Getting comfortable with saying “no” to live the life and career YOU want.
Setting boundaries is important for our mental health and our relationships with others as well as ourselves. It is beneficial therefore to also set boundaries as an actor, writer, director, producer et al. Why? Because our industry is quite often as last minute and demanding as it is amazing and rewarding.
Throughout my life, I have been a YES person. That means that if someone asks for help or for a favour it is very unlikely I would say no. In fact, I don’t think I would say no. Then I realised
- Not everyone’s intentions are pure
- Some people take from you constantly and it gets pretty exhausting as you have no energy left to take care of yourself
- People that don’t like to hear NO are the one’s that will continually cross your boundaries and disrespect you.
- Stress and anxiety can take over because you feel too guilty to not adhere to someone else’s needs and wants.
How did I get okay with saying NO more? To be really honest, I STILL struggle with that at times but I have massively improved. It’s got to start with baby steps and eventually you get pretty comfortable with saying no more than yes! (I promise this is going to help you and not turn you into an evil twin version of yourself – been watching too much Jane the Virgin on Netflix). However, what made me realise to say no more was when in various areas of my life and at different points of my life too, I was BURNT OUT AND FED UP. I felt I had nothing left to give. That is a pretty clear sign that boundaries need to be set up. When I did set up healthy boundaries in a particular area of my life, it has proven fruitful. For example, when I ran my theatre company and had to fire someone due to their behaviour. That was me setting a boundary that I and my team will not tolerate a negative or harmful attitude on set. Another example is a past relationship which was toxic. When going into a new relationship I made it very clear what I would and would not accept in the relationship dynamics and that I would leave if my needs were not met and in turn I also encouraged them to share theirs too so that we could have a healthy relationship where both people have each other’s interests at heart. Let me remind you, as actor’s this will be important when finding an agent. You must communicate with each other what you both expect from each other within a professional capacity. When I get offered roles from recommendations or from previous work on set, I always call my agent and talk it through. What does the role involve, what is the pay for the role and what is the work or project like in terms of what my goals are. Then we come to a decision together. It’s important to have that relationship where you can pick up the phone and chat about these things. Sometimes, you’re going to be offered amazing roles that might clash with something your agent has got you submitted for or it might be involving something your agent nor you think is for you at this stage in your career. So always trust your gut and talk it through and together with your agent make a choice that feels right moving forward.
Below we take a look at how to fix this and live a happier and better life with a promising career. REMEMBER – IT’S YOUR CAREER, YOUR CHOICES AND YOUR CONSEQUENCES. It’s up to you what you say yes and no to!
POSSIBLE REASONS WE HAVEN’T SET BOUNDARIES
- Fear of Losing out or loved ones – abandonment issues
- Fear of other people getting angry with your decision
- Guilt – feeling bad for wanting to do what’s right for you
- Needing Approval – wanting to put other’s before you so that they like you
- Lack of self – respect – if you always give in you are crossing your own boundaries and so will other’s.
HOW DO WE SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES?
- Assess your feelings – think about the build up of stress, anxiety, anger, fear or resentment towards those overstepping. If you feel negative emotions attached to someone, then perhaps it’s time to asses why? Think about what boundaries they are crossing. Can you say no to them without it becoming personal? Can they respect your decisions without there being a negative consequence? Of course sometimes consequences are situational but if you make a decision knowing the result then it means you’re pretty happy to make it and that’s fine. I’m talking about the kind of consequences when boundary breakers decide to punish you for saying no to them.
- Know your values – what is important to you? What do you find acceptable behaviour? What are your limits? What do you want or not want from your life or career? The best way to find out the answers to these questions is by making notes. Here is a chart to make notes in:
- Be assertive but also willing to compromise – setting boundaries doesn’t mean we become rude and nasty. It means, we express why something doesn’t feel right for us or our need to turn something down. However, be also willing to compromise within your own boundaries. Stay strong in your beliefs but if you can do something do it!
I want to share with you something I came up with to help me with boundaries for my acting career. I LOVE to say yes to everything that comes my way because every opportunity is a gem in it’s own way and we learn so much from new people on new sets or theatres! However, I became so complacent in saying yes that I was working 7 days a week, 365 days in the year in 2019 (loving lockdown) and it led me to feeling huge bouts of anxiety every time the phone rang with a new job. I didn’t want to feel this way for the job I LOVE AND CHOOSE TO DO! So I decided the best way was to figure out what my acting goals were and what I need to do to get there. After that, I then came up with a pendulum chart to help me make a decision on saying yes or no. I carry it in my bag and on my phone as a picture so I know I have it whenever I need to refer back:
Also, if you want to know what other professionals in our industry think about saying no, read this wonderful and informative article by backstage.
Although I have only said no to one audition (due to other booked work) I learnt that it’s okay to say no! Sometimes you’ll have to and sometimes you’ll want to. If you’re worried about how it comes across at first with work colleagues or your partner, try it out on a trusted friend and ask for their permission to try out saying small no’s to them when you don’t want to have a phone chat or you don’t want to go clubbing the same weekend you are also working the late shift. By having healthy boundaries, you will attract other boundary lovers! In fact some casting director’s this week have said that they much prefer an actor saying no to an audition than attending without your full heart in it or feeling scared if the role involves something you’re not comfortable with. Small steps lead to success.
By all means though, say yes to work that will further your career or help other’s to, say yes to helping friends whenever you can because that is being kind and say yes to things that will better your community/industry. Lastly, say YES to having more time to yourself to rejuvenate.
Too often I’ve felt bad to say NO to something I know is not serving me. Don’t be afraid to say no as it will propel you to say YES to truly big opportunities that are in alignement with what you want.
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