How to Set Boundaries While Pursuing an Acting Career

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It can be tempting to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way as an actor. In fact, a lot of newer actors do say yes to everything. But being constantly agreeable without setting boundaries can lead to burnout and resentment—and even undermine your performances and compromise your values. Here are some tips on how to set boundaries in the industry in a healthy and productive manner.


What are healthy boundaries?

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  • Personal limits: Boundaries are the limits you set for yourself in terms of what you’re willing and not willing to accept or do. They are the guidelines that help you maintain your personal values, beliefs, and priorities. In the context of an acting career, boundaries may look like saying no to roles that make you uncomfortable or setting limits on how much time you’re willing to devote to work.
  • Protective guidelines: In the high-pressure world of acting, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that saying yes to every opportunity will lead to snowballing success. The reality, however, is quite the opposite. It’s essential to establish clear boundaries that allow you to balance your personal and professional life, set realistic expectations for yourself, and maintain your values and integrity as an artist. By setting boundaries, you’ll not only protect your mental and emotional health but also create a more sustainable and fulfilling career in the long run.

Why are boundaries important for actors?

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  • Boundaries increase confidence. Boundaries provide guidelines that you can work within and push against while still feeling safe. Having that safety net helps you feel confident in yourself, your aptitude, and your abilities as an actor.
  • Boundaries help you be assertive, not apologetic. Knowing your boundaries as an actor can help prevent you from over-apologizing. If you have clearly defined boundaries, even a flubbed scene or missed line shouldn’t warrant an apology, explained acting coach Marci Liroff. “Don’t apologize, don’t kick yourself. Gracefully show that you’re still in control by actually taking control and starting over,” she added.
  • Boundaries help you establish what matters. “Figure out what you need to do and assign a level of importance to each thing on your list,” wrote mental health advocate and author Stan Popovich. “Then, work your way down the list in order of importance. Sounds simple, but having a physical list in front of you that illustrates whether one thing may be more important than another will help you prioritize your time and effort.”
  • Boundaries create work-life balance. “Many people make the mistake of making their career their social life, but this can cause problems in the long run,” Popovich added. “If you can keep the two worlds separate, do so. Set time aside to be with your friends and family, and leave your career separate.”
  • Boundaries create space for better roles. “Drawing boundaries with roles that make you uncomfortable will only free up the ones that excite you,” said actor Kelli Barrett. “We have developed a fear that if we ever say no, we won’t be asked again. This is a misconception. Any good agent will know how to pass for you when the time comes. Also, if you want to do theater forever and never audition for a single pilot, say as much! Yes, your agent wants you to make all the money you can, but you are the only one living your life. I say this with the belief that you should of course try everything before you form an opinion. In the end, you’re an actor because it makes you happy, right? Then go for your happiness. You only have one life.”

How to figure out your boundaries

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Before you can start setting boundaries, it’s crucial to figure out what they are. 

  1. Reflect: Take some time to reflect on your personal and professional values, beliefs, and priorities. 
  2. Plan: Consider what your dream career looks like and what you want your life to look like as a whole. Ask yourself what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not, both in terms of your work and your personal life. Use these elements to determine specific factors such as the types of roles you’re willing to take on, how many hours a day you’re willing to work, and how you prefer to communicate with colleagues and industry professionals. 
  3. Write: Once you have a clear idea of your boundaries, write them down and keep them in a visible place where you can refer to them regularly. 
  4. Adjust: Remember, your boundaries are unique to you and may change over time, so it’s essential to be flexible and willing to adjust them as needed.

How to set boundaries as an actor

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Now that you’ve identified your boundaries, it’s time to put them into action. 

  1. Be assertive. One key strategy for setting boundaries is to be assertive in communicating your needs to others. This might mean turning down a role or project that doesn’t align with your values or setting limits on the amount of time you’re willing to devote to work. 
  2. Aim for consistency. It’s also important to be consistent in enforcing your boundaries, so others know what to expect from you. 
  3. Create physical boundaries. Another helpful strategy is to create physical boundaries, such as blocking off specific times of the day for self-care or establishing a designated workspace to help separate your personal and professional life. Still, make sure to be open to feedback and willing to negotiate when necessary, as compromise is often key in maintaining positive relationships while still setting and enforcing your boundaries.
  4. Communicate your boundaries to your agent. Your agent is an essential partner in helping you navigate the industry and find success. To get the most out of this relationship, it’s crucial to communicate your boundaries clearly. This might include factors such as what types of roles you’re comfortable with, what your availability is, and what your long-term goals are. By doing so, you can establish a foundation of trust and understanding with your agent and ensure that they’re working in your best interest. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel your boundaries are being crossed or if you need to renegotiate the terms of your representation. Remember, your agent is there to help you, and clear communication is key to building a strong and successful partnership in the acting industry.
  5. Share your boundaries with your fellow actors. While the performing arts industry can be highly competitive, it’s crucial to remember that we’re all human and that everyone has their limits. By sharing your boundaries with your colleagues, you can create a more supportive and respectful environment that prioritizes everyone’s well-being. This might mean establishing communication protocols that work for everyone, such as avoiding early morning calls or texts or agreeing to take regular breaks during rehearsals and filming. When everyone is on the same page, it’s easier to work together toward a common goal and create a more positive and collaborative work environment. So don’t be afraid to speak up and share your boundaries with your fellow actors—you might be surprised at how much they appreciate your honesty and openness. They may even take a page out of your book and set some healthy boundaries of their own. 
  6. Discuss boundaries with pertinent coaches. When it comes to setting boundaries in the acting industry, it’s not just about communicating with agents and fellow actors—it’s also important to have intentional conversations with your coaches, including acting coaches and intimacy coordinators. These professionals play a crucial role in helping you develop your craft and navigate complex scenes and dynamics onstage or on camera. By discussing your boundaries with them, you can establish a clear understanding of what you’re comfortable with and what makes you uncomfortable. This might mean, for example, establishing protocols for physical touch or intimacy. With the help of your coaches and intimacy coordinators, you can find ways to create compelling and impactful performances while still respecting your personal and professional boundaries. Don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for your needs. Your coaches are there to support you and help you succeed in the industry.

Remember, your boundaries are unique to you, and what works for one person may not work for another. The key is to be clear and consistent in communicating your needs and to be open to feedback and negotiation as necessary. By setting healthy boundaries, you can create a more fulfilling and sustainable career in the performing arts—not just for yourself, but for everyone who works with you.

“Establishing boundaries is akin to pulling up weeds and laying down that pre-emergent in the soil,” Barrett concluded. “The process of ripping can be painful, but it’s the only way the flowers will grow.”