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Letting Go of Limiting Beliefs

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Most artists harbor closely held limiting beliefs about themselves. Especially actors. We are naturally incredibly sensitive people, empaths, and storytellers. The stories we tell ourselves about our inner worth can have an incredible impact on our career, and they can be completely false. These stories are often residual from our early years (remember the kid who teased you for singing too loudly, or the director in the middle school play who told you he gave you a smaller role because you thought too much of yourself? Yeah, me too…) These stories may also be the ones we develop over years of rejection (or simply being ignored) by the industry. In some ways they serve as mental protection to handle a plateau and keep moving forward. The problem is that the stories our minds tell us to protect our hearts, end up dampening our passion and hurting our self-esteem. After not having any major auditions in the last couple of years I had developed a big limiting belief I liked to use: that casting offices were just NOT INTERESTED in me. That whatever POP you need in your materials (and you DO need good photographs and a good reel), I just don’t have, and THAT is why I didn’t get many auditions.

In the meantime I made my own projects, and started really investing in myself as an actor: I found a great home class where I work out weekly, and I finally took sketch writing, went back to improv, and got on the ball with an amazing on-camera audition technique class. I’ve been as busy as possible honing my craft and forging my identity as an actor and human. And sure enough, all of this input into myself over the last six months HAS reaped dividends: I just signed with an AMAZING new agent in December, and am now a part of a Sketch Team with The Pack Theatre, where I will be writing and acting in sketches on an ongoing basis. But as January crept on, and I didn’t have any big auditions with my new representation yet THAT fear, THAT story I’ve developed (that I don’t have the goods to get auditions) began to creep back into my headspace.

Well, luckily for me, the universe gave a big wallop to that belief for me last week. As actors we have this “path” that is the commonly held belief for how one’s career progresses on the Television side of the business (where most actors “break out” these days). It is that you go in for co-stars, book co-stars, go in for guest stars, book guest stars, then you might get recurring and regular auditions. This is the normal trajectory. This is the limiting belief. However, this isn’t what my career has looked like at all. I have been leads in independent film. And yes, Television is a total new world to me, and where I am putting all my focus into expanding this year. But I’ve had a total of two co-star auditions in the last couple of years, one of which required me to look like Andy McDowell (I don’t).

So last week, much to my surprise, my first audition with my new agency, was for a series regular role, for an AMAZING casting office. This office casts the things I want to be in. The strong women roles live here, and to get this opportunity shattered that belief I’ve been carrying around: that you can’t see me, my essence, from my pictures: the belief that big offices will never be interested in me. And the role just fit me. It felt easy in a good way. And it really stretched my ability to get it done. Without all the preparation I’ve been making I would not have been able to meet the self-tape deadline. Without the work I’ve been doing on myself I wouldn’t have been able to call on my resources and ask for help like I needed to, in order to put a good performance on tape in less than 24 hours.

I’m really happy with what I delivered. And so are my agents (phew!). And I feel so lucky that this office that I love will watch me for a couple of minutes. They will literally SEE me. That in itself is an incredible WIN for me. And I got a HUGE reminder from the universe that opportunities are not necessarily chronological. That big opportunities can come at any time: and you need to be prepared. This only encourages me to do more, train more, create more, and be more of myself in the world.

So what are your big limiting beliefs about your career? And how can you work to shatter them? I encourage you to do so immediately, with joy and pleasure. Smash them. And when they crop back up, thank them for trying to protect your heart, but let them know you don’t need them, and send them on their way.

  • photo by Yosh Shelton

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Madeline Merritt

About Madeline Merritt

Actress, Freelance Writer - Madeline grew up on stage and has loved telling stories her whole life. From the Bay Area, California, Madeline received her degree in Theatre and Political Science from Northwestern University and moved to Los Angeles in 2008. She recently spent a year in Paris, France but missed the city of Angels and the entertainment industry here. She cares deeply about social issues, including women’s rights, indigenous rights, poverty and the environment. She feels the role of storyteller through entertainment is very important in opening dialogue and creating change in the world. You can see her in The Guest House (available on Netflix, Itunes, Amazon and Time Warner on Demand) and the soon to be released American Idiots, coming to a Redbox near you in June 2013. She is thrilled to continue her journey of collaborating with women in film and television through Ms. In the Biz.