No matter how long you’ve been an actor and no matter how much time and effort you’ve put into the pursuit of your career, do you still feel you don’t quite belong in the business?
Belonging is a fundamental need for us. We are intrinsically tribal creatures and our survival depends on having a place in our community. The acting business is a tribe where actors make a life and a living from what they do—and it’s probably the one you’ve wanted to belong to.
There’s an interesting and unique dynamic in our industry that tells actors they’re on the ‘outside’ until they get that magical big break. Many actors buy into this myth and spend their lives feeling like they’re standing at an invisible wall, their faces pressed against the surface, looking in, and watching other actors succeed. “Let me in!” is their cry. Breaking through that invisible wall becomes the major focus, and a sense of belonging is made dependent upon circumstances and other people’s decisions. This takes an actor’s power out of their own hands, and places it squarely in the hands of others.
Feeling that you’re not invited or that you don’t belong in your chosen tribe can feel like you don’t matter and have little value—and that can be really hard to deal with. For many actors, it diminishes confidence and therefore their ability to show up, do good work, and book the jobs. So the cycle continues and any remaining sense of belonging drops even further. However, there is some good news. A sense of belonging in the acting business can be created, no matter what the industry is telling you.
First of all, it’s important to let go of the idea that you’re going to be ‘discovered’ someday. That hardly ever happens, and hoping for it will only make you uninteresting to those looking for talent. Real success requires that you take responsibility for your own future, and that means being proactive and focusing on what you have control of. Instead of waiting for someone to notice you or give you an opportunity, make the opportunities happen. Become what it is you want to be. Live the life, right now, of a working, productive actor. How? By acting.
Actors need to ACT. Waiting for the phone to ring, sending out endless headshots, and waiting outside audition rooms can kill the creative spirit if that’s mostly what you’re doing. Artists are kept alive by being creative. Isn’t that what you’re here for after all?
So, be proactive. Take a great acting class, get together with friends to write scenes and film them, find plays to rehearse until it’s in the marrow of your bones. Create something as an actor every single day, whether it’s writing scripts, filming shorts, rehearsing plays, or developing characters. There is little to stop you from being creative in a world where you can make an entire film on your phone.
And while you’re busy being the actor you’re here to be, you can also use those skills to act-as-if you belong. You can stop hanging out with complaining, out-of-work actors and surround yourself with equally creative, positive artists. You can network at industry events, get involved in film festivals and conventions, attend screenings, and become a reader or do open mics.
If you really want to belong to the acting business, you need to immerse yourself, contribute to it, show up as your best self, and earn your place there. The business will respond by welcoming you further into its folds and rewarding you for the contribution you have made.
Justina Vail, PCC CHt, is a life coach, master NLP practitioner, hypnotherapist, speaker, award-winning author, and award-winning actor. She is owner of Actors Life Coaching and author of the award-winning new book “How to be a Happy Actor in a Challenging Business: A Guide to Thriving Through it All."
Vail coaches actors all over the world via Skype and in person. For info about private coaching packages as well as Actors Life Coaching seminars and workshops visit www.actorslifecoaching.com.