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Bitter Actor Syndrome: What Is It And How To Avoid It

by RobinBlack
November 24, 2023 6:26AM UTC

“Your energy walks into the room before you do. Most people who study social interactions can tell you about “vibes” that enter spaces before an encounter between two parties. Call it an aura, a mood, energy, whatever. It’s fascinating to observe the shifts in tone the room takes in an average day of a casting session… If your energy is toxic, we’re going to feel that and possibly get defensive toward you before you even begin your audition. We may not know why, we’ll say later, “He [She] just rubbed me the wrong way.”

Becoming a working actor in Hollywood is a task on par with summiting Everest.

The reality is, you can do all the work necessary – more in fact than anyone else you know – and still fail to summit. At least on your first try. What separates the successful from the unsuccessful again and again, however, is not luck, fate or kismet. It’s attitude. Successful people get better – when they get knocked down, they get back up and try again. Unsuccessful people just get bitter when things don’t go their way.

As the old saying goes “your attitude determines your altitude,” but maintaining a positive attitude takes energy, effort and focus, every single day.  

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.” ― Charles R. Swindoll

So, how do you go about maintaining a positive attitude in a business where you will hear “no” and everything you are doing wrong far more often than you hear a “yes” or something you are doing right?

Here are 5 things you can do to help give yourself the best chance of success.

1.) Be kind to yourself  

You are going to encounter a lot of small, mean, petty people in this world and if you are not careful, they will make you one of them. Be careful of negative messages both internally (negative self talk) and externally (who you surround yourself with). If your family and friends are encouraging and supportive keep them close, if not, either distance yourself from them or ditch them entirely.

2.) Set your goals around the labor not the fruit

What you have control of is how much labor you do – not how much fruit that labor bears. You have no control over how many auditions or roles you ultimately get, but you do have control over how many phone calls you make in a day, how many e-mails you send out, whether or not you check casting sites daily, how many industry events you attend and even how many people you talk to when you are there, so set your goals around that.

3.) Celebrate your victories, big and small.

Too many times, we don’t let ourselves celebrate small things because we’re afraid we might “jinx” the big ones. “Big” victories are generally going to be few and far between, however, so if you don’t celebrate the small ones, you might yourself leading a very dull, dreary life – which will invariably lead to bitterness. That bitterness will do far more to “jinx” your future than celebrating ever will. Don’t just celebrate the audition or call back, celebrate the call for an audition! “Celebrating” can simply mean allowing yourself a small treat, getting together with a supportive friend to celebrate over coffee or even just putting on your favorite song and dancing like no one is watching!

4.) Have a solid goal, a plan for getting there and a means to chart your progress

Saying “I want to be a working actor” is great, but rather vague. Saying “I want a starring role in a horror film” or “I want a recurring role in a dramatic series” is more concrete. It’s far easier to reach a destination when you know exactly where you are going and you can also create a much better “map” for getting there. This will not only help you track your progress, but help you determine whether what you are doing is getting you closer, or leading you farther away from your goal. 

In general, 20% of your work will invariably produce 80% of your results. Having a concrete goal will help you decide which 20% of your work is helping you get there and which 80% is just spinning your wheels. Then you can chuck the 80% that is not helping, to focus on the 20% that is, and make that the 80%.

checkout: for more tools to help you chart your progress and achieve your goals

5.) Know when it’s time to take a break/ Have a plan for success

It’s a strange irony that you will encounter far more stress after you achieve a certain success than before it.  When you are under the most stress is when you are in the most danger of breaking. Therefore, it’s important to have a plan in place to alleviate stress so it does not break you. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in a certain result that we become anxious and lose perspective. When that happens, it's important to have a plan in place for “de-stressing'. It can be as simple as a quick breathing exercise while waiting for an audition or as long as a weekend away while waiting to hear about a major role.  Here are a few ideas to help you have a plan in place for alleviating the pressure of potential success. 

  • Go to a park, take your shoes off, walk barefoot in the grass, sit on a blanket and read a book
  • Go to a movie alone, in the middle of the day. Chances are, if you want to be an actor, movies speak to you. Go remind yourself of why you really want to be in this business.
  • Do a guided meditation.
  • Get a massage or mani/ pedi
  • Take off for the weekend and drive somewhere  - maybe Las Vegas or up the coast to a small beach town
  • Get together with a non-industry friend or go home for a weekend
  • Go to the beach or spend a day by the pool 

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