Dealing with rejection in useful ways is a skill every single one of us needs. That’s because every person in the theatre industry experiences rejection…period.

Whether you’re an actor, a writer, or a technician, you’re going to be told ‘no’ on some project sometime. And that’s okay! Ultimately, rejection doesn’t define you or your ability to be successful. That is, so long as you take the time to reconnect with your passions. Here are ways to bounce back stronger than ever when you don’t get the answer you want.

Dealing with Rejection in 3 Steps

The first step is to take a step back.
At first, you might be dealing with complicated emotions. During this phase it’s easy to fall into a pattern of wondering what you could have done differently. However, when you audition or apply for an opportunity, it’s impossible to know exactly what they are looking for. Remember this!

Rejection does not mean that you are not good at what you do. (Go back and read that again right now.) It’s possible that your work was excellent, but the timing wasn’t quite right for what the decision makers need or want. Keep the faith that an opportunity might open up to you again in the future! One rejection does not determine what could be possible for you down the line.

YES, it’s alright to take some time to be sad, but don’t dwell on what you could have done differently. Why? Because so many factors are/were outside of your control.

Make self-care a priority. Spend time with friends. Go on a walk. Do other activities that you enjoy. Think about things other than the work you’re doing and the opportunities you’re hoping for. This will give you energy and prepare you to jump back into the swing of things, once you feel ready. It’s necessary to turn your mind away from your work sometimes so that you don’t burn out.

Rejection Management 

The second step is to learn something new.
IF you were told that you lacked a specific skill and you want to pursue a similar opportunity in the future, then work on honing that skill. 

Or, focus on adding another new skill to your portfolio of abilities. This prepares you for future opportunities. Now, it’s easier than ever to learn something new. Free options include watching YouTube videos and checking out library books or other materials

Acting Resume - white man juggling orangesPlenty of people have unique skills, like tap dancing, writing monologues, and designing sets. Many of them would love to share what they know with a wider audience. Look around you and see who you could ask to mentor you.

Learning new skills and gathering new-to-you knowledge are great ways to keep up-to-date with the theatre industry. Great ways to make yourself relevant. Great ways to push your mind in new directions. Of course, a newly learned skill may end up simply being a fun experience. And yet it could also  help you in a future opportunity here ‘yes!’

You can apply the opposite approach here, too. Teaching others what you already know helps your self-confidence and boosts s positive feeling. Giving back to your community or others theatre folks especially is always a win.

No matter what part of the industry you work in, you’ve definitely got some knowledge that you could share with others. If you wanted to volunteer your time, you could give vocal lessons to local kids, or teach script writing, or start a blog about technical theatre. Sharing what you know helps you remember how talented you are and how much you love what you do, while also giving you the chance to make a difference in someone else’s life. There’s nothing more rewarding than getting someone else excited about one of your passions.

Let Rejection Be Protection

The third step in dealing with rejection is to get inspired again.
Remembering why you love theatre is the final step toward bouncing back. Which productions did you see as a kid that made you want to act onstage? Which plays did you read in school that made you try to write scripts of your own? Identify that key moment that got you excited about the theatre work you’re doing today. Talking about this moment with a friend adds extra energy, because excitement and inspiration are contagious.

While recovering from a rejection, seeing a lot of theatre inspires you to keep creating. If you’re not able to see theatre in person, reading scripts is an excellent way to expand your mind and prepare you for future opportunities. Exploring different genres of playwriting and practicing your craft along the way–for example, studying monologues from the plays you read–teaches you what you can possibly create as your career continues.

You could also try reaching out to older and more experienced people who do what you do. What about a student who graduated from your high school who is now studying theatre in college? Find out how they’ve navigated their careers and handled rejections of their own.

Even the most dedicated and talented theatre professionals experience rejection in their careers. You can bounce back by taking time to recharge, picking up new skills, and getting inspired. The industry needs you: your talents, passions, and experiences.  ♦

Dylan Molloy is a regular contributor to Connect with her on Instagram @dylan_writes

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