CA­REER

An un­likely TV host on how she stepped into the spot­light—and what she learned in the process.

ELLE (Canada) - - Contents - By CYN­THIA LOYST

How The So­cial co-host Cyn­thia Loyst over­came her on-cam­era anx­i­ety and stepped into the spot­light.

OVER THE PAST five years as a co­host on the talk show The So­cial, I have recorded back­stage mes­sages with Meghan Trainor, air-kissed Miss Piggy and taken cozy self­ies with Ryan Reynolds. (Yep, he’s as fre­s­hand de­li­cious-smelling as you’d imag­ine.) If you didn’t know me, you’d prob­a­bly guess I was a nat­u­ral-born ex­tro­vert who’d al­ways dreamed of life in the pub­lic eye. But it took many years (and tears) to get here.

Grow­ing up, I wanted to work in TV, but I def­i­nitely wasn’t try­ing to be­come the Cana­dian Bar­bara Wal­ters. After grad­u­at­ing with a de­gree in film and tele­vi­sion, I be­came a pro­ducer for an award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary series about sex­u­al­ity, a po­si­tion I kept for years, hap­pily un­seen on the other side of the cam­era. Then, in 2009, the bot­tom fell out of the econ­omy. Sud­denly both the series and the chan­nel I was work­ing on were can­celled. I knew my days were num­bered if I couldn’t make my­self use­ful at min­i­mal ex­pense to the com­pany. Around the same time, an ex­ec­u­tive had been nudg­ing me to host and pro­duce a show about sex. I had al­ways waved him off—but you know what they say about des­per­ate times.

A few months later, I found my­self sit­ting in a puffy red chair with a cam­era pointed at my face. I was sweaty and jit­tery and could hardly string a sen­tence to­gether. Ev­ery time the lit­tle green light turned on, I felt like I’d ei­ther start weep­ing or vomit. I know I’m not the only per­son who has found them­selves in a dream job and been ter­ri­fied of chok­ing or sim­ply won­dered “What the hell am I do­ing here?!” But I’ve learned that some of the most re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in our pro­fes­sional lives are born of pur­su­ing things we had to work hard to get good at. It was a long, slow process, but here’s how I learned to break free of my fear of fail­ure.

GET ED­U­CATED

Dur­ing the first few months of my new gig, I spent most of my free time search­ing on­line for any­thing that could help me

learn to be more com­fort­able on- air. Even­tu­ally I stum­bled across im­prov classes. I didn’t know it at the time, but im­prov is rec­om­mended for peo­ple with so­cial-anx­i­ety dis­or­ders. Even com­pa­nies like Google and Pep­siCo are start­ing to in­cor­po­rate im­prov ex­er­cises into cor­po­rate train­ing. I hoped these classes would help me not only be­come faster on my feet but also stop tak­ing ev­ery­thing so se­ri­ously. After all, TV was sup­posed to be fun.

Dur­ing class, we would throw in­vis­i­ble balls to each other and crawl around like an­i­mals. At first, it felt in­sane. But then it be­came free­ing. One of my favour­ite ex­er­cises was called “Yes, and....” Two of us would face each other and start with a state­ment as sim­ple as “The sky is blue.” The other per­son would re­spond with “Yes, and...” and we’d con­tinue the story back and forth. This teaches the anx­ious per­son who wor­ries about say­ing some­thing stupid that ev­ery state­ment is worth build­ing on. And it was key to help­ing me learn to roll with it when some­thing doesn’t go as planned, which can hap­pen in any job, not just TV.

That con­fi­dence has a rip­ple ef­fect, says Gary Hirsch, a co- founder of On Your Feet: Im­pro­vi­sa­tion for Busi­ness, based in Port­land, Ore. “When peo­ple learn to face uncer­tainty with con­fi­dence, you get bet­ter ser­vice, prod­ucts and sys­tems.” Not up for im­prov? Try some deep breath­ing to counter­act the phys­i­o­log­i­cal ef­fects of anx­i­ety. In­hale through the nose for four counts, hold for two sec­onds and then ex­hale slowly.

REFRAME HOW YOU FEEL

I am prob­a­bly Tim Bur­ton’s big­gest fan, so when I found my­self in­ter­view­ing him early on in my ca­reer, I felt about as awk­ward as Johnny Depp in Ed­ward Scis­sorhands. I stut­tered out a ques­tion—some­thing about whether he thought mon­ster movies re­flected the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate—and held my breath. He loved it. In­stantly my nerves mu­tated into gid­di­ness and my heart pounded ex­cit­edly. While I’d felt ter­ri­fied two sec­onds be­fore, sud­denly the ex­act same feel­ing was mak­ing me elated. All it took was a new mind­set. There’s re­search be­hind this strat­egy. A 2014 study led by Ali­son Wood Brooks of Har­vard Busi­ness School found that when peo­ple reframe their think­ing about a sit­u­a­tion—e.g., say­ing “I’m ex­cited” in­stead of “I’m so ner­vous”—or give them­selves mes­sages of en­cour­age­ment, they end up feel­ing more pos­i­tive and per­form bet­ter.

EFF IMPOSTER SYN­DROME

I of­ten had sit­u­a­tions where my mind told me I didn’t de­serve to be there. Nova Brown­ing Ruther­ford, a Toronto-based life coach, gave me a tech­nique to cope with this: Jot down a list of your suc­cesses and the names of peo­ple who be­lieve in you, and read it aloud reg­u­larly. Or how about this: In­stead of try­ing to avoid imposter syn­drome, why not “lean in” to it? When you em­brace (a lit­tle) the worry that you’re never go­ing to be quite good enough, it can give you an edge by keep­ing you mo­ti­vated.

SET A TIME LIMIT

When I started host­ing, I promised my­self that if it still wasn’t any fun after a year, I would pur­sue an­other role. Thank­fully, some­thing clicked after about six months. When I found my­self ex­chang­ing quips with Ryan Gosling on a red car­pet, I re­al­ized I was fi­nally en­joy­ing my job. But you also have to know when to walk away—even if it means say­ing good­bye to a role that looks per­fect on pa­per. Had my on­cam­era ca­reer con­tin­u­ally left my stom­ach in knots, I’d have gone back to pro­duc­ing.

Brown­ing Ruther­ford sug­gests do­ing a gut check if you feel un­set­tled at work. Ask your­self: “Is there any­thing I like about this job? Do I not like it or am I just afraid of it? Is there room for it to grow into some­thing I like bet­ter? Can I take ex­tra cour­ses to help me feel more con­fi­dent?” Then set three-, six- or nine-month goals and as­sess how things are un­fold­ing. If there’s no change, men­tally set a “drop-dead date” to leave.

BE YOUR OWN BFF

You’re go­ing to make mis­takes and some­times look silly—like the time I did an en­tire show with Rus­sian Red on my teeth. I still have mo­ments when I ques­tion my­self. Dur­ing these lows, I try to think: “What’s the worst thing that can hap­pen? Even if I fail mis­er­ably, it’s life ex­pe­ri­ence and a great story for my fu­ture grand­kids.” I also try to think about how far I’ve come since I was that new­bie host. I imag­ine whis­per­ing in her ear: “One day this will all be worth it. One day you’ll get back­stage bear hugs from Ja­son Mo­moa.” ®

Loyst with Ja­son Mo­moa on The So­cial in 2016

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