How Actors Can Fight and Win the Battle Against Rejection



Matt Marr aka “Mattie” holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology and is a trained therapist. Specializing in Narrative Therapy, Mattie teaches in a way to open up artistic roadblocks in his client’s lives. He is also a successful commercial actor, host, stand-up comedian, host of a weekly advice podcast THE DEAR MATTIE SHOW, and has appeared numerous times on network television as himself.  He truly believes getting the callback is not about how well you act, but how well you are you.

Right now as I’m writing this article, I have a national commercial running like it’s Kim Kardashian’s latest naked pic—it’s everywhere.

My actor life coaching class is picking up and I’m getting regular students. I joined SAG. Finally after eleven years, it looks like I will be able to quit my day/office job. My family and friends have never been more proud. Constantly I’m getting texts and tweets from friends, agents, other actors telling me how “funny I am” and how “I’m making it” and that “I’m inspiring”. The art is truly becoming a career and a dream is coming true.

But I’m still anxious.

There is still that nagging thought in my head of “What’s next, Matt?” or “You should be promoting your podcast more!” Or “Yeah, you’re booking commercials, but you haven’t got out for a co-star in over a year. Get with it!”  Basically, I’m telling myself that I’m not doing enough…over and over and over. I mean, it’s good to be driven, but I probably should enjoy the fruits of my labor more.

I know it sounds crazy, neurotic, and even ungrateful, but I’ve got a history folks. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I have been conditioned. Yes, I got THIS part but there have been so many other roles that have not come to me that I really worked to get. So many others where I have been into offices several times and I’ve gotten sooooo close and the CD says she loves me soooooo much, but ultimately—no thanks.

Rejection. Everyone faces it throughout his or her lifetime, but actors are immersed in it often like a ship lost in a fog.  And what’s worst rejection is the seed for our worst demon, Doubt.

I use the word Doubt some people use the Fear…whatever you want to call it, it’s taking your artistic muse to the chopping block.

One of my favorite books is the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Get it. In it he describes all artists as having a Muse and the Resistance. The Muse and Resistance are, he believes, natural forces—such as gravity. In his book he writes, “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

This makes sense to me. How long have we been trying to push away and avoid the fear or rejection? Instead, I want to use it as a signal to motivate me to try harder and dig emotionally deeper. The Muse and Resistance are the Yen and Yang of creativity and one cannot survive without the other.

In other words, it’s time for you to acknowledge that the Fear, the Doubt, and the What-ifs—these things are coming to get you and kill your creativity. They want it dead. Accept it.

So now when I prep for an audition, not only do I prepare my lines, do a little meditation or listen to some music that pumps me up, but I prepare for the Doubt and the Resistance.  I expect it like a wolf waiting to attack its prey. Yet instead of being blindsided, I find myself empowered by the knowing of Resistance. I’ve given it a face and voice and it’s not some scary Hitchcock scene taking place in the wings of my mind. I see what it tries to do to me.

The thing about Resistance, Doubt, Rejection—we often try not to think about. It’ll go away.  Well it doesn’t go away. It smacks us in the face everyday and we can change that. Very talented people don’t get parts, and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it.  I can tell you that “it’s not about you”—which is true. But it doesn’t matter, when we pour ourselves (and our gas money) into an audition, it hurts when we aren’t chosen.

So next time when you get SO close to that role you don’t get, here are some tips to build the muscles to let Rejection sift through you instead of attacking you.

Feel it.  Let it wash over you and even ruin your day. Let it be the thing that you can’t get your mind off of and just let your self replay the moment over and over till your just exhausted by it.

  • The next time it happens (because it will) let it infiltrate your mind and go ahead and have a bad afternoon.

  • After that, the NEXT time it happens (because it will), spend 30 minutes afterwards yelling and cursing the Gods and wondering why you chose this life for your self.

  • Once you’ve let it in and sat with the emotions for 30 minutes (or whatever length of time you’ve set) …STOP. Move on to something that gives you joy and fulfills you artistically and emotionally.  Go for a run, watch a favorite movie, play Xbox– Just do something that puts you in a different emotional state and literally change your physical space from where you were to someplace new.

  • This was my plan. Now you can use these simple steps to create your plan. How do you imagine yourself reacting to rejection? As you sit with your feelings and then interrupt the pattern, you can gradually begin to shift your reaction from the habitual one to the new, imagined, healthier one. This isn’t smoking. Cold turkey ain’t gonna cut it. So make a doable plan—no seriously get a pen right now and write this down, type it in your phone notes, text yourself. Create the PREFERRED way of being you want to live, not a paralyzed way of being that feels attacked. You have a choice don’t let Rejection take that from you!

  • Track your auditons. I write in a Google spread sheet, you can use whatever format works for you.  Note what project you auditioned for and what casting directors, producers, writers or directors you saw, but also note how you FELT. Did you accomplish artistically what you intended? What didn’t work? What did? (Notice I’m not using good/bad—those are the Resistance’s words, not the Muse’s. Good and bad help no one).

No good can come by ignoring anything; neglect breeds dysfunction. These steps truly will help you make the Resistance adapt to your time, not the other way around. I’ve become so adept with this now that when I don’t get the part, I let the Rejection in and it lasts for about a good five minutes. Tops.

By exercising the emotional muscle you exorcise the negative thoughts. It takes practice, time,  and love for yourself …but hang in there, because the rest of us are hanging with you.

Thanks Mattie! I had the most fun doing Matt’s podcast recently, check it out for more great information, or to find out more about his lifecoaching class for actors you can see:




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