Obstacles Are Opportunities
The next time you hit an obstacle on your path and start to fall down a bottomless pit of fear and self-doubt, hold onto this thought;you happen to be in very good company! As a young actress, Dianne Wiest hit a bump that could’ve ended her career. Cast in a play and feeling totally lost, during a rehearsal, the director exploded at her saying, “If I had any idea how BAD you really were, I never would have cast you!” Instead of falling down the shame drain, this gutsy actress hung in there and went on to create a flourishing career. Wiest’s fortitude kicked in again when she hit another bump called Woody Allen. In an excerpt from the book, Actors at Work, by Tichler and Kaplan, Wiest talks openly about her dilemma- “Woody sent me the script (Bullets Over Broadway) and said I’d be perfect for the part. So I read it, and I thought, what the hell is he dreaming of? This isn’t for me. I had no idea what he was thinking. So I put on these beautiful costumes, and the first day of shooting comes and goes, and Woody says, ‘Come to the cutting room.’ He said, ‘Look at this,’ and I looked at the dailies, and it was awful. I mean awful, just a stupid woman saying these meaningless lines, trying to seduce beautiful John Cusack. And I said, ‘I don’t know what to do, Woody.’ And he said, ‘Well, think of something.’ I said, ‘I think you should replace me.’ So the next day, we were sitting on the set, both of us in despair, saying this is truly awful. And I said, ‘I think you have to replace me. You have to fire me and get somebody who can do this.’ And he said, very loyally, ‘No, I think it’s something to do with your voice.’ And I remember coming toward panic that morning, determined that I would lower my voice, but really not knowing what the hell I was going to do. So we went back and reshot the same scene, and I was determined, and I lowered my voice, and suddenly, with this fake voice I could do anything. Anything.”
And so she did… she went on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Wiest did not let fear and self-doubt shut her down. Instead, she used this obstacle as an opportunity to grow as an actress. With Woody Allen’s belief in her acting ability and her courage to feel the truth of her situation, she took a risk and attained growth and success. Two essential traits worth developing for inner-strength are integrity and determination.
For encouragement and inspiration, seek out stories of successful actors who consistently put out quality work in spite of obstacles. Watch Meryl Streep being interviewed by Lipton on the “Actors Studio,” as she unravels and questions her existence because of a comment made by a bossy dialect coach. It reminds us that even famous actors are not immune to insecurities. Learn about behind-the-scene stories to have realistic expectations of yourself. Remember obstacles are unavoidable and an important part of progress. Hanging on to the truth and not some idealized version of how you “should be,” will help you to be kinder and gentler with yourself when you make mistakes.
Next time you hit an obstacle on your path, feel stuck and are on the verge of giving up, remember this:
- Trust that everything that happens to you, good and bad, contains the seeds for the next thing to unfold. All beginnings have endings, it’s part of the process. Patience will help you endure the storm until the rainbow arrives.
- Learn to approach things with positive, open-hearted curiosity. Curiosity will open you up; self-judgment will shut you down.
- Don’t waste your time feeling sorry for yourself and thinking, “Why me?”. Instead, get out of your own way by seeing difficulty as part of living and an opportunity for growth. Remember, when growth is your goal, you will never lose. Enjoy being a student the rest of your life.
- Have fun, experience your life as an experiment. Nobody is watching or keeping score. Stop comparing yourself to others. “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”
- Loosen your attachment to right and wrong. Rigid thinking will limit your creativity. Think outside of the box and go for it. If something doesn’t work out, no big deal. When it’s ready to happen for you it will.
- Have a plan for obstacles. Figure out what you need in order to hang in there and ride out the waves of life. When the big wave comes and knocks you down, shake the sand out of your nose and ears, find your feet and stand up for the next wave that’s coming, and trust me, it’s coming. You can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf.
The next time you start to go down the path of self-deprecation because you’ve hit an obstacle, feel disappointed, and want to give up, remember this; you are in very good company!
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them so they can become more resilient. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop.
For a free meditation guide to help you handle stress and anxiety click here. L.A. actors, I am now forming a six-week mindful meditation therapy group. Call for a free phone consultation – 818/343-7714
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.