It was about 9pm on a Thursday when I lost it: the passion, the drive, the confidence. I was buried in two scripts memorizing lines and basically had a nervous breakdown. I drank two (okay, three) glasses of wine for dinner that night, and basically cried myself to sleep. Why? Acting is fucking hard.
The industry is brutal; the constant rejection can send you into a self-sabotaging rabbit hole and the pressure can literally cripple you. I’ve been pounding the pavement for nearly a decade now and with each year, it only gets more challenging. I have this “what am I doing with my life” battle almost annually, but this time I felt hopeless and wasn’t sure I’d win the war. Things were pretty bad for about a month and I’m embarrassed to admit that I gave up; I quit a film, skipped two (expensive) acting classes, and barely made it out of bed some days. I was apathetic, lost, scared, miserable, and exhausted. Most of all, I wasn’t ME. I pride myself on my confidence, my passion, my drive, my hustle and for the first time in ten years I didn’t believe in myself. That terrified me. I knew this career path was going to be difficult and I knew that there would be radical highs and lows, I was fully prepared to trudge through the muck with my eyes on the prize, because this is what I’m SUPPOSED TO DO……right? Is all the hardship and all the bullshit worth it? Is there anything else I can do/would do/want to do? I had to ask myself the hard questions, and I had to answer them ‘cuz let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger. It was time to be real with myself and acknowledge the elephant in the room. Everything I was feeling was fear based…I was scared shitless…but I wasn’t scared I wasn’t good enough, I was scared I wasn’t going to succeed. I let the idea of failure paralyze me and terrorize my faith. I lost myself, my spark, and my self-worth. And dammit if I wasn’t going to find it…ALL of it.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look FEAR in the face…DO the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I am lucky. I have a network of people around me that offer tremendous support and without them I’d be forlorn and love-deficient. They are my unfailing cheerleaders, my ego-checkers, and my devoted fans. During this crisis of self and pity party of one, I chose to put down the bottle of Malbec and reach out to my backers for solace…because let’s face it, I had to leave the house sometime and wine is not a food group. There was support in the form of pep-talks; supporters who picked that bottle of Malbec right back up, filled my glass, and just listened; those who acknowledged my state of fear, but reminded me that my woes are microscopic in the grand scheme of things; and others who empathized, admitting to the same anxieties and tribulations.
This was one of the most important aha moments: I am not alone and these feelings/fears are normal! What a revelation. It may seem like an elementary notion, but negative thoughts can wreak havoc on your ability to see clearly. It’s really easy to consume yourself with doubt and feel alone, especially when it seems like all your actor friends are ten steps ahead of you.
Another aha moment: recognize the victories, however small they appear. I have been working my ass off for years and DO have a lot to show for it; though I may not be exactly where I thought I’d be and my star meter may not be soaring, I have made huge strides, accomplished a lot, and have so much to be proud of. I have to force myself to focus on the work I have done/am doing, not what I haven’t done.
I have come a long way since that fateful Thursday night, and even though each day presents itself with new challenges and trepidations, I’ve gained a new sense of clarity and conviction. I am taking ownership of my feelings, facing my fears, not drinking wine for dinner, and beginning to feel whole again. Plus, truth be told, not many people get to actualize their dreams and get paid to play make believe…what I get to do is pretty fucking cool, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Have you ever felt this way with your dreams or goals? I’d love to hear your stories and how you overcame your fears below.