Here on the blog a few weeks ago, we talked about comparing yourself to others. That little green-eyed monster who makes you think you aren’t as amazing as you are and that everyone else around you is doing things in their career that you can only dream about. I mentioned how working towards being happy for your peers can benefit you and ultimately improve your own life. But, what do you do if you’re the one that’s riding high and the jealousy or negative emotions are being directed at you by others around you? Maybe you have friends who won’t ever ask about your career (whether they are fellow actors or not). Maybe every achievement you have is reason for them to tailspin into negativity. Or maybe they simply aren’t at the same level of dedication with their career as you are. Whatever is going on, how do you handle it? An action you may want to take is working to surround yourself with successful people, those who are like-minded, and inspire you to be better.
Before we get too far with this, I don’t mean that if your friends aren’t booking, you should immediately dump them. This is also a separate issue from dealing with a person who may be suffering from clinical depression – if this is the case, please consult a professional. However, if you find yourself in constant company with just generally negative people, those who don’t celebrate your victories, those who don’t motivate you to improve, you might want to expand your circle. You will never become a better artist if you’re always being brought down by those around you.
A lot of new-age teachers, like Danielle LaPorte and Julia Cameron, stress the importance of having a group of people around you who support you with your goals – LaPorte calls it your “tribe”, Cameron, a “creative cluster”. No matter how you define it, the significance remains the same. Having people you can turn to, with not just your setbacks but your successes, is beneficial to you as an artist and a person. You and your friends may even consider starting a “support group” – the participants don’t necessarily have to be all actors (though, it’s helpful if they are), just like-minded people who want to improve their lives.
Within these groups, consider making a point to include people who are further along in their career than you are. I used to have a major problem with being around others who were more successful than me. It wan’t until I met a bluegrass musician who taught me that you can’t learn as much from people who aren’t as good as you are – you’ll only expand your abilities by being around people who have been where you want to go. In his own career, my musician friend purposefully worked with other musicians who had abilities that he admired. That lesson applies to actors and artists of all kinds. Think about it – when you study with a coach or teacher, do you want to learn from someone who has already reached a lot of the goals you hope to get to, or do you want to learn from someone who’s abilities you aren’t sure surpass your own?
None of this means that you should push away those who aren’t as far along in their careers as you are, or completely cut out friends who aren’t as supportive of your work as you’d wish them to be. Just recognize that they have a different place in your world. Know who the people are in your life that you can share great news with freely and who might be better suited to a more casual friendship
That said, if you have someone in your midst who is causing you distress, and you’re looking for “permission” to reduce that person’s role in your life, then by all means consider this a sign. You have my express permission to stop dealing with that person. Life is too short, and your creativity too precious to waste time on someone who makes you feel awful about yourself. That person might not be purposefully harming you, but it doesn’t change the fact that he/she is doing so. A challenge isn’t always a negative thing – you’re a smart, capable person and you know the difference between someone who may be pushing you out of your comfort zone (which is a good thing) and someone who is detrimental to your well-being (definitely a bad thing). Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s crucial to your artistic development.
Being an actor is a difficult path to walk. Don’t make it more difficult on yourself by having those in your life who bring you down. You deserve to be surrounded with people who care about you and support you. The only thing you have to do in return is love and support them back.