Recently I went through one of the more affirming and thought-provoking audition experiences I've ever had. Usually when you go into auditions, you're seen for less than five minutes. More often than not, you never hear back, which means of course that you didn't get the part. During this recent one, though, it felt more like a best-case scenario job interview: A group of us got to know the creative team and interacted with them on a human level in addition to showing our performance skills. I got a callback, and during that second phase, the genuine getting-to-know-you vibes continued. I didn't end up getting the job, but I'm grateful to have gotten to go through such a humanizing process.
One of the pieces of the callback intrigued me. They gave us a little info sheet to fill out, and the last page had a question I've never been asked in an audition. It asked us to assign percentages between how much we wanted to be a part of the project versus how much we wanted to "win" the audition. Without thinking for more than a second or two, I wrote 100% on the wants-to-be-in-the-project line and "0%" on the line for wanting to "win." And I meant that. Not because I'm some pure person with no competitive instinct, but because I just don't think about auditions that way.
When I was in my darkest place around acting, I blamed my giving up on the fact that I hated auditions. I told myself that I wasn't the type of person who could withstand that inevitable constant rejection. During that sad period, I remember running into a former classmate on the subway who was going to Juilliard for grad school at the time. Not only is he an incredibly talented and sweet person, but he had always been so supportive of his classmates and complementary of my work in particular. On our happenstance run-in, he asked me whether I was still pursing acting and I said no, I wasn't like him. I said didn't have the ability to withstand the constant disappointment and heartbreak that came with the pursuit of that calling. I told him that not only was he so talented, but he had that amazing ability to persist in the face of that shit. He got off the train at the Juilliard stop, and I felt my chest get hot with jealously that I wasn't the type of person that I perceived him to be.
My problem was not that I saw auditions through the lens of winning or losing. I never thought of myself in competition with other people. Instead, I saw the results as a measure of me as a human being: I'm good or I'm bad. Not that my talent is good or bad: Me. I hung my own self-worth on whether I could prove to the decision-makers that I was a worth-while person. Obviously, this isn't a sustainable way of thinking, and over time it resulted in me auditioning less and less. Even in college, I gave up on auditioning for student-run productions by sophomore year because I went out for a couple and didn't make the cut. Perhaps in part because of my sheltered upbringing, I lacked the mental strength to be okay when some stranger didn't choose me as the best. Kind of pathetic, really.
Over the couple of years where I gave up on creative stuff, I would often think of seeing that former classmate in the train. He had believed in me once upon a time. As I saw his career grow and grow through Facebook's algorithm showing me exciting updates, I wondered why I didn't do myself the service of believing in myself at least as much as him. When I decided I had to go back to my creative goals because it was the only way to undo my daily misery, I realized I needed to teach myself to think of auditions in a different way.
I started to attend open call auditions that I knew I had basically no chance of getting (you wait in line for hours, hundreds of people are seen). I almost aggressively didn't want to be cast, but to rack up experiences to demystify the process and make myself not give so much of a shit anymore. I wanted to learn from that piece of the process on its own, to teach myself to not even think about whether or not I would hear back from the decision makers. Eventually, after spending a few months going to bunches of auditions, I got to a place of equanimity. I also got cast in a couple of things along the way.
Nowadays, I still don't think of auditions in terms of winning vs. losing, and for the most part, I'm over the idea that they have anything to do with who I am as a person. Instead, auditions have become more like going to the gym or brushing my teeth. They are a habit that I incorporate into my life on a regular basis that have a cumulative positive impact, but I don't spend too much time dwelling on them after they're over.
To be good at auditioning is to keep going to them and not to worry too much. That's all.