Do you ever find yourself looking at other actors and what they are doing with a sense of, well, envy?
I know I certainly have. There is little else that will make you unhappier than wishing you were another person with their skillset, fanbase, CV or ‘profile’.
The remarkable thing is that every single person is the same in this respect. It’s fascinating to find that even the strongest, most popular among us tend to have one eye on another person.
One of my best friends is an extraordinarily successful actor. Many years ago she confessed that she could not stop watching the career of a fellow actor of a similar age and casting type. She was riddled with fear and frustration at what this person was doing. As a bystander, I had to remind her that her own career was going extraordinarily well and that there would be a great many actors who would give their all for what she has. I suggested that she would feel much better if she ‘stayed in her own lane’ so to speak and focused on the outstanding work that she has behind her and the exciting future ahead.
I did sympathise though, totally.
I would imagine that we are all like this. We have all felt the pangs of frustration and envy when someone does great things and seems to propel forward. It is difficult to override the inner questioning…’Why have I not had that chance?’…’Why are they suddenly getting those opportunities?’…’I’m not being cocky but I’m SURE I am better than them!’…. Sounds familiar?
I believe that I discovered several years ago, the antidote to the poison. It comes in two parts.
Part 1 – We are never going to rid ourselves of these feelings and that is a good thing. The rising frustration is our desire to succeed, that is very healthy I think. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be in the right game or have the drive or energy left to do what we are doing. Most feelings can be looked at as useful energy, focused in the wrong place.
This energy is the same kind of energy you likely had as a ‘young un’, watching your acting heroes when you were at high school or college and you couldn’t wait to get out there and get at it. Remember that? The sensation of building intensity when you became sure that this is your path, your destiny and every college or school performance was everything to you. You took it so seriously. You felt and treated it like you were lighting up the West End even though you were actually lighting up Wigan College! (probably just me that one…).
There was probably a sincerity in you, a hard nosed determination that was noticed by your peers, teachers and family. You had set your course and were sticking to it. You likely felt the same pangs of frustration (when someone else got the part you wanted) and pride (when you gained traction and found greater freedom in your work) that you feel now but somehow, it felt like a rehearsal because the REAL work had not begun. You knew that this was a microcosmic version of the real thing which would start when you got that agent or graduated from drama school. You were, in essence, safe.
Now things are different aren’t they?
You’re gambling with real dollars and real time. You haven’t changed but the game has.
The good news here is that you still have the fuel. That is all the fear and frustration is. It’s the same thing and we need to celebrate this energy but harness it in a different way.
This brings me to part 2.
Do you know what I say to myself, literally every time I have a pang of this?
‘NOT MY LEGACY’
This is part 2.
You are a completely separate individual to whoever you are looking at and it serves us well to remember that. They have different attributes in every way regardless of how similar they seem in terms of casting.
You are the only you there will ever be. You have had a different life, different upbringing and, most importantly – you have a VERY different future. There are skills and passions in you that they do not have and it is these same skills and passions that will create your individual journey for you.
You may make different choices to them, were you in their shoes, due to the natural biases that you hold. For instance, you may have a pull toward directing that the person you admire does not have, this may split your focus in a way that you find deeply satisfying but reduces your acting momentum. You may have the desire to write your own material and create films that again, takes you in a slightly different direction or requires you to turn down certain projects that could have pushed your acting career forward quicker.
Equally, you may have challenges that are unique to your makeup that are holding you back (for the time being!). These could be anything of course but may include the ability to drop criticism when it comes your way, the ability to fail big and not care, the ability to hit specific intention quickly…any number of things that, thankfully, can be worked on but slow you down.
In short – THEIR story is not YOUR story.
When you look back in years to come, I believe you will feel very sure that your life went in the direction that it needed for you to be what you become. What anyone else is doing is NOT YOUR LEGACY. It’s not the story you get to tell. Yours is unique, exciting and never again to be repeated.
Make it a good one!
To you, the artists.