Okay, a confession: I quit stuff. Anything I’m not inherently good at? I quit it. As a child, I quit ballet, basketball, tennis, karate, cross-stitching, trombone, guitar, and French. As an adult, I’ve quit plenty too. Dance classes, kickboxing, jewelry-making. DIETS. Oh man, so many diets.
Not to brag but–you name it, I can quit it.
The things I haven’t quit? Honestly, the things I was already sort of decent at. Eek! I know, I know–this is not a good look for me. What does this say about growth mindset, or my ability to take constructive feedback, or my enjoyment of things for the sake of, like, fun? Great questions; I’ll ask my therapist next Monday, okay?
That being said, I’m not lazy. I took the things I was sort of good at, and I try to be GREAT at them. To be honest: I want to be the best. I have worked hard to hone those few natural inclinations into my career, my passion, my craft, my life! I’ve had mentors, I’ve taken classes, I’ve gone to conferences, I take professional development. I continue to educate myself to perpetuate growth. I have spent my life weeding out things that don’t make me feel skilled or talented, and have dedicated my time to the things that do. And I deeply love those things.
So essentially what I’m saying is: I’m only good at three things. Since I quit everything that didn’t come naturally to me, I’m not good at very much. Really just–acting, writing and teaching. I’ve spent a lifetime working on acting, writing and teaching. That’s it.
So that begs the question…what if…someone’s better than me? I mean, I’ve focused so much time and energy on only three things, so how am I supposed to feel if I’m not the BEST at those three things?
Obviously, I’ve thought about this a lot, and here are the things that I tell myself to feel better:
- Art, talent, performance–is subjective. So what is “better”, really?
- As an actor, we all have our wheelhouse. Often, some contemporary realism stars don’t translate as well to style pieces. Some musical theatre professionals struggle with intimate blackbox spaces. Etc, etc.
- We aren’t all the same type. I don’t often think of myself as competing against young, leggy blondes. Auditions are competitions of sorts, sure…but I’m not competing against every person all the time. (Still unsure? Check out our guide to embracing your type!)
So, you might be better at some things, I may be better at others. Or! You may be better for a role, but I’m better for a different one. Or! No one is “better” because good acting is subjective! Doesn’t that feel nice? Isn’t that comforting? And really, all those things are true! But what’s also true:
Maybe you’re just straight-up better than me.
Or maybe they’re just straight-up better than me. And maybe they’re better than you too.
Yikes! Doesn’t that hurt to think about? Don’t you hate that? I mean, if I’m only good at three things, and people are BETTER THAN ME at those three things? Then I may as well be butchering the French language while attempting cruddy guitar in my mediocre homemade bracelets! And having FUN! GROSS!
So I have to ask myself, as someone who has dedicated my life to these three things: do I only love them because I perceive myself as good at them? Or…am I good at them because I fell in love with them so quickly?
When I’m honest with myself, I’m totally aware that I am not the best actor that I know, not the best writer that I know, not the best teacher that I know. But it doesn’t make me love my three things any less.
Look, it’s rough out there. Acting is competitive in nature. You’re at an audition with a bunch of other people vying for the same role. It’s natural to feel insecure, jealous, maybe resentful sometimes. I hate to admit it, but I have run away from a cast list, consumed a lot of wine, and bemoaned how “I should have gotten that part”. It wasn’t a cute look. It also wasn’t true.
In more recent years, I’ve not landed a part and have known I was bested at callbacks. I watched someone kick my butt. I knew they earned the part. I respected the director’s choice. But I was also very sad.
But not getting a part isn’t a personal rejection of you. It isn’t even a rejection of you as an actor. It’s a rejection of your fit for a certain part in a certain production of a certain play with a certain director based on who showed up to auditions. And it can’t always go in your favor. You can’t be everyone’s Matilda, right?
If you’re acting because you want to be the best at it…if you’re doing anything because you want to be the best at it, maybe take a break. Pick up a hobby.
Maybe I’ll try calligraphy.