Staying positive can be challenging within any line of work, but within the acting industry, it can really mean the difference between making or breaking your career – especially when you’re going through a dry patch. Negative thoughts may be swirling around your head, telling you that you were never good enough, and have to pick another profession, pronto. Positivity in acting is essential if you’re going to survive.
The truth is, negative thinking affects everyone, and dwelling on things that get you down will do nothing for your mental health or your acting career. Yes, there may be bad auditions, and unfortunate performances that leave you red-faced, but there will also be great jobs and auditions where you know you’ve given your best. Working at beating down that inner negativity and replacing it with a positive outlook is one of the best things you can do for your well-being and future career prospects.
It happens to the best of us
Peter Mackenzie, once interviewed the veteran actor Jack Lemmon, star of Some Like It Hot and said that during the interview he said:
“not a day went by when he didn’t believe that there would be a knock on the door and there would be two guys from the ‘Acting Police.’
They would tell him to come with them because he was no good. And Jack said he would go because he knew they were right.” Lemmon won two Academy Awards in his 50-year career and was nominated eight times in total. He was without question a great actor, and yet he constantly carried around a deep-seated dread that he was never actually good enough.
Mackenzie also talks about working with Meryl Streep, who with 19 Academy Award nominations holds more than any other actor, and is generally agreed to be one of, if not, the greatest actress on the planet. Working with her on Nancy Meyers’ It’s Complicated, he played the therapist to her protagonist and recalled a particularly gruelling 13-hour shoot for one and a third pages of dialogue.
“On every take Meryl committed 100 percent, giving the same energy when it was over her shoulder for my close-ups. Eventually that took its toll. She turned to me and whispered, ‘Am I any good in this scene?’ The back of my head exploded.”
It just goes to show: whether you are an aspiring actor or a successful one, that negative part of your brain, criticising every move and revelling in your mistakes is shared by everyone. The real skill comes when you learn to turn that voice against itself and use it as a positive force.
What can actors do about negativity?
The acting industry is tough, so it’s hardly surprising that negative thoughts seem to come a lot easier than positive ones. Although you will have received positive feedback in some auditions, the likelihood is that the comments that stick most in your brain have come from incidences where you received negative feedback: validation, to you, of your worst fears.
Actor Bret Shuford writes that although our natural response is to work at pushing these negative thoughts away, most of the time this only makes them stronger.
“The best response you can have is to embrace them. Listen to the thoughts. What are they saying to you? These thoughts are trying to protect you because you are going into dangerous territory.”
In other words, negative thoughts are not there to make you feel down for no good reason, rather they are a natural response to you being in an area outside of your comfort zone. As far as your mind is concerned, it would be easier to just give up and walk away. After all, the easiest option always seems like the best option at the time. However, once you understand this, it becomes easier to silence these thoughts and turn them around to work for you instead of against you.
From Fears to Flowers
According to Bret Shuford, his three tried and tested methods for turning negative thoughts into beacons of positivity are as follows:
1. Be grateful. Since gratitude and fear are not coexisting emotions (according to scientists), when you begin to feel negative and fearful, focus on what you are grateful for. Maybe you already have a job or a great shot at a role, or have recently moved somewhere new. Whatever you currently have, focus on how grateful you are for them: a sure-fire way to reinforce your positivity.
2. Make Mantras. Listen to your negative thoughts: what are they actually saying? Do you hear some things over and over? Break down sentences, such as ‘I’m not good enough for the part, no one will like me’ and realise that it is only your brain trying to protect you and prevent you from allowing yourself to be vulnerable, as you would be in a performance. Reverse the sentence and make it your mantra- ‘I’m not good enough’ becomes ‘I am a talented and worthy actor, I am a valuable part of the production’, and so forth.
3. Meditate. Nothing is more proven to increase feelings of positivity and general well-being than meditation. Meditation allows you to focus on yourself and see the world around you in a different light. It can also help you let go of feelings of stress and feel calmer and more at peace with yourself. There are many meditation programmes available online to help you get started.
The Marriage of Positivity and Persistence
With your new and improved positive outlook, you’ll be able to achieve the second most important thing when it comes to acting: persistence. Just as in any industry, persistently putting in the effort to keep going and offer more than your competitors is one of the most effective ways to make sure you get steady work. Hollywood is rife with tales of long-suffering actors consistently going the extra mile to gain the attention of the people in charge who would eventually give them their big break. So it’s very much worth keeping this in mind during your darker moments.
The truth is success in acting is just as much about luck and persistence as it is about talent, and you need to have all three to make it big. That negative voice in your head may be gnawing at your confidence and motivation to keep going, and it is only by turning it into your greatest ally that will you become able to beat it down once and for all. Positivity and persistence will get you there eventually, you just have to believe not only in this philosophy, but also yourself.
Start with Great Training
Nothing will help you stay positive quite as well as having an excellent training course behind you. My exclusive One Year Ultimate Acting Programme offers everything you need and more to start your career as a professional actor. We specialise in teaching ‘the Method’, as well as the skills you will need to navigate the business side of the industry. If you want the chance to meet Hollywood casting directors and build useful connections to give yourself the shot at becoming a professional actor, check out the testimonies from my past students who have gone on to become successful working actors. Make it happen today. (And hurry! Auditions for next year will take place on the 28th September!)