And thanks for reading! This is week 3 in the series relating to the psychology of the business, particularly as it relates to auditions and booking work and we will be exploring Naysayers.
Just a reminder here that when I use the term “actor” I mean it to encompass all forms of acting including voice, stage, and screen. What follows applies relatively equally to all of these forms of acting.
You have a dream
You dream of becoming a working actor, but people around you tell you to “get a real job” (You MAY have to do this to support your dream, BTW) and to stop chasing shadows. If you harken back to the last two posts in this series, particularly as they relate to “fame and fortune”, you might see why. These folks will be quick to point out that your odds of becoming an uber wealthy famous actor are small. To them, that makes this profession not worth pursuing at all. These are the naysayers in your life.
And they’d KINDA be right
Your odds of becoming rich and famous ARE small…but your odds of becoming a working actor who can support themselves with their acting are MUCH better. So go back here and explore one more time why you want to do this work. If your goal (not your dream, your goal!) is to be famous and wealthy, then perhaps you SHOULD reconsider. However, if you love acting and have reasonable expectations, then you must be able to overcome the negativity of naysayers!
So, what is a naysayer?
Merriam-Webster defines a naysayer as:
one who denies, refuses, opposes, or is skeptical or cynical about something
“There are always naysayers who say it can’t be done.”
No matter what you are doing, there is always someone who will tell you why it is impossible to do it. Do you think Thomas Edison didn’t have people who told him, for his own good of course, that he’d never create a commercially viable electric light bulb? Think again! As a matter of fact, many of the things we use regularly today were thought foolish by “respected people” while they were being developed. When someone says it can’t be done…they mean by THEM! What the inventors all had in common: Persistence in the face of naysayers!
Who are they?
Naysayers…we all have them…maybe it’s your parents, your kids, your friends or (God forbid!) your spouse/SO. They are the people in your life (and some who aren’t EVEN in your life) who are quick to let you know why chasing your dream is a bad idea. They are generally well meaning, but cynical. Perhaps they at one time pursued a dream and it didn’t work out. Perhaps they have witnessed others fail and suffer for it. It’s likely, assuming they naysayer is close to you, that they really mean you no harm and just don’t want to see you fail. So don’t listen to them, but cut them a little slack.
But don’t let them stop you, either
Keep this in mind: Every famous actor you know, whether on stage, behind a microphone or in front of a camera has had people tell them they were never going to “make it”. Every. One. Of. Them. On top of that, every NON-famous actor who works regularly and makes a decent living from their craft has as well. So if you have people trying to tell you that what you are pursuing is not possible, or at least so unlikely it’s not worth trying, then you are part of a pretty illustrious crowd!
So what if people say it’ll never work?
Look, people crapping on your dreams can’t keep you from being successful. The problem is that listening to naysayers can create doubt in your own mind. “What if they’re right?” “Maybe I SHOULD seek a more traditional path”. Self-doubt is a killer. Doubting yourself saps your confidence and it will show in your performances, particularly auditions, and ultimately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Impostor syndrome, or doubting that you deserve your success, is bad enough. It’s similar to what I call self-doubt, but subtly different.
Self-doubt -VS- Impostor syndrome
To clarify the difference (in my mind at least) between self-doubt and impostor syndrome: I would suggest that self-doubt occurs prior to success and keeps you from achieving it. Impostor syndrome occurs AFTER you have achieved some level of success but don’t believe you deserve it; it is just a matter of time before you are exposed as a fraud. My focus in this post is on self-doubt NOT impostor syndrome. Naysayers create self-doubt…or CAN if you let them.
How do you deal with naysayers?
There are some strategies you can employ to deal with the naysayers, dream crushers, cynics, and habitually negative people in your life. Before we go much further, I want to point out that if you are serious about pursuing your dreams and goals, you will HAVE to figure out a way to deal with them.
One of the easiest ways to deal with these folks is simply to not share your dreams with them. This strategy works well with people who are on the periphery of your life. Distant relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances. If you don’t share your dreams, they can’t tell you why they’re unrealistic. Start by being selective who you share with!
Consider the source
I used to tell my kids: “Consider the source, then ignore them” when people were critical of them. One good way to weed out naysayers is to look at them and decide if their counsel is even worth anything. Are they successful actors? Are they living the life you want to live? Do they even have expertise in the area they are commenting on? If the answer to any of these is “NO”, then their opinion is not valid or worth your consideration. Remember: “Never take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.” (Original author unknown).
Speaking of opinions
Keep in mind that the naysayer’s negativity is just their opinion. And we know that opinions are like butt-holes. Everyone has them, and they all stink. I’m not suggesting you should not seek the counsel of other people who are successful in acting, or you should reject the critique of your teachers and directors. You just should not pay attention to your crazy uncle who tried to act once and didn’t become an overnight sensation.
This is probably one of the hardest things to do. We are artists, and as such can be pretty sensitive people. It stings when people, especially people we love or respect, squash our dreams. It’s tough not to “get into your head” about what they say which ultimately effects how we perform. But, if you have shared your dreams, can’t outright discount what they say and value their opinion it is imperative, if you are passionate about pursuing this career, that you ignore them. Use any constructive feedback you receive to improve your performance, but don’t let their opinion, no matter how much you respect it, stop you from pursuing your dream!
Eject them from your life
This is a drastic step, to be sure, but you deserve to NOT have people around you who constantly criticize your choice of pursuits. Granted, sometimes ejecting them is impractical such as a parent, child or significant other. In that case, eject them from your dreams. Refuse to share with them and just decide not to engage with them regarding your acting career. Basically, let them tell you how wrong you are, smile, nod and then forget what they said and charge ahead anyway.
Remember your vision
When it gets to be too much, step back and remember the vision you have for your career. Take stock of where you began and where you are now. Odds are you have made significant strides toward achieving your dreams, but you don’t see them because they are incremental, and you don’t notice the improvement. Step back. Take a breath and honestly assess where you are in comparison to where you started. Recognizing how far you’ve come, and remembering it takes a LONG time to become an overnight success, will help you ignore your naysayers
Surround yourself with encouragers
The simplest and most effective way to overcome naysayers is to surround yourself with people who both understand what you are trying to achieve and who are encouraging. I’m not suggesting you simply associate only with people who tell you how great you are, but people who will honestly tell you what is good and what needs improvement; in a way that encourages you to not only improve, but more importantly to keep trying.
Never give up
Here is the main message in this week’s post: Never give up. Keep pushing forward toward achieving your dreams. In the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “…never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.” Don’t let naysayers make you give up.
Tune in next week
When we’ll discuss self-taped auditions.