It’s Easy to Feel Unseen by Jonathan Schwart

Inside the Box | No Comments → | September 30, 2016

It’s easy to feel unseen.

This year I crashed Equity auditions for the first time. Since I’m non-EMC, the lowest rank in the hierarchy, this means I arrive early in the morning, wait an hour to sign up for the chance to be seen, then wait all day wondering if that’s going to happen. Since January, I’ve crashed 14 Equity auditions. I’ve been seen at eight of them, often at the very end of the day, and often with the opportunity to show only half the audition material I’d prepared. In addition to those 14 auditions, I’ve gone to close to 25 auditions for non-Equity theater or on-camera work. Perhaps you’ve gone to even more than I have. Most of the time I heard no response.

The people behind the table are often kind, complimentary, and gracious, but I often walk away feeling as though I really wasn’t taken seriously. If I don’t book it, there’s no way of knowing how I really rate, if I really registered, if I really mattered. Even when I am literally seen, it’s easy to still feel unworthy.

In these moments I tend to compare myself to others. I often look at other actors and think, “I’m never going to book anything because I’ll never be able to offer what that person can offer. I’ll never be as successful because [insert reason here: he’s gorgeous and tall and athletic and everyone would rather look at him than me; she dances and plays five instruments perfectly, sometimes at the same time, while I get anxious about a jazz-square; everyone seems to love that guy, while I’m an awkward, forgettable wimp; etc.]”

I have a talent for coming up with reason after reason why every single person is obviously seen and valued more, taken more seriously, and clearly worth more as an artist and human being!

And none of that is helpful.

I will likely struggle with these feelings my entire life and career. Victory over them doesn’t mean they will never crop up, but it does mean I have tools to prevent me from giving up.

These tools aren’t new, but they allow me to put my best foot forward artistically and professionally, and empower me to work with generosity and gratitude.

1. I know what I can control and what I cannot. I can control my preparation and how I behave and perform in the room. I cannot control any factors that have nothing to do with the work I do in the room.

2. I respect and believe deeply in my process. The Black Box Process has taught me how to prepare before I walk into the room and how to let go once I’m there.

3. I remind myself that every audition makes the next one easier. Every audition gives the people on the other side time to see my work and envision me in their projects. And I have the opportunity to play a variety of roles at a consistently high level of quality.

4. I remember that I am enough. I am worthy to be in that audition room, in that rehearsal, on that stage, in this industry because I am a human being with a voice. Reminding myself that I am enough is never an invitation to complacency, but it is a charge to accept where I am at the moment and continue to share my voice and my craft.

5. Knowing my inherent worth makes it easier to be actively willing to learn. If I’m down on myself, then what’s the point of learning anything new because I know that I suck anyway, right? Wrong. When I remind myself that I am enough, that I am worthy, then I trust that I can learn new things.

Building my career feels like planting a garden. To the best of my abilities I plant my seeds – investments in my process, relationships, skills, and experience. I attend to those seeds and remain patient for them to grow. As much as I want my plants to grow overnight, they won’t, and I need to be alright with that.

We so often focus on narratives of overnight success, about people who seem to be doing everything right and have everything going for them all the time. But we do ourselves a disservice when we pretend that all successful artists came out of the womb perfect, destined for greatness. We are better served by acknowledging hard work – our own and others, rather than assuming chance is the sole indicator of worthiness and skill.

So, I’ve gone to close to 40 auditions since January, waited dozens of hours to be seen, and what’s the result? Well, months later those earlier auditions are paying off. I’ve been invited to audition for other projects, and I even booked some of them. The garden does grow. But even when it seems barren despite all my efforts, how do I feel? Discouraged? Unseen? Unworthy? Admittedly sometimes, yes, with varying degrees of intensity.

But overall, I feel accomplished. I feel capable. I feel encouraged. I feel worthy.