"It is hard enough to love oneself in our society, as many of us experience difficulty with feelings of self-love and acceptance, but it is even more so for an actor. Being a performer and especially an actor is a job where your self-esteem is constantly challenged. I truly believe this is the biggest obstacle to a free-flowing performance.
When you are an actor, not only your art and talent need to be recognized and appreciated for you to be able to earn a paycheck, but your entire self – emotional, physical and spiritual self – is constantly evaluated and judged by others, and ninety percent of the time, rejected. This is why surviving casting is so hard for actors, and much harder, it seems, than surviving a music audition or an athletic competition. A musician will be judged on his talent, his knowledge of music, and his virtuosity. An athlete will be evaluated on his physical abilities, endurance, reactivity, and stamina. Casting directors, however, not only judge you for your ability to act, your diction, and your gift for performance, but they also judge you for your looks, your voice, your behavior, the color of your hair, of your eyes, your height, size, weight, and the way your physique will relate to a particular part. One day you can be too tall, the next you are too short. One day you can be too blond, the next too dark. You can never win, and luck plays such a big role in being cast! It is about the luck of being there at the right time when they are imagining someone that looks exactly like you. If you can transform yourself enough, it is about the luck of guessing exactly what they are imagining for the part.
As a result, actors are especially sensitive to being judged, criticized, and rejected. Their sense of worthiness is off. They constantly crave approval and reassurance from others as a source of love and praise. They focus on themselves and on getting the admiration of others to the point of sometimes appearing narcissistic. They long for the highs obtained from being on stage, being in a different energetic vibration, and living on an emotional roller coaster. They seek adulation and praise from the public and the director, yet their ego gets so many bruises along the way that as a result, they struggle between opposite emotions. On one hand, they try to constantly boost their self-esteem and experience feelings of entitlement, arrogance, and higher power; on the other hand, because they are rejected so often, they often have feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing and depression that can lead to tantrums, extreme fragility or self-destructive behaviors. They can be self-absorbed, egotistic, self-centered, even overbearing, and at the same time they often feel needy and unappreciated, carrying fears of being betrayed, misunderstood, abandoned, and unworthy. It is simply a consequence of their difficult profession. These are symptoms of what I call “Post-Performance Stress Disorder.”
To achieve a certain degree of talent and expertise, an actor must be focused on himself, as he is his own instrument. The artist self needs to be passionate, intense, exhilarated, and completely devoted to the art. The center of the universe must indeed revolve around him or her since actors need to take care of that instrument and be attuned to its needs, moods and demands. It is, after all, how they make a living, by being overly sensitive and expressive, by being a transparent emotional wellspring. However, on an everyday basis, and confronted with the harsh reality of casting and auditions (which any normal person would have a hard time to deal with, anyway) they are like gladiators arriving in the fighting arena with absolutely no protection and, even worse, with already bleeding wounds. The fragility and vulnerability necessary for them to play and produce their work of art is an impediment when they have to confront the implacable world of competition, auditions, castings, and the cutthroat “business of show business.” Actors spend most of their training learning to become more open and sensitive, and then are thrown to the lions with absolutely no knowledge of how to rebuild their fragile ego after each punch. This alone creates a terrible risk to their physical and mental health.
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