I used to be a terrible auditionee – not in technique so much (that is very much a matter for another day) – but in terms of the effect it would have on my mental health. I don’t know if you know the scenario? You’ve auditioned and you put your heart and soul into the session; you were nervous because getting this job means everything; you go away from the audition obsessing over every missed moment and refreshing your emails and watching your phone waiting for it to ring. And then you don’t get it. And it destroys you. I got that every single time and I would cry or wallow and mourn the job and wonder what I’d done to be so wrong for it and convince myself I was never going to be good enough to be an actor. And this would last for days, or indeed longer. I couldn’t bring myself to go through that amount of pain often and so it meant I didn’t go for many auditions. and so when I did get an audition I would bet everything on it. It was unhealthy and it was unsustainable.
And yet, I used to be so good at interviews, back when I was teaching. It was kind of a running joke that if I was going for the interview, even if I didn’t want it much, I’d get it. And I used to reflect on this, confused as to how I could be so good at one and so awful at another. And then I remembered.
My first big interview: I was not long out of uni and it was my first big permanent job. There was no way I was qualified to get this job. I’d applied on a whim. But they gave me an interview so I thought, ah just go along for the ride, it’s all good experience. And then I realised I’d booked the interview for half an hour before my dentist’s appointment and it was too late to cancel without incurring a fee. I went in there totally pre-occupied with the idea that I had to get in and out in record time and I did not care a bit if I got the job or not.
I got the job.
It made me realise that there has to be something else and that the job can’t be everything occupying your mind – that the nerves and the doubt go away if you’re not focussing all your needs on the job. And then another insight came when I auditioned for a show that I realised would be a real pain if I got, as it would interfere with a really important family birthday and when I didn’t get the job I was actually pleased.
I came to understand that there needs to be some combination of the external focus I had in my interview and the feelings of positivity that had come with that rejection and thus the Silver Linings Principle was born.
It goes like this: no job is everything. There is always a huge positive to getting a job but equally (this is important), there are positives to not getting it. I go into every audition now thinking like this:
If I get this job I’m going to get to work with this amazing company I’ve wanted to join for years; I’m going to play a part I’ve always wanted to play; I’m going to earn a good wage; it will be brilliant fun; it will be brilliant for my career; my family will be proud.
If I don’t get this job I get to go on that holiday we’ve been talking about; I get to see my niece’s show and my family will be happy; I don’t have to have any difficult conversations with corporate roleplay companies to cancel shifts and so I can still earn good (better?) money; I can FINALLY get that hair cut I’ve needed for some time instead of growing out this mane for a classical part!
And this is not about being negative. Oh no. This is about framing the audition as a possible positive outcome in a range of positive outcomes. It’s one choice and so you don’t depend on this one outcome to give you happiness. Which means that you don’t go into the audition room as a sweaty, nervous wreck, desperate to do whatever you can to please the panel. Nope. You go in as you, happy and confident and ready to seize the next opportunity in your life, whatever that is – personal or professional (or dental).
I now feel like I can go for audition after audition without sacrificing my long-term mental health and with a supportive and collaborative attitude towards other auditionees, because sometimes if they get the job they’re doing me a favour. A very recent example had me auditioning for a really lovely all-female piece which would have been a great experience but would have meant some really, really, long commutes for rehearsals and I honestly couldn’t have been happier for the actor who got the job, especially as I was told it was down to just the two of us. I’d done good work in the audition and may get work with the company in future but this particular one was not for me.
You know that gut-wrenching, breathless feeling you get when you find out you haven’t got the job? I still have that, but now it lasts minutes or hours not days and weeks. Oh and I still put my heart into the audition, but I don’t sell my soul for it.
And so, this week, I’m gonna get me hair did.