A week ago today, I had an audition.
It was for a show with a company I had auditioned for twice previously and not made the cut, but this time, I was more than ready. I had not just prepared; I had immersed myself in the show’s music and storyline, been taking vocal and dance lessons for weeks, had dropped a few pounds through diet and exercise, and had my eye laser-focused on a part I knew I would be perfect for.
The big evening came, and I dolled myself up to look the part and walked into the dance audition feeling moderately confident. This company is incredibly competitive, and as I stood line with the other audition-ees, I grew nervous. Everyone looked so professional, and the line grew longer and longer while I waited. Luckily I ran into some friends from my last show, which helped ease my nerves. After stretching for a while in the warm-up room, they called us into the dance hall for auditions. Numbers-wise alone, I liked my odds — there weren’t as many people in attendance at this dance call as the other two I had attended previously. I began to loosen up a bit.
The choreographer began to teach the combinations, and I fought to observe and internalize the choreography and style. The style and technical elements were right in my wheelhouse; as we continued to learn and practice, I began to feel my confidence rising again. I knew I was nailing the combo.
Then we broke in to smaller groups to rehearse. As I watched my colleagues perform the number with varying levels of skill and aptitude, I began to feel giddy: this audition and this part was mine to lose! I looked the part of the role and was able to perform the combination nearly flawlessly.
When it came time to perform in front of the casting board, I was ready. It was maybe the most confident I’ve ever felt going into evaluation. I performed with piece twice through with my designated group, and continued to watch the rest of the dancers move through the cycle. I had given it my all, and based off what I observed, I felt supremely confident in my chances. I was near giddy with excitement as the casting board asked us to exit the room while they deliberated for callbacks.
I waited with my peers calmly; I knew it would just be a matter of time before they came back into the waiting room and called my name for callbacks.
The casting agent entered the room with a stack of headshots and announced he’d be making a small cut. He listed the boys names first and then moved to the pile of women’s headshots. I was ready to hear my name. But as he flipped through headshots one after the other, a sinking feeling hit me: “he’s not going to call me.”
Unfortunately, I was right. Of the 10 or so women’s names that were called out, mine wasn’t included. I sat in shock for a moment. Surely that must be a mistake. I mean, I had nailed the audition! I had watched everyone audition before and after me, and knew I was within the top few girls in the room. I waited a few more seconds, for the casting agent to say there was additional name they’d like to add, but nothing came.
Devastated, I picked up my bag, put my sweatshirt back on, and walked out of the building. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t asked to stay. And then, that all too familiar feeling set in: the sting of rejection. Which is what it was, plain and simple.
And boy did it sting. I drove home in a daze, and walked through the door, defeated. I tried to explain the process to Mike, and as I did I got angry, and then sad. I had pinned so much hope on this audition and this role, and I had prepared thoroughly. Maybe more thoroughly than I ever had for an audition before. And I wanted the role so badly, I could taste it.
But at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. That’s how it goes in the life of a performer, or for any person who chooses a life where your fate is constantly in the hands of others. It kind of sucks, to be honest, but it’s an intrinsic part of the arts. Which means you have to be able to get over rejection; you have to be able to move on. Whether you nailed your audition or your flopped it completely, if you don’t get a role, you have to be able to not take it personally. Sounds impossible, right?
Well I learned a lot from last weekend’s experience. Namely, a few helpful and actionable tips for dealing with rejection in a productive way. And by “productive” I mean, not wallowing and stuffing your face with comfort food (although I certainly did that too). Here are five productive ways to deal with rejection from my own experience.
1. Give yourself a window. While you shouldn’t only “deal” with rejection by stuffing your face, binging on Netflix, crying, skipping the gym, etc… it’s okay to do it for a little bit. Hell, we’re only human. This past week, instead of wallowing at home and continuing to feel sorry for myself for weeks, I gave myself a day. One day. Mike picked up Ike’s sandwiches for us that night after my audition, and we ate and watched Westworld until I fell asleep (which is SO good by the way. Has anyone else watched?). The next day, I dragged myself into work and got through the day, skipped the gym, and had a margarita that night (along with more Westworld…) And then I was done. I decided I was over it, and I needed to get back into my normal routine. Plus, it’s easier to enjoy your wallowing when you know it has an expiration date 😉
2. Look on the positive side. The last thing you may want to be, or be able to be, in rejection situations is positive, but it’s so important. Once you’ve had some time to process, sit down and think: because of this outcome, what are the positives? If you’re like me, it helps to make a list. For example, because I didn’t get this part/make this show/get this promotion/etc, I will not be able to go on that trip to Europe/try our for a different show/have more time to dedicate somewhere else, etc. It sounds cheesy, but it helps. And the more reasons you can come up with, the better. Before long, you’ll realize that there are actually more positives to the situation than negative.
3. Realize that things happen for a reason. While I’m a firm believe that I am responsible for my own fate and future, I also accept that whatever’s meant to happen will happen. Let yourself believe and understand that this, whatever it was, didn’t happen because it wasn’t supposed to. And there is something better and more perfect for you coming down the road.
4. Set a new goal. The best way to get over a failed or unattained goal is to set a new one. Look forward; not back. It can be the exact same goal, something within the same field, or something totally different. The important thing is that you make that new goal. And you put a plan in place immediately to achieve it.
Before long, the burn of rejection will long-behind you in your rearview mirror, and you’ll be well on your way to your next great accomplishment. And there’s no doubt it’s coming, just you wait 🙂