Written by Alicia Milstead
Some actors love to be a member of the “Woe is me Club,” which usually consists of wallowing in their lack of auditions and success, and dragging other actors down with them. They blame their lousy agent, their day job, or perhaps their dog! Hey, at least he’ll listen. He’s a captive audience, right?
Sure, commiseration feels nice for the moment, but this constant barrage of negativity can lead an actor to spiral into a hole of self-doubt and defeatism. But what’s the pay-off? What are you getting from that? Perhaps it’s comforting to commiserate, but it’s not paying off in your career in a positive way.
When an actor feels stuck in their career, it’s easy to blame others instead of holding a mirror up to themselves. Certainly, some factors are not in our control, such as the writer’s strike years back or summers that can be slow for auditions. But occasionally, what stops the actor is an internal block or limiting/negative belief about him or herself; that was learned either unconsciously or consciously. Why do blocks happen? Sometimes, it’s because of an experience or series of experiences a person has endured. At times, a person who has experienced a real or perceived failure starts to believe they will always fail and feel powerless. At this point, it’s become a learned behavior. Now this individual perceives every situation as unchangeable and feels stuck. “I won’t get a callback because I never get them.” Psychologists often refer to this as “learned helplessness.”
At some point, many of us have been misled by a series of lies about ourselves. A couple of examples might be, “You can’t do ––“ (fill in the blank) or “You’re not good enough to do—.” The messages may be subtle, but they are always there. It’s like your actor friend Roy from college, who has been sleeping on your couch for three months. Uh, Roy, I thought you said you needed three weeks to get your own place?
These negative, limiting beliefs and internal dialogues seep into your work as an actor because you bring yourself to every role you play. Many actors aren’t aware of their internal blocks and instead, give up, feeling defeated; not truly understanding why. YOU are your own instrument, so it’s vital for yourself, your life, as well as your life as a performer to live up to your fullest potential.
Once an actor recognizes these self-sabotaging messages, they can begin to move forward. This is when the actor begins to realize they have the power to change their thought process, create a game plan and have a successful career.
One of my favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz, and not just because I thought it was magical when the film moved from black and white to color. When Dorothy was trying desperately to get back home, the good witch Glenda told her, “You had the power in you all along, dear.” You, as an actor, have everything you need already, inside of you.
Alicia Milstead – B.A. Theatre, M.A. Clinical Psychology, is a Certified Life Coach who teaches The Empowered Actor Workshop to help Actors identify their blocks and clarify goals to create a plan to live the life they’ve imagined.