No Winners No Losers
Awards are not rewards. The biggest reward for a job well done is the work itself. The work holds an abundance of richness far greater than an inanimate, metal sculpture can encompass. Holding that award in hand, while hearing the roar of applause can transplant many people to a place of momentary bliss. It might even stop those critical inner voices for a few peaceful moments. Feelings of vindication can put all the self-doubt on hold and for just that instant, you can rest in the assurance that everyone likes you and they approve. Wow, that’s quite a bit of responsibility for a 13 1/2 inch piece of metal.
Awards are good business and create an air of anticipation and celebration. Individuals get to take their minds off their daily troubles for a while. It’s all quite harmless when put in perspective. But, when actors place too much importance on awards, making winning the ultimate goal, then they’re missing out on the real goodies, the work. Work meaning the process of acting from beginning to end. Relishing in the deliciousness of the creative process. When Michelle Forbes (The Killing) was interviewed by Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times, she put the ordeal of the Emmys in perspective: “ Michelle, you were kind of outspoken about the Emmys a couple of years ago. You were saying that it didn’t matter.” Michelle replied, “ Yes, that lovely quote. I still stand by what I said, that the work is the important bit. And we tell stories for the audience. And if you have an audience engaged and you’ve touched people, you’ve done your job. And the rest is just fun and icing and everything else, but that’s where the glory is.’’
So, what makes actors get off track and lose sight of their passion for the work, and fall into the trap of running after recognition, approval and awards? Let’s take a look at the trap Jen fell into. When Jen came in to see me, she was feeling burnt out and questioning whether or not she made the right decision to become an actor. She graduated N.Y.U. with a B.A. in Theatre and spent one year doing off-Broadway while struggling to make ends meet. Her theatrical and commercial agents encouraged her to visit L.A. and get her foot in the door during pilot season. Jen left N.Y. excited to take a peek at the glitz and glamour a la “Entourage.” She stayed with two friends from college who were on the same track as her. Before she knew it, she was swept up in a whirlwind of parties and red carpet events, climbing the ladder towards the who’s who of Hollywood; always thinking that maybe today she would be in the right place at the right time and get her “big break.” Jen felt so depleted from networking and socializing that she had little energy left for her art . . . acting. She felt like she was on a merry-go-round going nowhere fast.
Jen’s feelings of depression were a gift, they informed her that the life she was leading was not making her happy. She had the good sense not to self-medicate or run away from her feelings, which enabled her to roll up her sleeves and deal with the situation at hand. Through her work in therapy, she learned to take the word failure out of her vocabulary and not beat herself up for some of the decisions she made. Nobody hands out instructions on how to create your life, you just learn as you go and learn to have faith in the process. Self-criticism is not productive; Jen learned she could get farther along the road of self-development with a kinder inner voice. When catching herself using harsh critical self-talk, she learned to stop, take a breath and reword it into positive language.
Earning a living as an artist requires a lot of thought and inner work so you don’t lose your way. The hurts and disappointments are there to help you learn, so don’t run away from them. Remember, “Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” – Robert H. Schuller. With all of her hard-earned awareness, Jen started making better choices, which lead her towards a happier more balanced life. She understood how glitz and glamour seduced her into setting artificial goals of fame and fortune. Today she is a member of a reputable theatre company, where she shares her love of acting and learning with like minded actors. She understands that putting her time and energy in mastering her craft is an important part of her happiness. She is clear about her priorities and has no problem declining a party or event when time is needed for her work. Now that she has cleared away all the distractions and knows what is in her heart and mind, she is joyfully back on track.
Feeling lost? Here are ten tips to get back on track:
- Pay attention to feelings of unhappiness, they hold important information.
- Be honest with yourself, have you been self-medicating or trying to distract from what you are truly feeling?
- Sit quietly, undisturbed and ask yourself what makes you happy. Wait for the answers or visions to come, don’t force this process. Write it down. Keep it where you can see it every day.
- When you have the answers, take a look at your present life. How much of your life contains those images of happiness?
- If you’re off-track, stay away from any self-judgment. Instead, make a list of decisions you can make right now to get yourself back on track.
- Find and be around people who can mentor and inspire you. Your difficult days will feel lighter and your joy will be doubled by others.
- Develop tools to help you stay true to yourself. Practicing mindful meditation is a wonderful way to stop all the distractions, clear the clutter and listen to your heart.
- Life is change and change is part of life. If you hit a bump in the road ask yourself what is to be learned from this experience.
- Stay continuously curious about what specifically makes you happy. View it as your adventure.
- Remember, you are always responsible for your own happiness.
An award can never replace the moments which are filled with the magic of doing what you love. Make every effort to stay connected to your passion and it will steer you towards your happiness.
“All of us are stars and deserve the right to twinkle” – Marilyn Monroe
The names and circumstances have been altered to respect confidentiality.
Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. One of her specialties is working with artists in the Entertainment Industry. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice,visit her website.Follow her on Twitter and Facebook
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.