How to Handle Rejection
Rejection is unfortunately part of being an actor. We explore practices and resources to help you handle that "no".
By Leda Douglas
Connect and share your feelings with another. Acting is a community and since 90% of our community are unemployed at any given time, a lot of actors are dealing with rejection too.
Anyone pursuing a career in acting knows that rejection comes with the territory. But whether it’s nicely worded, a flat-out no, or worst of all, silence, rejection isn’t easy for anyone.
This past year - even though I oddly had the busiest year in digital theatre – I experienced a lot of job rejection and didn’t handle it very well. For most of my life I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety, but this time every opportunity felt like I’d reached the heights of heaven and every “no” felt like I’d plummeted back to hell. COVID probably didn’t help. Consequently, I fell into a spiral of major depression.
In a moment of clarity (or madness!), I shared my feelings online and was flooded with positivity and support. With time and very open conversations - many still ongoing - I have built practical ways to move forwards come yay or nay. Which is why, dear actor friends, I want to share practices and incredible advice I’ve received on how to handle rejection.
Build Your Self-Worth
A 2019 study confirmed that only 2% of actors make a living out of acting. 2%! Why is that? Well, it’s a business riddled with biases and a market overflowing with talent. You might think such knowledge is unhelpful and far from inspiring, but we can harness this to increase our self-worth and feel in control of our careers.
Here’s the thing, employers and job hunters typically search in opposite ways. Job hunters tend to send their CV, often unsolicited, in the hope that there is an opening, while employers tend to hire from within. When casting directors have so many talented actors to choose from, they’re likely to shortlist someone they, or someone they respect, has seen perform. Suddenly, we, the dutiful job hunters, find nothing will get us in the door.
Now we know this, here comes the harnessing. In hard times we can activate our acting superpower and think like the employer aka the casting director.
Write a list of all the things you’re good at and your professional accomplishments - including people you’ve enjoyed worked with. Refer to them daily and as you job hunt. It’ll hone your hunting strategy while reminding you of your achievements and talent. Heck, why not write a whole business plan while you’re at it?
Strengthen Your Relationships
Acting is better than sex. OK, you don’t have to agree with this but you’ve probably felt the thrill I’m alluding to. That moment of transcendence with another actor. It’s exhilarating. But like any relationship just based on sex, it can become toxic. So ask yourself, do you have a healthy relationship with your career?
If not, try to enrich your life outside of acting. Boost your mood daily with good tunes, films that inspire you or start a passion project. Most importantly connect and share your feelings with another. Acting is a community and since 90% of our community are unemployed at any given time, a lot of actors are dealing with rejection too. So use this free time to reach out and reconnect with friends who can offer solid advice on how to move forward.
*Mufasa voice* Remember Who You Are!
It’s time to use our superpower acting skills again. We all have an incredible resource of strength and determination inside of us but sometimes we forget it’s there.
If you’re ever feeling the sting of rejection or a lack of purpose, try this short meditation. You could do it with a friend or record yourself and listen back if that helps.
Take a moment to get comfortable.
In your mind’s eye picture a blank canvas. It could be as big or small as you like.
Then imagine on that canvas the words: My Purpose. What do those letters look like to you? Do they have any colour?
Once you see those words clearly on your blank canvas allow them to move and create whatever shape or shapes, they like.
Take your time and allow the words, My Purpose, to move and merge without trying to make anything in particular.
Then slowly, allow that shape, or shapes, to settle into a final form.
How do you feel as you hold this image in your mind’s eye?
When you’re ready, slowly come back to the world.
It might be a good idea to keep that image nearby as a drawing. I like to bring the image of 'My Purpose' to mind in the morning or during times of uncertainty to keep me grounded.
Hopefully some of these techniques prove useful in providing some perspective and help you to turn that 'no' into something more positive. Good luck out there actors and stay safe!
- The Spotlight Podcast: Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Arts Minds - a mental health charity for performers
- The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity - your start for a passion project
- Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body
- Face to Face with Fear - book on healing trauma
- Therapeutic Tapping - lowering stress and anxiety
- Live Awake - meditation podcast
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns - for managing depression
Leda Douglas is an actor and writer based in London. Her work credits include: ‘Shudder’ (Soho Theatre), ‘Home’ (Southwark Playhouse), ‘Nuclear Future’ (touring), ‘The Time Machine’ (immersive) and more recently Alice in Creation Theatre's award-winning digital play, ‘Alice: A Virtual Theme Park’. She is now developing her first short film with Gatton Films.
Headshot by Ori Jones.
Main image by Nick Owuor via Unsplash.