In the performing arts there is nothing more inevitable than rejection. In fact, it is likely you’ll be rejected far more than you are successful. As performers, a lot of our identity tends to revolve around being perceived as talented. I feel a common experience is that performers exit our youth of often being a big fish in a tiny pond - being the lead in every musical our high school, etc - entering the “real world” of the industry is daunting and disheartening. There is way more competition, each and everyone seemingly as skilled as you or more so, than you ever thought possible. After a few auditions, you have to become accustomed to not just not being the lead, but often not even getting a callback for any role at all. This can lead to a spiral of self doubt and insecurity - you begin to wonder if you have any talent at all. And in this, a crucial component of your identity has been called into question. The questions get more dire and desperate - Will you ever get a role at all? Are you just wasting your time trying to find success?
The comforting thing is that you are certainly not alone in feeling this way. It’s almost a right of passage for an artist to come to the brink of giving up entirely. There are many tales of incredibly talented celebrities being absolutely downtrodden and ready to give up just before finding success.
The question is, how to get yourself out of the slump when you feel you are at your most downtrodden. And the answer sucks - it's to keep auditioning and keep trying. If you don’t you’ll never have a chance of reaching that success so many of us crave. And yes, it will lead to more of the rejection that led to your disheartenment in the first place. But the key is to reframe your thinking. A rejection doesn’t mean you aren’t talented. Fifty rejections do not mean you’re not talented. It doesn’t mean anything really! It is just how things work out. And that may seem nihilistic but it actually gives me great comfort; it is what it is.
Tandem to that is how insecurity from rejection can affect your performance.The unfortunate reality is that the more insecure you are in your own abilities, the more likely you are to perform badly, perpetuating and deepening the cycle of insecurity each time. You must find a sort of ambivalence if not joy in the auditioning process; you are getting a chance to do what you love doing and improve upon your craft and that should carry you through.
Most important of all is to not lose your passion. If you perform for the love of performing, it will be visible to those watching you. And that’s half the battle, if you love what you do then chances are people will love watching you.
This may not be the most comforting essay but it wasn’t meant to be. The reality of being a performer is that it is often disheartening. But if you can just reframe how you think of auditioning and rejection, it can still be liberating and incredibly enjoyable.