Rejecting the Notion of Rejection

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Guy Camilleri reminds us that most people are usually rejected not because of something personal but because of circumstance. Photo courtesy Guy Camilleri.

Don’t assume rejection is personal. 

By Guy Camilleri

The high honor of being an actor is that we get to activate our imaginations and use our life experiences to create art. When we find out that another actor has gotten the job that we had pinned our hopes on, however, we often feel a sense of rejection.

On a personal note, I know what that feels like because as an actor I have put my heart and soul into preparing for a part only to find out the role went to someone else. Unless I start telling myself a story about what happened, it is no more than a temporary sting. The problem arises when you start believing the story about the story and start telling yourself that you are not good enough. It doesn’t help when so-called ‘experts’ are continually telling us that our careers are built on this very feeling called rejection.

In full disclosure, I reject that an actor’s career is built on a series of rejections and I advise you not to buy into this approach. Instead, I recommend you hang out with a tribe of individuals who have your best interest at heart and encourage you to create art, not fear mongering.

Answering the call to have your voice be heard stems from a profound need to express yourself and when you need something that strongly, it’s important to realize that not everyone is going to want what you have to offer.

The definition of “rejected” by Merriam Webster is: “to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use.” Take a moment and reflect on that definition and then ask yourself: “What has this got to do with me?”

In truth, I think it has little if nothing to do with you. I like what Guy Winch, a licensed psychologist, said about rejection at his TED talk: “Another common mistake we make is to assume a rejection is personal when it’s not. Most rejections, whether romantic, professional and even social, are due to “fit” and circumstance. Going through an exhaustive search of your deficiencies to understand why it didn’t “work out” is not only unnecessary but misleading.”

So then, why are we so bothered when we don’t get selected for an acting gig? Why do we take it so personally? Winch adds this: “The answer is – our brains are wired to respond that way. When scientists placed people in functional MRI machines and asked them to recall a recent rejection, they discovered something amazing. The same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. That’s why even small rejections hurt more than we think they should because they elicit literal (albeit, emotional) pain.”

I agree with Winch because anyone who has invested time and energy into preparing for an event whether it is in sport, art, business, politics or anything you are passionate about can relate to feeling rejected at times. Then again, the upside is that it is only a “feeling.” Fortunately, feelings (and the pain therein) come and go, especially when we learn how to label them and hold space for them to flow through us. Once that is over, we can get on with living our lives.

I recommend shifting this limiting belief system of feeling like you are not wanted to literally re-frame what just occurred. Upon learning you did not book the job, it’s important to first feel what you are feeling. Afterward, take a moment and acknowledge what worked in the audition or the call back and savor that for a moment. Then, with specificity in hand, focus on what didn’t work and then flag what can be addressed on your next audition.

Then, be sure to celebrate the fact that you had another opportunity to express yourself, realizing that you are in a select group of actors even being considered for a role that many others would love to have had the opportunity to audition for!

Guy Camilleri is a Venice-based actor, acting coach and poet. His classes are packed with actors, writers, directors and creative people from all walks of life on Monday and Wednesday evenings at the Electric Lodge, in Venice.

His private coaching specializes in building characters for film, television, stage, audition preparation, self-taped auditions, original reels and self-expression in any field of interest. To audit, enroll in a class or book a coaching session, visit www.guycamilleri.com. Follow Guy on Instagram and Facebook.

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