Looks like I got some GREAT feedback on the whole Bitter Actor Syndrome theory. Thank you so much for your emails!! Here are a few of my favorites, in response to my question from the column:
Any of you out there reading who have once been bitter and who have found a way to manage or cure that bitterness, I’d love to hear from you on how you did it and how often you feel tempted to “go bitter” again, when things don’t go well.
I like to think I succeeded wonderfully, but I’m going to say that with the caveat that your friend who believes that no one ever truly gets over it is half right: Everyone is prone to bouts of bitterness, whether they succumb to it or not. Yes bitterness emerges (or re-emerges) from time to time, but the difference between the bitter actor and the non-bitter actor is the bitter actor dwells on it, while the non-bitter actor acknowledges their feelings and then lets them go and gets back to doing what they love to do. Life CAN be frustrating, and the failure to acknowledge that is, in my opinion, the fastest route to becoming a bitter actor.
A little backstory on me. I got interested in acting as a teenager, but had a hard time getting cast. I wound up working as a model instead, which actually led to some acting jobs. By the time I was 19, my regional career was really hopping, and I came to LA to attend a major, four-year university with a nationally renowned theatre program. Unfortunately, in hindsight, I now know I was in the wrong program, but I’ve always been more stubborn than smart and I stuck it out.
I had no contacts in LA, and got nowhere in my career for the four years I was in college. On graduating, I had to pay the bills, and this was in the height of the ’90s recession, so pickings were slim. To compound the issue, I had joined AFTRA before I was ready, and wasn’t allowed to work nonunion in other jurisdictions as a result. I had a go at paying the bills as an extra, but couldn’t get enough work. Needless to say, I wound up taking a survival job that wasn’t supportive of my career, and I was, literally, trying to make a career evenings and weekends. Though I had some success in the 99-seat theatre market, I became frustrated and bitter. One day in 1997, I literally shredded my headshots and left a terse announcement on my voicemail that said, “If you’re calling about an acting job, I don’t do that anymore.”
Unfortunately, acting really is in my blood. I found myself continuously getting back to it. The ironic thing is, by quitting acting, I let go of my expectations, and I figured out how to make it work, even around my unsupportive jobs. The very next year I conspired with some friends to self-produce a feature (a wonderful experience that everyone should try).
Now, I’m not a well-known actor by any stretch of the imagination, but now that I’ve finally got a job that loves me and loves the fact that I’m an actor, I’ve re-entered the game with a wisdom that I wish I had in 1995. So, how do you get over bitter actor syndrome? Here’s my list:
- Take some time off. This is essential.
- Accept the fact that a lot of this industry is out of your control, and focus on what you love to do. If what you say (like me) is: “I love to act,” then stop worrying about “making it” and focus on acting.
- Remember that every audition is a performance for an audience that is in the room to watch you and only you. Every audience member in that tiny theatre can be moved by your performance. Everyone who watches you in class is growing as a result. The size of your audience doesn’t matter if you’re doing what you love to do.
- Create your own opportunities.
- Tell yourself that when it stops being fun, you’ll stop doing it. Then look for the fun in everything you do.
- Don’t be afraid to be a “new” actor, no matter how long you’ve been at it.
- And, most importantly, SET SHORT-TERM, ACHIEVABLE GOALS. If your goal is to win an Oscar, and you don’t have any tape yet, you’re going to get bitter; focus on getting some tape. If your goal is to be famous, and you don’t have representation, you’re going to end up bitter; focus on finding an agent or manager. Focus on what you can do NEXT or you’ll do nothing at all.
Know what you do and do not need. Understand that no one can have it all. Every choice we make means letting go of a different possibility. If we choose to be actors, it means we can’t necessarily afford the “LA lifestyle.” If we choose to pay the bills regularly, we may need to give up on the notion of being “only an actor.” We have more freedom without an agent, more opportunities with one. We act more as extras, we’re more respected as waiters. Only you can decide which choices are right for you.
Hope this helps!
I am responding to your recent column on “Bitter Actor Syndrome.” I have found what when most people that become bitter, there comes a time when the question of “WHY ME?” comes up. It goes along with blaming every one and God for bad luck and circumstances. HELLO… it is the way it is, because that’s just the way it is!
When asked: “How’s it going?” I respond “Couldn’t be better!” Hey! If it could be better, it would!
Do you really believe that our fellow man and God (How ever you perceive her!) were plotting to ruin our lives and careers? You get to make choices of actions, not the choice of consequences. I recommend: Play pretty and remember, a smile improves your face value. It’s all in the way you look at life!
PS — Walking CURES depression.
I read your column and let it sink in for a while and pondered on it like I usually do. I get bitter. I think it’s very human to be bitter every once in a while. I think I rediscovered the cure today even. ’cause there IS a cure. It’s very simple really. Here it comes (drumrollllll):
The cure to bitterness is forgiveness.
Oehhhh Ahhhhh epiphany!!!!
Forgiving people is harrrrrrrddddd. But once you manage to do that, it’s so freeing, no matter how strongly you think you are right and how they are wrong or how much they hurt you or whatever.
I think bitterness is holding on to what went wrong in the past and bathing in self-pity. It’s something that should be a phase, like everything. You can’t desperately cling on to an emotion. Not even happiness. I guess we just must enjoy the ride, and the game of life. Games without anything exciting happening are boring. We need incredible scores and penalties to spice it up (ha ha).
Anyway, thank you. Love your column. It was of use today. I didn’t get credit where credit was due today, was looked at with disdain and ignored on purpose, but you know what? It can’t hurt me anymore. Strange to feel so GREAT after such crappyness. I did what I could, I did a good job, I don’t need other people to tell me that. I might not get a reward now, but somewhere later in life I will, I won’t remember why I got to be SO lucky, but this is gonna be the reason why. Right now… time to let go and move on. Up to other thrilling stuff. You can never blame someone else for your unhappiness. It’s you who allows yourself to feel unhappy about it. And it’s in our own power to turn that around. Just like that. Nobody can do that for us. Fame can’t do that for us. All the money the world can buy can’t do that for us.
Great shares, everybody! Keep on sharing your toys! This is wonderful information. Thank you!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000417.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.