What’s Your Protection Plan?
Your need to be seen, heard and felt by another person is as essential to your life as the air you breathe. When a person doesn’t feel accepted and understood by others, it affects their sense of worthiness and belonging. As actors, it’s a bumpy road of ups and downs; one day you’re praised and the next ignored. You feel small one week and big the next. With such shaky ground beneath you, it’s vital to know where, how, when and with whom those needs can or cannot get met. Otherwise, your self-esteem is in jeopardy. You need a protection plan so you don’t feel like you’ve been to battle at the end of each day. If you can recognize yourself in the list below, it may be time to do things differently in order to get different results.
- Wishing you weren’t so sensitive.
- Wanting thicker skin after a rough audition or a day on an unfriendly set.
- Not wanting to feel weak and vulnerable when someone says something negative to you.
- Needing to be liked all the time.
- Having mood swings because your feelings are dependent on others liking and accepting you.
- Continuously second-guessing yourself and constantly asking for advice from others.
Stop wishing these difficulties would just go away and start taking action. If you don’t learn how to build up your confidence and hold on to your self-esteem through it all, you won’t last. Some simple changes in your perspective can teach you how to ride out the ups and downs to your advantage.
Widen your view when you feel stuck with a repetitive bad feeling. A microscopic view closes you off to solutions. In an interview with the Dalai Lama, when asked what to do when bad things happen, he spoke about, “ Looking from a different angle. Seeing that everything is not 100% negative. Looking from a distance, you can see that it’s not so unbearable. If the situation can be overcome, eventually make an effort.“ The key word being distance. Looking at the big picture can clear the clutter of your mind so you can see what’s actually before you. Don’t stay stuck on your take of things, that’s not necessarily the reality. How much of your internal chatter is actually a fact and not just a feeling? After a bad acting experience, don’t attach your sense of worth to it. Stop negative self-talk that is critical or self-judgmental. Instead, put your energy into positive, productive actions that will result in making you a better actor. You can improve your acting skills without depleting who you are as a person. Calm down and remember not to define who you are as an actor by one performance. You are a work in progress not a work of perfection. When that inner chatter gets rollin’, step back and look at yourself in ALL areas of your life. I’m sure everything doesn’t suck. You’re a great sister, brother, mother, father, friend, whatever. Don’t let go until you find that nugget of goodness inside yourself. This is the mental work you can do to pick yourself up out of the dumps after an unpleasant experience happens. You can bounce back by remembering all the wonderful parts of yourself, not by waiting for a casting director to notice them. Don’t define yourself by something as fleeting as a performance. You hold the power of self-belief. Stop feeding your inner critic bad beliefs. Those beliefs are not truths about you, they’re just beliefs. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is waiting in line to buy a ticket and believe in you either.
Low self-esteem has a bad effect on your physical health. Did you know that low self-esteem burns out your adrenals? According to Dr. Christiane Northrop, a physician, author, and expert on health, “The adrenals sit on top of the kidneys and are the main source of cortisol and epinephrine—what are known as the stress hormones. Stress hormones are absolutely essential for living a vibrant and healthy life. If you suddenly have to run to get out of the way of an ongoing car, your adrenal glands send messages to your heart, blood vessels, and muscles to get you out of there fast. Unfortunately, with today’s busy lifestyle, this mechanism doesn’t just “flip on” occasionally. Relentless demands for additional bursts of energy required to keep pace with your hectic life cause the adrenals to produce slow but relentless amounts of stress hormones and resultant inflammatory chemicals. It also creates a constant state of fight or flight in your body. Just as harmful as the physical demands, are the thoughts you have about your worth. These cause the release of cortisol and epinephrine to help you fight or flee ongoing emotional issues or other stressors. Thoughts that make you feel bad or bad about yourself cause a physiological reaction that drains the adrenals and can compromise other aspects of your health. Because a lack of personal power and a lack of self-worth can lead to adrenal dysfunction over time.” Use this information to motivate you to stop feeding yourself negative thoughts. They’re literally making you sick!
Only your loved ones reserve the right to affect your emotions deeply. Sure, it doesn’t feel good when you don’t hit it out of the ballpark with your performance, but it shouldn’t chip away at your self-esteem. Differentiate between disappointment and heartache. Don’t give away the key to your heart so easily. You need to be in charge. Have a strong division between your business life and your personal life and know the difference between the two. People that you come in contact with for your career, e.g.: casting directors, directors, agents, – are not your friends. They’re invested in you making money for them. That’s okay. They will make decisions based on their bottom line, not yours. They don’t care that you had a flat tire and lost your cat. They just want to know if you can show up and be ready to work. Don’t expect them to care and you won’t be disappointed by their behavior. On the other hand, friends and family are not invested in getting anything out of you. They’re the ones who care about how you’re doing and whether or not you found your cat. Don’t give weight to what others say about you unless they know you well and have your best interest at heart. And even then, feedback from others who care about you should come in a kind, loving, way (but that’s another article).
Remember these three important points:
- Widen your view.
- Get rid of unhealthy thoughts.
- Be in charge of who has the key to your heart.
This protection plan will not only help you handle the inevitable bumps of the actor’s road, it will help you bounce back better, stronger and more wonderful than ever!
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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
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.
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.