by Alix Paige
We’ve all heard it a million times (usually from friends of parents or random strangers):
“Acting is really hard!”
Yes…. We know. We know theatre doesn’t pay and New York is the most expensive city in the country. We know there are literally thousands of people trying to do the exact same thing and the cards are pretty much stacked against us. We know it takes years, sometimes even decades, to have what WE imagine to be “success”.
BUT, one thing we do to make this business even harder completely involves our own psychology: Constantly comparing ourselves to others. It’s natural to be somewhat competitive to try to place yourself in this industry, or get advice from friends who’ve had success, but what I’m talking about is more specific and completely unhelpful.
When you scroll your Facebook feed for what-feels-like eternity and you see a friend you did a show with once just booked a commercial…. or a guy you went to school with (a freshman when you were a senior) created a show being produced at a major NY theater, or a friend got nominated for a freakin’ TONY at 27… You see all of these things and immediately feel jealous or horrible about yourself, or a combination of both. I admit I have participated in this kind of self-degradation many times and still have to remind myself of something:
WE ARE ALL ON OUR OWN JOURNEY.
It sounds a little “crunchy granola”, but it’s absolutely the truth. We’re all unique individuals from different families and places with different looks and personalities. We are all on different paths with different timing. Everyone has been through stages of their career where they’ve been confused, self-doubting, “unsuccessful”, etc… We’ve all also experienced some success. It just happens at different times for different people.
First off, Facebook is evil. Try not to check it so often and DEFINITELY try cutting back on scrolling your News Feed, because guess what? Most people (usually) post about the best stuff going on in their lives. There is a WHOLE other life not on social media for every “friend” to see. People’s accomplishments are wonderful but don’t define WHO they are as a person and especially as your friend.
Secondly, YOUR LIFE IS AWESOME TOO! You may be having a horrible week, month, year, or decade (in which case, I’m sorry, that’s terrible.) BUT the fact is, we all live in one of the best (albeit far from perfect) places on the planet. We’re born with all kinds of rights and freedoms, clean running water, electricity, and plenty of food. PLUS we have people who love us, support us, and think we are great! Our lives are not that bad, in fact, most of our lives are pretty freakin’ awesome. We are performers for god’s sake!
Worst case scenario: We get to do what we love once in a blue moon.
Best case scenario: We get to do it all the time! Some people never experience that kind of joy once in their life. Let’s all take a step back and think about our blessings and what we are grateful for.
Lastly, use what other people are doing as INSPIRATION and NOT DEGRADATION. If you see someone you know has been nominated for a TONY, think Holy shit! It’s possible!. If you see a New York newbie you went to college with writing and producing his own stuff, think I should see it and support him. Maybe I’ll take him out for coffee & ask what the whole self-made-work experience was like, If you see a girl just booked a commercial, think That is awesome. I remember when I did that thing once and I was super excited” and go write a list of all the things you’ve done (regional theatre, print work, PSA’s, concerts, recordings, voice-overs, student films, etc….) Check that list when you start to doubt yourself. You will be SHOCKED at how long your list actually is.
Start comparing yourself to YOURSELF. If you think you didn’t do your best and can do better, challenge yourself to push harder, wake up earlier, go to that dance class, or just know when to take a break and give yourself a hug. Acknowledge you are wonderful and awesome, and realize this business is not the be-all/end-all, because, as my friend Henry would say,
“We’re just putting up a skit ya’ll”.