Dealing with Self-pity
Six tips to help you stave off self-pity when you receive a knockback.
By Richard Sutton
Let me start by declaring that I am the biggest self-pitier of them all. However ‘woe is me’ you think you are, I’m ‘woe-ier’ and ‘me-ier’. My long-suffering partner deserves an MBE for her patience in the face of the whinging bin-fire of a human being I’ve become.
When I started out in the entertainment business, I don’t recall being so mawkish. Pirouetting out of drama school with nothing but a dance belt and a dream, I seemed to wave off negativity and bounce back with ease. But now that I feel closer in age to McKellen than I do to McAvoy, rejection leaves me moping, maudlin and binge-eating Minstrels.
Self-pity should be the 8th Deadly Sin. I loathe it both in myself and others. It’s easy to believe that life is unfair and that one is hard done by, but to dwell on this is to do oneself an enormous disservice so I’m sharing six tips to help you stave off the dreaded stinking thinking.
1. There’s no business, like woe business
Next time you receive a knockback, give yourself a gift of 24 hours to sulk, rail and wail. Then take a breath and move on. I know that's easier said than done, especially when you’re entering day three under the duvet having done nothing but rewatch Bake Off on More4.
Acknowledging those negative feelings for just one day gives you some of the validation you’ve been craving. However, it won’t cure you. After the day is done, turn off the TV, open the window and wash those sheets whilst explaining to your flatmate that those marks on your quilt “really are just melted Minstrels!”
2. Enough about me. What do you think about me?
Remember, we have two ears and one mouth, which means we should listen twice as much as we speak. If your friend/partner/parent is trying to help you, then listen. They’re only seeking to support you so don’t close communication with them thinking that they don’t understand your plight.
Try not to play the victim either. Be aware of other people’s issues before going full Hamlet and monologing about your own situation. It’s a tiring endeavour to constantly rescue someone from their funk with little or no acknowledgement in return.
3. Why? Why? Why?
LifeHack.org offers up a good trick. We often make the mistake of asking ourselves low-quality questions using the word ‘why?’ For example; Why me? Why didn’t I get that job? Our subconscious will then immediately supply low-quality answers like; because you’re useless. Because you have no talent. Because your face looks like a cobbler’s thumb.
Instead, try to reframe the question into a 'how', 'when' or a 'what'. How can I change this situation? When is the best time to reach out to that agent? What does success look like to me? You’ll be surprised how effective this is.
4. Don’t believe the gripe
If someone spoke to you as you speak to yourself, you’d quite rightly want to give them a high five… to the face! Negative self-talk is one of the quickest ways to sabotage your career. It’s kryptonite to an actor. It damages your confidence, distorts your focus, and reduces your ability to get up and try again so instead, talk to yourself as you would to your best friend. Be compassionate, honest, encouraging and kind.
5. Team you!
Here’s a fun tip! Create a fantasy support council for yourself made up of four advisors who are real or fictional people. Picture yourself telling this team your issues and then imagine what guidance they’d give. My personal crew comprises of Oprah Winfrey for her sage advice, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for motivation, Gary Oldman for his acting prowess and Keith Richards because, well, who doesn’t want a Rolling Stone having their back?
6. Pour me… another drink. Or don’t.
When it comes to booze I’m no angel. I’ve had my fair share, and probably yours too. But be careful supping whilst in a negative mindset, it’s called a depressant for a reason. A sweaty session in the gin can feel like the right move at the time, but it seldom is. Now, I’m not in the business of telling you how to live your life, but I’ve seen many talented people lost to the overdrafts of the bottle bank.
So, there we are. A few techniques that have worked for me when I’ve been seeing more of Miss Fortune than I have of Lady Luck. Soon you’ll be shrugging off knockbacks, beaming positivity and your bulk-bought Minstrels will remain unscoffed. Feel free to send them to me via the usual address instead.
Richard Sutton has been a professional actor for 20 years. His credits include 'Line of Duty', 'The Crown', 'EastEnders', 'Emmerdale', 'Sherlock', 'Humans', 'Casualty' and AMC's 'The Terror' showing on BBC2 and iPlayer this Spring. His most recent work was in the West End and number one tour production of 'Ghost Stories', which was cut short sadly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Richard is on Twitter @richsuttonactor and Instagram @richardsuttonactor.
Headshot by Daniel Sutka.
Main image by Drew Coffman via Unsplash.com