As actors and improvisers, we deal with rejection on a regular basis. And even though I’ve been improvising and auditioning for a really long time, it’s still hard to not to take rejection personally, because I am still looking for outside things to put a big stamp of approval on my forehead.
When I audition for something and I don’t get it, I say to myself that I am loser and I want to blame the script; the director; the reader; the casting director; my wife, Lauren; our cat, Coco; the traffic; the economy; the state of Illinois; and the state of the world for me not getting the part. Really, I am angry and full of shame, but I mask it as blame. Blame is drug I use to medicate my real feelings, which are hurt and sadness.
Last week my daughter, Betsy, turned two years old. She is now in the “I only want Mommy for everything” stage. I only want Mama to put me in my high chair, get me my yogurt, change my diaper. “No Dada, only Mama.” The other day she got so angry at me in the kitchen when I tried to pick her up that she started physically pushing my legs and saying “No, Mama! No, Mama!”
If I am honest about my feelings, I felt a little angry, but mostly hurt and sad. I talked about how I was feeling with Lauren, some of my friends, in group therapy and in every 12-step program in the state of Illinois.
But no matter how much I talked about it, it still stung, and what I found interesting is that I did not blame her for “making” me feel angry and hurt. And even more surprising, I had compassion for myself, unlike how I typically feel after I fail an audition. Oh believe me, I still had my feelings. In fact, I still have some left over from a week ago, but I realize Betsy has nothing to with my feelings, and I also realize I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s really hard to take rejection personally coming from a toddler.
What I finally realized was that my feelings were not about Betsy. They were about the rejection I have experienced in the past. For me, it was rejection lite, all the taste of rejection without the shame.
This was something totally something new for me. Could I have my feelings of hurt, sadness and anger and not make it anyone’s fault, especially mine? Could my two-year-old daughter actually be teaching me something about rejection in my career? That if I don’t get something, there is a 99 percent chance it is not about me or my talent. And that I don’t have to take rejection personally and use it to berate myself for living.
If I’m right about this, my daughter is lucky, because I won’t have to waste so much time blaming others when things don’t go right, and that means she’s going to have a lot more time to play with her Dad.