“Do what you love,” is an old adage that we’ve probably all been told. The pursuit of happiness, in my opinion, is only possible when you do what you love. But I think something that all creative types struggle with is balancing their passion with being a person. Which may sound bizarre, but the entertainment industry is unique in that your career is dependent on you as a persona and not just a 9-5 you can compartmentalize. Oftentimes the dogged pursuit of our dreams, the day in and day out hustle, can burn us out. Especially in the realm of the incredibly competitive field of performance arts, it can feel like if we relent even a little that we will fall behind. When your job is literally to promote yourselves relentlessly, it’s easy to begin feeling like a product instead of a person. So how do we keep our passion and personhood alive while pursuing our goals?
The first priority should always be your mental health. If your mental health is compromised, you will struggle to find the motivation to be productive. And even if you “push through,” it’s likely that the quality of your work will suffer for it. Suffering does not make good art, that is a myth. One of the things I do to prioritize my mental health include working out regularly. Your physical health is also closely linked to your mental health. Making sure that you work out on a consistent basis, particularly cardio, will give your brain feel-good endorphins and has been shown in studies to be as effective as a mild antidepressant. Another way is to practice mindfulness, which is a big umbrella term that includes many activities which allow you to reflect on your thoughts. I personally have been keeping a journal since I was 12, and it is an excellent way for me to get whatever is on my mind and bothering me out and onto paper. Other practices that people enjoy are yoga, meditation, and intentional breathing. If you need extra help, there is absolutely no shame in seeking out a therapist.
Another means of preserving your personhood is not reading your social media comments. Especially for performance arts, a prominent social media presence is absolutely necessary. But there is an ugly underbelly to having the bravery to put yourself out there; some people are horrid, horrid little goblins who have nothing better to do but tear you down as a way to make themselves feel better. As humans we are wired to care about what people think of us, but we were never designed to know what everyone thinks of us all the time. It can be incredibly discouraging and even make you want to quit, which is why avoiding the comment section is probably for the best.
A support network of friends, family, and loved ones is also essential for keeping you grounded. The life of an actor is incredibly busy, but it cannot be overstated how important it is to make time for the people who you care about and care about you in return. You’ve probably heard the saying that “it’s lonely at the top,” which is unfortunately often true for incredibly driven people. But genuine human connection is irreplaceable for social creatures like us. So make the time to go out and see friends, call your mom, and go on frequent date nights with your partner.
Most importantly, you should take breaks. It often can seem impossible to get off the hustle hamster wheel, especially when the culture surrounding the performance arts is so cut throat. But you can take days off. You can turn off your phone and go do something completely unrelated to your career. Take a day trip! Write a short story with no intention of showing anyone! Do arts and crafts! You can exist for yourself, and do things for yourself without needing to perform.
In summation, the name of the game is self care. Make sure you don’t get so caught up in the hustle that you forget about yourself.