• Ben Stranahan

Dealing with Rejection in Hollywood

Here’s a hard truth: 99% of people pursuing their Hollywood dreams will face rejection. The vast majority of that number will face it extensively before they enjoy any kind of success. If you hope to reach that point without sinking into despair, you must make peace with rejection, and if possible, make friends with it.

Brace Yourself: The Reality of Rejection

In his book On Writing, prolific horror novelist Stephen King recounts his own experience with rejection. When the teenage King began submitting his stories for publication, he decided to hang every rejection slip he received from a single nail on the wall. “By the time I was fourteen,” King writes, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it.” This sounds like a rather disheartening sight for a young writer - an on-the-nose symbol for the weight of one’s failure - but King, who approached his writing journey with fortitude and resolve, didn’t take it this way. So what did King do when faced with the gravity of rejection? “I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” We should follow King’s example and embrace rejection as a necessary and valuable part of the creative journey.

The Silver Lining

Rejection doesn’t have to be a devastating event. If we view our rejections with the right mindset, they become valuable stepping stones in our journey. Learning from failure, especially those failures in which we have a strong emotional investment, is one of the hardest things a young actor must learn to do. There is a real psychological weight to the feeling of rejection, one which we shouldn’t just bury and ignore; we should take the time to process our feelings, then figure out how they can help us grow. With every rejection, we refine our skills, strengthen our resolve, and bring ourselves closer to success.

Coping with the Toll

Even with the right mindset, it can be difficult to handle rejection after rejection; watching the nail fall can be a frustrating experience. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered for managing the emotional and psychological toll of rejection:

  • Practice self-care

  • You need to give your brain and body ample respite from the considerable stress of pursuing a Hollywood career. Take a break to do something you enjoy, something that relaxes or excites you. Take it from Special Agent Dale Cooper of the FBI: “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it, don't wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt in a men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black coffee.”

  • Embrace critical feedback

  • Every note you receive is an opportunity to improve your craft. Heed the advice of seasoned professionals. Perform honest self-evaluations and work on your weak points. Acting is a craft that, like any other, can be mastered through study and practice.

  • Identify with your successes

  • You are not defined by your failures, but by your accomplishments. When we face rejection, the last thing we should do is conclude that we are a failure. Instead, we should take pride in our efforts and our successes, wearing our struggle as a badge of honor.

  • Affirm your abilities

  • Treat yourself with respect and compassion. Banish unproductive self-talk; convincing yourself that “they’re going to hate it” or “I’m going to ruin this” will only serve to harm your performance. If you must convince yourself of something, your mental energy would be much more productively spent talking yourself into a sense of confidence and optimism than one of fear and doubt.

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