Sail Through Rejection With 5 Questions
All actors experience rejection in their careers, even famous ones like, Marilyn Monroe. In 1944, some putz at the Blue Book Modeling Agency said to Miss Monroe, “You had better learn secretarial work or else get married.” Oh, that’s so 1944, and so lacking insight! In 2014, actors still have to struggle with rejection and a good amount of ‘putzs’ (Yiddish for jerks) on a daily basis.
To have stamina, you need a solid strategy for handling rejection, and I don’t mean… shopping, chocolate, or a dirty martini. Strategies that keep you running away from your feelings are self-destructive and chip away at your spirit. Instead, the next time you face rejection, pull out these five questions and turn the bitter pill of rejection into a mega vitamin, that will foster strength, endurance, and confidence.
1. What is going on right now?
Sometimes being rejected can send you into a downward spiral of panic and stress. During those times, it’s hard to hold on to what you know. When you are distressed, the brain goes into survival mode, making you want to attack, withdraw, or go numb. Sometimes hearing a rejection can hit the shame button inside you and make you feel very small. When all of those uncomfortable feelings get triggered, it’s useful to stay grounded in reality and not get lost in the stories you tell yourself. For instance, when you don’t get a callback after a great audition, it’s easy to get caught up in the fear that you are not good enough and will never get cast in anything. But, what is actually happening in the moment? Are you being hijacked by your mind? Maybe you start to visualize yourself struggling on unemployment the rest of your life, or picture fellow actors having great careers while you lag behind? STOP. BREATHE. WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW? The reality is you didn’t get a callback and everything else you are visualizing and saying to yourself are just fictional stories. No matter how strongly you feel about your stories, they are not facts, they are just feelings. Your mind has been hijacked by your impending thoughts of doom rather than just experiencing the momentary rejection. See your thoughts clearly. Differentiate between reality and scary thoughts. Stop trying to escape the rejection by blaming, analyzing, and beating yourself up. Your distress is rooted in the stories you are telling yourself. Asking the question – “What is going on right now?” – helps you get out of the negative storytelling loop and back into reality—which is a lot better than where your mind will take you.
2. Can I see this as my path?
This question, helps you to be a “Conscious Actor,” who chooses to take an experience and use it as part of your path of growth. You have no control over the no’s you will hear in life, but you certainly have control over turning them into yes’: yes, I will find something positive in this; yes, I will use this to become a more skilled actor; yes, this is good practice at something I need to work on and get through; yes, I can handle this with dignity and graciousness. Yes, yes, yes! The choice is yours. Are you going to let rejection shut you down or are you going to use it to grow stronger and more confident? Can you see this as your path to becoming a better actor?
3. What is my most believed thought about myself?
This question will require some soul searching and honesty, but is well worth the effort. Every investment of time, energy, and money will be tossed to the wind if, underneath it all, you feel worthless. Negative self-belief is like a magnet that attracts rejection and confirms
your inadequate feelings. You become susceptible to creating—the classic self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, when you don’t believe in your talent, you might use rejection to confirm an old belief from the past. You’re most likely to turn not getting a callback into, “This only proves that my Aunt Harriet was right when she told me at 8-years-old that I would never amount to anything.” These sneaky messages from the past will sabotage your dreams quicker than any rejection from a casting director will! To protect yourself from self-sabotage, know what your most believed thought about yourself is, then you have the power to change it.
4. What is this?
This question cannot be answered by the thinking mind. The answer comes from your direct physical experience in the moment. When you hear a rejection, immediately pay attention to what is happening physically in your body. (visit body-scan for more hands on guidance with this). Become aware of your posture, feel the overall quality of physical sensations in the body. Feel if there is any tension in the face, chest, and stomach. Include awareness of the environment, the surrounding sounds, quality of light, temperature. Feel the body breathing in and out as you take in the felt sense of the moment. Stick with the “whatness” of your experience rather than the “whyness.” Habitually, you may go straight to your defenses, trying to protect yourself from the pain of hearing a rejection. In order to break this old habit, you need to do something different. Staying focused on your physical experience is a good way to stop your mind from going off into any negative thinking. Instead of getting busy trying to defend yourself from the pain or going into old, untrue stories, you are going to be open and curious about the physical sensations presently occurring in your body. Remember, you’re not asking what this is about, which is analyzing. You’re simply asking what is this? Awareness in the body will always anchor you into the present moment. Unlike your thoughts, the body never lies. When you hear rejection, take a breath, go inward, feel the physical sensations in and around you and ask, what is this?
5. Can I let this experience just happen?
This is not an easy task because our instinct is to want to fix, soothe, or escape. Doing any of the aforementioned won’t work. It’s only temporary relief. Wouldn’t you rather do something that will actually build inner strength and help you handle the inevitable ups and downs of being an actor? Pushing away negative feelings tied to rejection makes them last longer. Remember, you can’t heal what you can’t feel. When you let your experience be as it is, you are putting more space around it and making it less claustrophobic. This allows your anxiety and stress to dissolve quicker. When you connect to your body and feel what is happening around you, you are saying there is more to life than just this rejection. When you let the experience just happen, you are being kind to yourself because you’re letting go of self-criticism. Start engaging the limitlessness of the heart rather than the self-limiting judgment of the mind.
By asking these five questions – “What is going on right now? Can I welcome this as my path? What is my most believed thought about myself? What is this? and Can I let this experience just happen?” – you are building an active strategy to meet rejection. Each question will help you break out of your self-imposed, storyline prison and bring you closer to building up inner strength, confidence, and endurance. Enjoy a free meditation to help keep you on a path toward fulfilling your dreams. Happy sailing!
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.