What do you see in the mirror?

One of the first things I notice with actors is how reluctant many are to watch their own work on camera.


Few people enjoy staring at themselves in the mirror. The reflection in the mirror is filled with flaws: nose is too big, lips too small, eyes too puffy, hair too lifeless, skin too red.  Any combination of self-criticisms fog up the mirror image.

The cat looking in the mirror sees a big hairy lion and thinks something is wrong with it. Why don’t I look like the the other cats?


For some actors, the concerns with looks are actually what paralyzes them from ever exploring working on camera.  


Who would want to cast me since I have all of these flaws and there are a ton of others who have both talent and “perfect” looks?


I want you to see what I see when I look at you: talent and personality.


We can all make a long list of actors whom we admire based on their sheer talent and presence on screen. In fact, the list of my favorite actors mostly doesn’t include the “beautiful” people.


So why would you hold yourself to a different standard?


What do you notice most about a riveting scene in a movie or TV show?  For me, it’s the moment to moment connection between two people. It’s the little nuances of relationships and thoughts and character reveals. In comedy, I’m waiting for that clever or silly joke that makes my belly ache from laughing so hard.


We watch people be people.


We watch what they do, how they treat each other, what they say, how they get out of a bad situation. We actually love characters’ flaws. I’m not perfect, so I love to see other people also be NOT perfect.

When actors start working and reviewing their work on camera, this is the typical first response: the actor starts picking him/herself apart physically and progressively feels more insecure than ever before about his/her body.


Here’s the way to move forward against your physical insecurities:

  1. Recognize that we ALL have insecurities about our bodies.
  2. Dress so that you feel good about yourself (e.g., wear updated and fitted clothing; for anyone who wears makeup, wear simple makeup so that you feel at your best).
  3. And, most importantly, focus on acting.


It’s that simple. It always comes back to The Work.


Be the actor that you know you are and THAT is what we will watch intensely.


Trust me, I’ve heard it all. You are not alone with your fears and concerns about how you may look on camera.  It’s just how you dance with these fears.


Share your beauty with the world. Don’t hide out from that camera.  We would love to SEE you…just as you are.


If you see the Lion in the mirror, perhaps that is what is fierce about you. What is powerful, strong, and totally unique about you. You are NOT like the other cats. Thank goodness. You are so much more riveting by just being you and doing good work as an actor.


Your fan in the mirror,



Hungry for tips on how to (re)energize your approach to the industry? Sign up here for my free mini e-book: How to Lure Reps and Casting Directors to You. 



  1. Andrew Rabensteine says

    Although I do not enjoy looking at myself in a mirror, I have learned to enjoy watching myself on camera. I’m sure this is due to your class and having to watch my takes week after week. Somehow, I became fascinated with watching the different choices and how they come across on camera; what works, what doesn’t. Now, if only I could figure out how to make the transition to looking at myself when I’m NOT acting!

    • Heidi Marshall says

      Yes, I’m also soooo addicted to watching nuances in performances! I love scrutinizing scenes in films/TV. I think this is why lots of theater actors are actually so incredible on screen, because they know how to make nuanced choices. Also I find it fascinating which nuances the editor/director actually choose when building the story – the nuances tell the story completely!

  2. Jay Santiago says

    You’re so on time and synchronistic with your posts and articles. I’ve been dealing (thinking about this) with this issue of who I come across the screen. After reading your message, it clarified some concerns and now I’m looking at the “Lion in the mirror” in a new light … thanks

    • Heidi Marshall says

      I was inspired to write this by a student. I was suddenly hit by how much we can get completely stalled by these worries of external things. And it totally distracts from the JOY of why you are acting in the first place. Follow what you love and the rest will follow. I’m sure of it.

  3. stephanie says

    This is really wonderful advice, Heidi! And boy do I need to listen. Thank you for your intelligent compassion, boy do we need it! I once took a commercial class and was forced to confront my image..I was so distracted by my image I couldn’t focus on my acting. I am slowly learning to lead with acting and find beauty in the connection to that other person, but every scenario is different.

  4. Rachel Pearl says

    This is so good to be reminded of, Heidi. It came just in time for me to shake it off and just commit to being me for a headshot session today. What a difference it makes to really get present with yourself and just be ok with it, whatever you are. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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