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by Bonnie Katz, MA

When New York Times Theatre Critic, Charles Isherwood critiques an actor’s performance and says, ”Less would have been more,” that has to hurt.  But if you can get past the pain of hearing those words and explore the cause of “overdoing” a performance, it’s rich with wisdom.  At the root of overdoing anything is the universal feeling of  “not being good enough just as you are.”  In fact, it’s your belief that you are not handsome, pretty, skinny, smart, rich, talented enough that will cause you more suffering than any words a critic may write about you.  Your negative self-beliefs not only get in the way of becoming a successful actor, they impede your ability to achieve happiness in every area of your life.

If you’re walking around not feeling so great about yourself, feeling small on the inside or like an imposter, you can do something about it.  You cannot wait for fame to feel talented and you certainly can’t wait for accolades to feel worthy.  When I work with individuals in my psychotherapy practice and tell them that, “They’re perfect just as they are,” they either laugh at me or cry.  They laugh because it’s so far from how they feel about themselves, or they cry because they have been longing to hear those words for most of their lives.  I say it because I truly believe that self-love and respect is a birthright. People struggle with self-worth, because when they were born, they didn’t have someone with loving, open arms saying,” Welcome to the world, we have been waiting for you.”  That simple but powerful message determines how you feel about yourself and how you view the world.  Not being welcomed into the world, for whatever reason, can leave you feeling that life is difficult and scarce.  You may look at others and wish that you had what they had because you feel empty inside and not good enough.  In fact, as one of my patients so wisely said, “It’s the emptiness inside that draws you to the acting profession.”

Although a great review and a standing ovation feels wonderful in the moment, it’s not enough to heal the emptiness one can feel deep inside.  Have great ambition, work hard and enjoy your profession, but never think that it will alter how you feel about yourself.  Your self-worth will be determined by knowing, accepting and ultimately loving yourself unconditionally,  just as you are right now in this moment.  Because if you’re not doing that, you’re only repeating an early childhood wound.  Instead, do your inner work and learn to feed your self-worth.  Be the captain of your ship and determine for yourself how you’re going to sail through life.  Don’t rely on the whims of the business or anyone for that matter to steer your self-esteem course; that’s your responsibility.  Can you imagine what it would feel like to love yourself even when you don’t book a job, mess up an audition or get dropped by an agent?  It’s liberating!  It gives you the freedom to feel good about who you are and what you do without the negative, self-sabotaging thoughts.  Life is difficult enough without the negative stories you tell yourself.

You don’t have to continue to live your life now the way you began it.  Begin right now to think about things differently and work on your self-worth with these simple steps:

  1. Make self-awareness a daily goal.  The beginnings of change are rooted in awareness. Start to discover the stories you are telling yourself that are based on feelings not facts.  When you become aware of your beliefs you can choose to no longer put yourself in a prison of self-doubt.  A person thinks approximately 10,000 thoughts a day.  How do you think you’re going to feel about yourself if the majority of those thoughts are negative self-talk?
  2. Strive to have an open mind.  Rigidity is your enemy.  How can you be open to a new way of being when you keep telling yourself the same old stories?  It’s okay to rest in not having the answers all the time.  In fact, the truth is that we don’t have control over most of the things that matter to us.  Learn to live with uncertainty, rather than grabbing at anything in order to be on solid ground.  For example, if someone doesn’t return a phone call or invite you to be a friend on Facebook, it doesn’t mean they think you’re a horrible person.  It just means they didn’t return a phone call or extend an invitation.  Stick with the facts not the feelings.
  3. Break the habit of defining who you are by what you say and do. Actions and words are momentary flutters in a huge span called your life. Don’t define yourself by a snippet of actions,  you don’t leave yourself room to grow.  If you have a terrible audition, it doesn’t mean you are a terrible actor.  It just means you had a terrible audition.  If you make a mistake, it just means you made a mistake, not that you are a mistake.
  4. Find the lightness in your life. A sense of humor in a difficult situation can lighten the severity of it.  Learn to laugh at yourself.  Don’t take yourself so seriously.  When you feel intense inside or afraid that you messed up, remind yourself that nobody died because of it. Are you meeting your daily challenges as if they were life or death?  If you are, you are wearing down your parasympathetic nervous system and all your internal organs.  Research shows stress is more dangerous to your health than cigarettes.  Take your stress levels seriously.
  5. Make gratefulness a daily habit. Because our brains are built to survive, we remember the bad stuff that happens to us more than the good. Our brains are like Teflon to good news and Velcro to bad.  Back in the day, we needed to remember not to go down a path that was inhabited by tigers.  But today, the tigers are manmade. Work hard to remember the good things that happened to you at the end of your day, it makes you feel better.  Remind yourself of all the people who love you and the refrigerator full of food.
  6. Don’t surround yourself with difficult people.  By having friends whom you can’t rely on and who aren’t your biggest fans, you may be unconsciously repeating childhood environments.  Most people set up their present environments to work through unfinished childhood issues.  “I’m going to make you give me what I didn’t get.”  If you’ve been reading my articles, you know I say this a lot.  But it’s worth repeating because it’s at the core of your unhappiness.  We can’t have a better past, but we can definitely work on a better present.  Some of you are left with wounds that deserve an apology.  You might never get that acknowledgement or apology.  Don’t waste your time trying to get something now that you should’ve gotten from your past.  Remember, if you’ve got one foot in the past and one in the future, you’re pissin’ on the present. Do your inner work so that you don’t miss out on all the beauty surrounding you right now.

It’s so easy to confuse success with self-worth.  But, in reality if you are loved because of what you do instead of who you are then you will always feel the need to be successful so that you can feel lovable.  Get off that boat because it’s just going around and around in circles.  Stay on the difficult course of learning to love and accept yourself just as you are and you will end up with someone who will always be there for you through all the ups and downs…yourself.


Bonnie Katz, MFT is a licensed therapist in private practice. Her goal as a therapist is to help clients reach “optimal mental wellness”, so that they can feel happiness, fulfillment and joy in their everyday lives. For more information on Bonnie’s therapy practice, visit her website. Like The Conscious Actor on Facebook


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.