• Brandon Lee Sears

Overcoming Rejection

There will inevitably be mistakes that happen in live theatre. The more responsibility one has in a live performance the more the risk of failure – i.e. vocal mistakes, missed steps, and other performance setbacks such as bad critic's reviews. The pressure to outshine and outdo can be overwhelming in a culture where negative self-image; unhealthy attitudes and performing with injuries can be prevalent.

In my own experience as a pre-professional performer at the beginning of my professional dance career, I suffered from comparing myself to others and sometimes lacked the self-confidence to fully commit to my pre-professional growth. I exercised self-limiting behaviours such as truancy, giving up, and escapism, because of this disempowering mentality. As performers, we often attach our sense of self-esteem to performance, and grand expectations contribute to comparing ourselves to others. We often feel out of control of our success or failure because of negative judgements.

“Every endeavour pursued with passion produces a successful outcome regardless of the result. For it is not about winning or losing – rather, the effort put forth in producing the outcome. The best way to predict the future is to create it…” - The Bolletieri Academy

When you can move beyond rejection and overcome personal challenges to continue toward the pursuit of your goals you develop resilience. You open yourself up to the potential of more opportunities when you are willing to let go of the past and move on from your mistakes and perceived failures. As you take responsibility for those situations and external circumstances that you have control over, you develop the power to transform difficult problems into manageable challenges.

Everyone wants to perform well, but if you focus only on performance results you become afraid to take the necessary risks to grow as an artist. Setting goals for learning (not just for performance success) will help you to release the need to be perfect in audition and rehearsal situations. You stop perceiving new situations as threats, and instead, you feel comfortable in challenging situations to take risks.

In a series of astonishing experiments, Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck showed us that when we are concerned about how we appear to others it inhibits our ability to perform well in new situations and unfamiliar territory. Dweck’s well-respected theory of motivation is called “growth mindset”, and it’s based on developing a belief about your ability to carry out tasks, achieve goals, and work towards success in life. By having a growth mindset, you can meet challenges and adversity while maintaining the motivation to continue toward success. With a growth mindset, you perceive challenges as a natural part of the learning process.

You can develop a growth mindset by

  • Experimenting with new types of acting, singing, and dancing techniques.

  • Acting, singing and dancing in new and unusual ways that are different from what you normally experience

  • Taking the risk to accept different types of performing opportunities even if you are not entirely sure you can meet the challenge

  • Seeking the help of mentors, coaches, or others you admire in the business, and asking them questions and advice even if it may seem ‘absurd’ or ‘stupid’

  • Looking to work on material that pushes you instead of keeping safe in your comfort zone

When you begin to develop a growth mindset you will understand that every environment is an opportunity for growth. Use the following list to develop your own resilience through a growth mindset.

1. Create a belief in yourself

Self-confidence is crucial because you need to have a future vision for yourself while overcoming challenges, and motivating yourself to continue toward your goals after rejection.

2. Seeing failure as an opportunity.

You must accept that failure is inevitable. Mistakes and failures are part of the journey toward success. The kind of growth that is necessary for success in the performing arts industry means that our mistakes are also exposed for others to see. Accept that when you are operating outside of your comfort zone you may feel like a failure. It's ok. Forgive your mistakes. Accept them, learn from them, and move on.

3. Cultivate self-awareness through feedback.

Seeking feedback from mentors, coaches, or a small group of trusted friends is crucial for your personal development. These mentors will encourage you to set goals and show you blind spots, or negative behaviours and patterns of thinking that may be getting in the way of your success.

4. Develop curiosity and commitment to lifelong learning.

Curiosity is an emotion that is the striving force for human development. The commitment to lifelong learning and curiosity will increase our motivation toward success. This striving force is the desire to acquire more of something new and then to use that in the future to bring deeper happiness and contentment.

5. Prepare for and welcome challenges and obstacles.

When you can imagine the obstacles and challenges that may occur, before they do, you will be less affected by them. You’ll also brainstorm ways to deal with them when they arise. This helps your ability to innovate ways of problem-solving and decision making.

6. Develop a passion for your work.

“The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of this life is this: Decide what you want.” – Ben Stein

Create a sense of purpose toward your career by developing a mission statement or a reason that you are committed to your success. By developing a sense of hope and optimism you will begin to believe that your success is possible. What are the core objectives that guide your life and career? Write them down and reread them when you feel like you lose your will.

7. Tenacity

You will encounter obstacles that will test your self-belief and ability to be persistent. The path toward your success will not always feel pleasurable. Sometimes patience and a stoic approach is the only way forward. Just showing up to do the work even when you do not want to is crucial to your success.

8. Inspiration through being inspired and being an inspiration

Some behavioural theories assume that leaders can be made by simply assessing the leadership success and actions of other leaders. Begin to study the successful traits and capabilities of those performers who are leaders in this industry that you admire. You can use that knowledge and attempt to assimilate it into your professional identity to propel your success.