1 Surefire Way to Deal With Criticism

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Actors are just like anyone else in terms of the number of insecurities they have. The difference is that actors more regularly find themselves in situations where insecurities are likely to surface.

Consider the number of auditions an actor attends and the high ‘rejection rate,take into account the emotions actors express in any given class or performance and the potential for judgment and ridicule that entails, and keep in mind the overwhelming competition that makes even great actors feel unworthy by comparison. It can be overwhelming.

Thats not to say that members of the general public dont have their own challenges, but most of them can be kept private. When you perform, yours are on display for everyone to see and potentially critique and analyze.

That’s depressing stuff—but never fear. There are ways to overcome and conquer these insecurities.

When you face criticism of any kind, you have three options:

1) ignore it

2) become insecure, or

3) learn from it.

I hope we can all agree that the first is foolish, the second is destructive and the third is the most desirable.

To ignore all criticism is a great way to make sure that you miss even the nuggets of gold buried under the rubble of a well-meaning advisor or teachers poor delivery. To become insecure about feedback makes it more likely that the next suggestion from someone is going to also be viewed by you as an attack, because youve conditioned yourself to view criticism as a rebuke. To learn from everything, however, regardless of the sometimes coarse and unmannered conveyance of advice, is your only true and effective way through insecurities.

As a teacher I can hand-over-heart say that I never judge my students. I used to many years ago when I was insecure about myself, but as my confidence in my own teaching grew so did my patience and empathy when it comes to actors and their attendant insecurities.

READ: “How to Overcome Jealousy”

When you react negatively to a note, direction or piece of feedback, the only thing you can be certain of is that your own reaction was negative. You cant even be sure that the advice-giver was being rude or uncaring—they may have simply failed to communicate in the way you prefer. If you dismiss everything you heard them say as an attack means that you lose an opportunity to learn and grow. Thats the only one true guarantee.

Over a decade ago a young woman I was called to coach in her first feature film was fired before our lessons ended. I was frustrated that the producer didnt allow me the time to get her back on track, but I was mortified for her, given this was to be her big break. When I expressed my sympathy I was blown away by her response. She smiled and stated calmly that she was lucky to have had the opportunity to learn about what she needed to improve. Out of respect for her I wont tell you who she is, but if you watch U.S. television at all you will have seen her in many shows, with a brand new one out now. In hindsight she was incredibly lucky that she got the rude shock years before physically arriving in Hollywood, because once she got here she was so prepared that she was unstoppable.

That initial kick in the teeth would have destroyed most other actors. Heck, it probably would have destroyed me back then. But her emotionally intelligent and gentle, humble acceptance that she was being told to go away and keep learning ensured that she actually did. I coached her for a show in Australia after this experience, she landed the role and it ran for years. When she was done on that show she came to America and the rest, for her, is probably a dinner party anecdote. More likely though, it crosses my mind more often than it does hers.

Your future is not dictated by your past, nor is it the result of what your critics say about you or to you. Your future is decided entirely by how you react to the hand that you are dealt. Though you may have suffered the most humiliating blows in your life and career to date, only you can change your life for the better. Wouldnt it be nice to start today?

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Paul Barry
Paul Barry is an L.A.-based Australian acting teacher, author of “Choices,” and a Backstage Expert. Barry runs on-camera classes in Santa Monica as well as online worldwide and conducts a six-week program called Dreaming for a Living, coaching actors, writers, and filmmakers in how to generate online incomes to support their art.