The best protection against feeling like a failure is not success. Actors must work hard at developing their own sense of integrity and self-acceptance in order to keep the monster of external validation under control. They are susceptible to equating their self-worth with fame, good reviews, and the amount of jobs they book. Does this sound familiar? If it does, then you are setting the stage for low self-esteem to creep in and wreak havoc on your confidence and well-being. It’s not enough to have professional discipline and show up prepared and ready to work. The greatest predictor of success will be your resilience, how you handle the inevitable ups and downs of your career. You cannot let your self-confidence waiver when things don’t go your way. Sometimes even when you give it your all, you don’t get the results you would like. It feels unfair. Yes, life is unfair and you don’t always get what you deserve. But, you certainly don’t deserve to go down the road of self-deprecation. Instead, learn how to navigate the not so good stuff. In fact learning how to master the disappointments in life will help you feel less like a victim and more like the strong wise person you are capable of being.
If you’ve been reading my articles, you probably noticed that I write a lot about how to handle the difficulties life throws along your path. Happiness and good fortune don’t tend to be a problem for most people. Disappointments and setbacks are where they get stuck. The greatest cause of unhappiness is not the difficult things that might happen to you, but how you handle them. There are plenty of people out there who don’t have a perfect life, who don’t get what they want and are still happy. Some important things they have that you might not are the ability to not be self-critical when things go wrong and to have gratitude when things go right in their life. Happiness and self-worth are an inside job. Set your career goals, dream of where you would like to be in five years from now, but for heaven’s sake, don’t cheat yourself by forgetting to do your internal work along the way. Below are some simple tips to make sure you are on the right track towards being the best possible version of yourself!
Don’t pay lip service to gratitude, it has benefits backed by science. Hundreds of studies have revealed that practicing gratitude increases positive emotions, reduces the risk of depression, heightens relationship satisfaction, and improves resilience when confronted with stressful events. I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies would love to get their hands on those results! Lucky you, they’re free for the taking. But, gratitude doesn’t always come naturally. It seems that fear, anxiety, stress, disappointments, and resentments are occupying more of our attention these days than positive emotions. But, according to Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, it is possible to develop a grateful outlook in order to improve your well-being. When you make gratitude a discipline you actually change the emotional quality of your life by making more space for connection and positive emotions. Develop mental tools to remember the good stuff and it just might become a habit. Research says that not only do you increase your chances of weathering the rough times better, but you also have more capacity to enjoy the happier times. Try these exercises:
1. Every so often imagine what your life would be like without your good fortune. Picture being in a world without your loved ones. Can you imagine not having food in your refrigerator, the ability to be independent, and see, hear, smell the world around you? Your gratitude will measurably increase when you stop taking your blessings for granted. Give yourself this nudge when you start to get numb around the positive things that exist in your life.
2. Take time to stop and smell the roses. Those few extra minutes to enjoy the aroma coming from the bakery, that robust cup of coffee, the sunshine warming your face, will all train your brain to take in and remember the good. Because our brains are built to survive, we automatically remember the bad stuff…Oh, don’t go down that road, there’s a tiger in the bushes. In order to balance your emotions, you have to make more of an effort to allow the good stuff to stick.
3. Keep your sense of entitlement in check. Good fortune is not a birthright, it’s a gift. Drop the attitude that this world owes you something just because you’re special. Instead, learn to be humble. You are no better than anyone else and no one else is any better than you. We’re all in this together and we all need each other to get by. Believe it or not, that big producer cannot make the blockbuster movie without you and you cannot earn a living and do what you love without him or her. Don’t rain on your parade with an inflated sense of self. Appreciate whatever good fortune is thrown along your path and you will always have a reason to smile in the morning.
4. Be grateful to people not just things. Being polite, saying please and thank you, lays important groundwork for meaningful connections with others. Acknowledging when another person helps you helps them to feel appreciated and valued. These small but kind gestures register in your brain that something good is taking place and can give your life more meaning.
5. It’s easy to feel grateful when good things happen to you. But can you meet the challenge of finding gratefulness when you lose your job, don’t have enough money to pay the rent, or get dumped by your girlfriend? Advanced gratefulness is difficult to practice but can be a lifesaver when tough times roll in. Having gratefulness through those times does not mean denying them. It means that you have the ability to transform your obstacle into an opportunity if you so choose. It means hanging on until you find the treasure that will eventually transform your loss into a gain.
These practices can help you to take back your power and be the author of your own life, rather than just a player in it. You may not be able to control the waves of life, but you can certainly learn how to surf them.
I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Samuel French Bookshop
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.