In this business, we’re almost conditioned to accept grueling hardship as a part of life; a right of passage or “paying your dues”. There seems to be a prevailing view that you don’t deserve to be a successful working professional unless you’ve gone without food, without sleep, and moved across country or even internationally leaving your friends and family behind. On top of that, as actors, we are expected to endure condescending comments about our career choices and less than respectful behavior from other industry professionals, because we are but a lowly actor, bottom of the the food chain, a dime a dozen.
But the truth is, actors are the only reason this entire industry came to exist. Drama, comedy and plays on stage date back to the ancient Greeks, and to the best of my knowledge, at the time, there were no agents, managers, casting directors or network execs – just actors. We are what spawned this mega glorious business and what it revolves around. So what tipped the scale?
It’s true, today there are way more actors than acting jobs. In ancient Greece, actors were a rarity, but today new people enter the profession daily, and there is almost zero standard or barrier to entry. Some actors are well trained, meticulous, reputable professionals. And others have just completed an 8 week workshop and jump in with enthusiasm and charisma. Actors come in all shapes and sizes and today, whatever casting wants, casting can get. But this should never diminish your self-worth.
Self-worth and self-esteem are often used interchangeably, but they are inherently different.
Self-worth is believing that you’re fundamentally worthy, whereas self-esteem is feeling good, or confident, about yourself.
It is so easy in this business for our self worth to be eroded away. We are constantly looking for work, looking for representation and trying to make valuable industry connections – and everyone has an opinion. We are conditioned to value other peoples’ opinions over our own; after all, they are the ones doing the hiring, right? This breeds self-doubt, blurs personal boundaries, and opens the door to unhealthy relationships overall, as well as people-pleasing, anxiety, tension and depression.
As actors, we put ourselves on the line every day, so developing and maintaining healthy self-worth is as crucial to our careers as it is to our well-being. Here are…
5 Ways to Cultivate Unshakable Self-Worth
1. Don’t Accept Anyone Else’s Opinion of Your lIfe Choices
This includes everything from where you choose to live, to what you choose to eat, to your chosen profession. How many people do you know, especially family members, who have asked you if you are okay with their life choices? Feel free to borrow this mantra: “I’ll happily live up to your standards when you live up to mine.”
2. Replace People-Pleasing with Professionalism.
Yes, I know you really want that job and you need to work! And when we are constantly pitching and auditioning, it can be easy to slip into people-pleasing and desperation, but that is so unsexy and it rarely sells. Prepare, show up, be professional and do what you’re suppose to do… and then let it go. And remember that wonderful internet meme, “You can’t please everyone, you’re not pizza!”
3. Be Authentic
Being inauthentic is like wearing a coat that’s too tight and just doesn’t fit. You can’t move easily, you’re always uncomfortable, and anyone watching will just sense that something is wrong. It also undermines your confidence and can make you seem untrustworthy. As Oscar Wilde very famously said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
4. Don’t Confuse Self-Worth with Net-Worth
We all have different strengths, values, goals and opportunities. Know that you are worthy and deserving of love and respect regardless of your bank balance, relationship status or social media following.
5. Stop Judging Others
We seldom judge others as harshly as we judge ourselves, but judgement just leads to more judgement. When you judge someone els, it’s always compared to what? You? Your standards? And that leads you to judge yourself. Let go of your opinions on someone’s appearance, their age, their income, their lifestyle and their choices. Judge only, “hey, this is right for me, or it’s not.”, and respect yourself and others enough to let them live their lives.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. ~ Marianne Williamson