How Do You Handle Rejection?

Let's face it, no one likes rejection. Yet even successful people have experienced it. In Fred Astaire's first audition the comments about him were 'balding, skinny, and can dance a little,' whereas Walt Disney was fired for 'lacking ideas'. The point is not to avoid criticism or aim to be perfect, because that's unrealistic. It's knowing how to spring back effectively after a major blow.

How do you take rejection in stride? Be aware that many factors affect success in the entertainment industry. Some of these, such as nepotism and dollar signs, are outside of your control. What's within your grasp is the ability to objectively evaluate your performance, make any necessary improvements, and move on to the NEXT audition. Let's examine each of these steps.

To give a killer performance, you need to prepare first and then present yourself in the best possible light. In other words, "Knock 'em dead." This requires doing your homework, whether it's memorizing every acting role offered in a show, just in case, or being fully rested and in great shape to perform in your discipline. You also need to give a top-notch presentation, where you're in control of your nerves. Afterwards, take a deep breath and review how you did. If you nailed it, let go of any expectations of getting a call-back (it's out of your control) and move on to the next opportunity. If not, you need to correct any problems.

Common problems are often as simple as updating your resumé or adding more recent headshots. Other factors that may need improvement are those which do not adequately reflect your performance skills (e.g., your variety of songs or choice of at least one dramatic and one comedic monologue). A coach/teacher can help you make the right decisions, as well as address any areas of weakness. Consistent practice is essential. While dancers have group classes, unless they skip them, actors, singers and musicians must practice for hours on their own. This requires a lot of self-discipline. Fixing problems will help you know that your performance was not responsible for the rejection.

The last step is moving on. You will increase your comfort zone and the odds of achieving your goals every time you put yourself out there. It's also good to consider many ways to showcase your unique talents, including TV commercials and print ads, stage productions, film, music videos, recordings and community theater---to name just a few. Rather than looking at an audition as a chance to fail, reframe it as an opportunity to learn and grow as an artist. Having meaningful activities outside of performing can also make it easier to persist in the face of rejection. It's a great way to reduce tension and restore your peace of mind.

Remember, rejection is a necessary part of show business. The less power it has over your well-being, the more competitive you will be. If it's starting to wear you down, consider working with a performance psychologist to develop better coping skills. You can locate experts in your area by contacting your local state psychological association.

Glass Pieces
New York City Ballet, Glass Pieces by Jerome Robbins - Photo © Paul Kolnik