What to Do When You Don’t Feel Your Work is Good Enough
I don’t know a single actor in my life who hasn’t, at one point or another, worried whether their work was good enough. It’s a natural part of any career, and certainly in one that weathers the rejection rate that actors do, it’s a feeling bound to pop up here and there. But sometimes that feeling sticks around. It’s no good to let it make a home in your head. That little voice of doubt will erode not only your confidence, but your ability to judge your own work with clarity. So if the feeling has outstayed its welcome, it’s time to get to the root of the matter.
What is the source of the feeling? If you can identify why you’re feeling like your work is subpar, it help you determine next steps. Sometimes it’s not about the work at all. Are you stressed in other aspects of your life, and fixating on your career as something that feels more within your control? Are you self-sabotaging to avoid rejection or (often more insidious) success? Or are you genuinely rusty or green? Feeling like your work needs improvement is not a failure. It’s just an opportunity for self-awareness, self-care and growth.
What needs improving? If there is actually work to be done, it can feel overwhelming. Try isolating one skill at a time. Do you want to work on auditioning? On-camera work? Basic technique? Take a class. Or if you’re unable to at the moment, find colleagues whose work you respect and work material together. Getting down on yourself about your work solves nothing, and can be paralyzing and counterproductive. Classes and workshops can be a great way to hone skills and build confidence. If you don’t know what needs work, just choose something. Pick an entirely new aspect of acting to focus on. Just the act of stretching your acting muscles can help get the juices flowing.
Step away. Artistic burnout is all too real, and can be the culprit if you’re feeling stagnant. There is no shame in taking a break from the work when you need it. Stepping back and reconnecting with joys in life that are unrelated to the acting industry can be reenergizing.
Reconnect to the community. If your work feels lackluster and you don’t know where to start, it might be time to remind yourself what you love about acting in the first place. Go consume good theatre and film. Connect with your artistic community in ways that feel joyful and genuine. Maybe that’s going to opening nights with actor friends, or having movie marathons, or even going to town hall meetings where policies affecting the arts are being discussed. Find the things about the industry that invigorate you.
Don’t play the comparison game. Especially with social media and constant access to our artistic peers, it’s hard not to continually judge our work against the perceived successes of others. But that can be a soul sucking game to play, and by no means is it always an accurate barometer of your progress. Everyone’s journey in the arts looks a little different, and the stories that are curated for public consumption often leave out context and periods of struggle. As much as possible, try to keep your focus on your own path.
This career is a marathon, not a sprint. There will always be work to be done and techniques to be honed. You can always dig deeper, and there will always be artists surrounding you that just seem to have more on the ball. Focus on you. One thing at a time. Your work deserves loving patience as much as it does drive and critique. As long as you’re working on it, you’re doing enough.
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