When you are active in the film, media and tech industry, you constantly feel pressure to prove you’re worthwhile. We are inundated with stories of success: we see filmmakers that win prize after prize with their amazing film, we see actors being cast in the next big thing because of their amazing skill, entrepreneurs being featured in a wealth of publications on how their idea will change the world. All the while plugging our own work as actors, filmmakers, entrepreneurs or whatever area you are trying to succeed in and starting to feel like you’re lagging behind the ‘winners’. It can sometimes be disheartening to feel as if everyone around you is ‘winning’, while nobody seems to notice the work you’re doing. It can be detrimental to your mental health.
Quality does not equal quantity
Maybe you didn’t get selected by 10 film festivals. Maybe you’ve only been cast in a single fringe play. Maybe you only have 3 followers on Twitter or Instagram. In today’s world that seems to imply you’re irrelevant. It gives people the right to ignore you and dismiss your work as sub-par. It may make you feel shit about yourself. And that’s where you need to stop and take stock of what really matters. Before starting Snoovies we trained as actors. The principal of the school we went to always warned us against the ‘approval/disapproval syndrome’. People suffer from it in pretty much every walk of life. A constant need for the rest of the world to tell you that you’re good. That you’re worthwhile. While in reality we are all worthwhile, even if the rest of the world hasn’t caught on to that fact yet.
You were worthwhile long before you got your first follower, your first job or your first pat on the back. Just your personal journey from wanting to pursue whatever it is you are passionate about and getting to the point where you are now is probably a massive achievement already. You set your mind to a goal and worked your ass off trying to get there. The journey taught you about yourself, your capabilities and the world. You’ve learned what works and/or what doesn’t work. And that on its own puts you at a massive advantage for whatever pursuit you go onto next. No fame, monetary success or prize can equal the personal growth only you yourself can assess. The real ‘success’ or quality of your endeavour lies in your learning. And you yourself are the only one that can pat yourself on the back for it. So do that. You deserve it.
Your work is appreciated by more people than you know
Sometimes it may seem that your work was a waste of time because those that you perceive to be the ‘judges’ on it didn’t rate it. Your film didn’t get selected into a festival. Your content only has 5 views on YouTube. You get rejected from every application you submit. Your venture didn’t get any traction. But still, it was not a waste of time.
Besides the personal growth we mentioned above, you’d be surprised how many people actually look up to you and think you are amazing for having achieved what you have. Maybe it are your parents, family or friends that can’t believe their own child/relative/buddy had such tenacity in pursuing their dreams. You may think that doesn’t mean anything, but it does.
Maybe it are those you took along on the journey with you that appreciate you for the personal growth they’ve achieved thanks to your vision and example. And maybe, you literally just missed out on that prize or acknowledgment by an inch. Maybe a lot of the people you were trying to impress actually were, but it just wasn’t the right time and place for your venture to shine. It may still in the future.
Think before you respond to others asking your opinion or approval
Beware of the effect you have on other people. You don’t always know what mental state someone else is in. Your remark or lack thereof can be the last in a string of disappointments that may just push them over the edge to something terrible. Treat others as you yourself want to be treated. Never outright dismiss, reject or even worse, ignore others when they ask your approval. It’s really not that hard to say something nice before explaining that it wasn’t right for you. It’s hardly ever better to ignore someone than to just explain you prefer something else. It truly makes a difference.
If you are in a position to judge the work of a large number of people, write a general rejection response that acknowledges that the work was worthwhile but not quite right for you. Encourage those you reject to try again with a different approach or to try with others, as they may very well succeed in the future. Explain that it may be impossible for you to respond to everyone personally, but that you do acknowledge their efforts and thank them for it. And never ever imply that something is worthless. You are not in a position to assess that, no matter how successful and experienced you may be in your field. There’s a lot more underneath the surface that went into the work that you’re not seeing.
If all of us start relying less on people’s approval/disapproval and are kinder to those around us that may not have the same level of ‘superficial’ success of others, we are well underway to improve our collective mental health. Perhaps we can start reducing the many suicides, depressions and other destructive behaviours we’ve been encouraging in this world of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Let’s all do our bit to try and make that happen.