Put an End to Self-Sabotage

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Life comes at you in a series of sliding door moments, where a left instead of a right turn could forever change the course of your life. These moments don’t necessarily come at us as big, recognizable moments or forks in the road; even seemingly meaningless or mundane actions and choices can effect powerful change.

In other words, everything you do matters. Everything makes a difference, even thoughts. A moment of hesitation could cost you the role of a lifetime, a life-long friendship, or the greatest love you’ve ever known.

I’ve said it before: You are not competing with other actors. You are competing against yourself. And yet, it amazes me that for so many actors I meet and know, they are their own worst enemy. You can’t have a fulfilling and joyful acting journey if your heart and mind and body are at war with each other.

Self-sabotage can show itself in myriad ways: being unhealthily, viciously critical of yourself, your body, your work, excessive or reckless partying and use of drugs and alcohol, too much pride or denial of the necessity of training, lack of commitment and eroding the power of your word, wanton immaturity or toxicity, and procrastination and laziness.

I’ve had actors tell me that their reason for half-assing their audition prep was so that if they don’t book the job they can tell themselves that it wasn’t because they weren’t good enough, casting just didn’t get to see them at their best. That’s how twisted up things can get in our minds, where the fear of failure leads some of us to do things that will ultimately assure our failure.

The fact that it’s a cliché doesn’t make it any less true: Life is short. Any one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow. What kind of art do you want to leave behind as your legacy? What kind of artist do you want to be? How would you approach your next acting opportunity if you knew it was the last one you’d ever have? Are you trying to book work by putting in the minimum effort you think is necessary or do you look at every acting opportunity as a chance to create the best art of your life?

As I wrote in a previous article series, “A 4-Step Guide for Success in L.A.,” the three pillars upon which I base my own development and that of my students are the study of the craft, having a solid strategy for success, and building support infrastructure consisting of the tools and a loving community of support to help you do your job. That last one is critical for addressing our self-destructive tendencies.

You are what you eat. Surround yourself with jaded, bitter people and it will negatively affect your own outlook and attitude. Surround yourself with loving, focused people and it will invigorate you—perhaps even rescue you in a moment of weakness.

You need to protect your headspace and consciously drive away thoughts that have no redeemable value. Stay in an open, hopeful, positive, energetic state—one conducive to creativity, expression, and fun. Negative energy shuts us down and constricts our heart and mind. Banish it from your life to whatever extent you can.

The path to being a working actor isn’t a mystery. It’s pretty straightforward. Get stable, then get trained, then get a great team together, then get in front of casting. Thereafter, keep creating, keep training, keep getting in front of casting, and you’ll keep booking.

You can do this. There is no question that you can do this if you really want to do it. Any obstacle can be overcome with the right support. It’s going to take focus and a ton of hard and consistent work. Don’t be a house divided within yourself. Your heart, mind, and body need to be a united front against the challenges of the industry.

Don’t look for excuses to punish yourself. If you feel you’ve let yourself down, identify the issue and make an adjustment, not more drama. If you’re unable to hold yourself accountable and stick to a plan, invest in a relationship or group that will assist you with that.

If you know you need training, don’t see it as an acknowledgment of weakness, but an essential component to performing at a high level. I recently came upon the following quote from Muhammad Ali that has been immensely inspiring to me: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ ”

If you can relate to any of this, all I can say as someone who’s been there is to be of service to others and see what happens. Volunteer, mentor, assist. The cool thing about the human heart is that its capacity to love is limitless. The more you give, the more you will receive, unless you’re only giving in order to receive.

Sometimes, when we’re in a wind tunnel of our own creation, stepping in to the lives of others who need help can give us a much-needed fresh perspective. When you see what so many less-fortunate others are up against, you’ll wonder how you ever squandered even a moment of the rare and precious opportunity you have to succeed.

So, let’s just agree to work together to support those around us who are in their own way. Let’s put an end to self-sabotage. Let’s not enable each other’s self-destructive tendencies. Instead…

Let’s act like we care.

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Shaan Sharma
Shaan Sharma is a session director, on-camera acting teacher, and author of “A Session Director’s Guide to Commercial Acting in L.A.”
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