things they’ve just begun to delve into in the workshop. I’ll provide them with resources to alternative communities and therapies they can join to deepen their self-confidence journey.


Do reference at least three relevant pieces of research for your Applied Theatre Research File, and provide a brief summary and critique of these sources (e.g., you may use journal articles, chapters from books, websites). What did you learn from the articles that could inform your own applied theatre context? You may use the class bibliography for source materials.


This delves into what reframing is, and how to do it. This helps reframe negative beliefs into positive ones so women can gain a positive self-image. This is a strategy commonly used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Debbie is a registered nurse specializing in mental wellness. She has been working in this field for over 25 years—because of her generous previous exposure in the medicine world and the wealth of education she has under her belt, she is a reliable source.


This talks about how physical fitness improves self-esteem through the generation of endorphins (which are feel-good hormones) and lowers stress levels. Livestrong writes about health and wellness and is a popular source for fitness articles. Author Benna Crawford not only has a degree in theatre but is also a journalist and yoga instructor. Her accreditation makes her a reliable source not only as an artist from a creative perspective but also from a mind-body wellness perspective as well.


This talks about how drama is used to improve self-esteem through creative expression, and getting you to be brave in front of a crowd. Courage breeds more confidence. It teaches leadership skills, collaborative skills, and how to work with spontaneity in uncertain environments. Lily is a performer and teacher for singing, dancing, and acting. She’s also a woman in the field, which pertains to my audience since I’m working exclusively with women. Because of this, she is an experienced coach and I trust her judgement when it comes to her observations on acting and self-confidence as an artist.


Crawford, Benna. “How Does Exercise Affect Your Self-Esteem?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 11 Sept. 2017,

Gauraw, Kumar. “Why Toastmasters Is A Great Confidence Building Platform.” Kumar Gauraw, 9 Apr. 2013,

McGauran, Debbie. “7 Cognitive Behavioral Techniques to Help Reframe Your Thinking.” ActiveBeat, 2 May 2016,

New, Lily. “How Does Drama Develop Confidence?” Acting & Communication Sydney, 16 Mar. 2017,


Acting “as if”…what’re your thoughts? What would you act as if you had? What do you want in your life?