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When I write a blog, I try to remember the advice that I wish I received. Here it is. One of the big ones. When I eventually go back to acting, I will need to refer back to this myself. Handling rejection wasn’t something that I ever did well, so I hope now that I am older and wiser that it won’t be as difficult.
First thing’s first.
The one constant in an actor’s career is REJECTION. That ever present thorn in spite of a lifetime of training, is sure to prick you more times than you can count. It is an absolute 100% guarantee that you will be rejected for more jobs than you book. You’re told to grow a thick skin and keep going with a fake ass smile on your face and chirp “It’s all part of the business guysss, I swear I’m fine.” Still, years of hearing the word NO will eventually start to grate at you. You ask yourself, “What is this for? Why am I doing this? I should get a real job.”
It isn’t easy not to take it personally. So why pretend that you don’t? If you swim in the river of denial long enough, you are gonna drown.
The disappointment may not ever go away, but learning how to handle rejection is a skill that every actor should learn.
Here are some helpful tips to guide you through your process of dealing with rejection.
1. Give yourself time.
Take a day. Cry. Treat yourself to lunch. Mourn this loss as much as you need to, especially if it’s a part you really wanted. Don’t ignore these feelings or they will just come back later to haunt you. Some losses take longer to get over, and that’s okay. Maybe this was THE role you wanted. A part that you believed you were 100% right for. Maybe you were, but along comes someone who is friends with the director. Along comes someone who was a better match for the role opposite the one you wanted. Along comes someone who understudied the part before, so there would be less rehearsals needed. (again, coming down to money) None of these things are your fault. Take all the time you need to process it. Handle rejection by looking it in the face, stare it down and acknowledge how it makes you feel. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can move forward.
2. Remember, this is a BUSINESS.
It is vital to remember that this is a business, first and foremost. Despite the artistry and heart needed to make a movie or show or album, at the end of the day, people gotta get paid. This includes you. Those who make a living at this depend on all the right pieces coming together. If you are not right, chances are someone else is. One thing I try to remember that rejection, for the most part, isn’t my fault. 99% of the time, someone else walked in that door who was exactly what they were looking for. Even if your audition is bad, the folks behind the table can see that it wasn’t your best but they’ll bring you back if they see something in you. I know a girl who wasn’t called back for a show after her first audition, but ended up booking the lead weeks later. The lead. (This doesn’t mean you should relax on yourself. Good audition technique and preparation is still necessary to be remembered). Sometimes the best way to handle rejection is to just expect it.
3. Focus on the Good Things!
Try to remember the things that went well at the audition, as miniscule as they might be. Maybe your outfit was on point and you got a compliment (you were memorable!). Maybe you left early and got there early and was able to relax before your time (now you know what to do next time!). Maybe you hit your money note with extra spin! Maybe the casting director gave you a direction that you took well! Like Olaf says, “All good things, all good things!” Use these things as motivation for your next audition. Remember the things you did right, and keep doing them!
4. Acknowledge Your Mistakes
When I discipline my kids after they misbehave, part of that process is asking them if they know what they did wrong. 90% of the time, they know and can speak to it. They also know not to do that again next time (it works more in theory right now, LOL). Think of it as a learning experience. Focus on what you could do better at your next audition, increasing your self-awareness and professionalism. What you learned from this experience will undoubtedly serve you in the future. Ask yourself, “What mistakes did I make this time that I can correct next time?”
5. Look Back on Your Accomplishments
This is why I keep copies of my reviews on my website. Not only for anyone looking to learn more about me (I earned those bragging rights – YOU DID TOO), but for myself. After a particularly long string of no’s (or in my current situation, a long BREAK), sometimes it’s nice to remember that you don’t really suck. You probably don’t. You might not fit everyone’s vision for a certain part, but you certainly aren’t untalented. If you put the work in, you certainly aren’t ill-prepared. I remember one venting session I had with an old roommate over a bad audition, just lamenting and lamenting. I had prepared. I had rehearsed. I had slept enough, I had gotten to the audition early…I had done everything by the book. He listened closely and replied simply, “Sounds like it just wasn’t your day.” You don’t suck. It just wasn’t your day. So handle rejection by looking back on your reviews, and see all of your days.
6. Have Somewhere To Be
In college, one of the most useful tips I received about auditioning is to not make it the only part of your day. Have plans set for afterwards so that your entire day isn’t wrapped up in this audition. If you have a bad audition, then that’s it. You have nothing else to look forward to. Give yourself something to look forward to right afterwards so that no matter how it goes, you are either continuing your good day, or making a bad day better.
7. Remember Why You Do This
You do this because you love it. Creating a character. Going on a journey. Singing. Playing pretend. Digging deep. Finding purpose. Finding motivation. Finding some new interpretation of a text that no one else has attempted (this, to me, is like finding a new star in the sky). Auditioning is the real work here. Every audition is another opportunity to play. So play.
8. Get a Life Outside of Acting
Sounds harsh, but seriously, get a life. There is more in this world to experience and do than just act. You need something to give you a reprieve from the performing arts industry. Something to give you meaning, satisfaction, and purpose. This industry is full of disappointments. Give yourself a chance to walk away from it, even for a day. Just live your life so that you know you still have one. Maybe your other passion is activism, or volunteering. Perhaps find another artistic avenue like painting, or drawing. Start a business, even a little one! Etsy is a good place to start. Or learn about investing. Handle rejection by remembering that there are so many things outside of the performing arts that you can do to give yourself and your acting career more meaning.
9. Create Your Own Work
In college one of my professors once said, “If you don’t get work, make work.” There are so many ways get yourself out there, and paid! For example:
Write and produce your own stuff.
Make a YouTube channel. (here’s the one my daughter and I are making for her hamster #needtopayforcollege)
And so many more ideas! Just learn to think outside the box. Break that 4th wall in your brain that tells you only actors appearing onstage or on film are legitimate. In this day and age, you make your own hustle, or else get hustled.
10. Remember the Silver Linings
Never forget that the audition is the work. The goal should not be to book a role, but to have good auditions because those auditions will lead to those roles. Auditions aren’t always about booking the role, but making a connection with that casting director. Every rejection, every no is just one more step towards a “yes.” Every rejection is a “do over.” You have time to reflect, improve, and make changes that will positively affect the trajectory of your career.
Rejection is a mainstay in this industry. Just like bad traffic in Los Angeles between the hours of 2pm and 9pm. You learn to live with it. You get your book on tape and deal, right? Same thing here. Do what you need to do to handle rejection. We are not defined by it, only by how we respond.
Stay the course, my friend.
How do you handle rejection? Let me know in the comments!