Is Self-Promotion Bad or Ugly?

by Katherine Mayfield

Man with megaphone

For most beginning actors the only way to get the role is by promoting yourself.

Self-promotion: Is it a dirty word? Is it bad or ugly? Many of us were taught by our parents to be modest about our abilities and accomplishments. "Don't toot your own horn," we were told. We didn't want others to think we were stuck-up or "too big for our britches," so we kept our talents locked up inside.

Yet one of the reasons many actors love acting is that it offers a chance to get up in front of people, to express themselves in extraordinary ways, to perform a role and be rewarded by applause. This seeming contradiction between being taught to be modest and wanting to express ourselves can be one of the biggest hurdles for actors who decide to go pro.

Unfortunately for most beginning actors, the only way to get the role -- so you can do that acting thing you love -- is by promoting yourself. And in order to promote yourself well, most of that old "modesty training" has to fly out the window. The "business" aspect of show business is often difficult for artists, and one of the reasons is that we believe we should be (and we do try to be) humble about our art and our talents. But competition is fierce in the acting business, and the only way to get noticed is to get out there and promote yourself.

I'm not suggesting you become a braggart; just don't be afraid to speak of your accomplishments with pride. Let people know that you believe in yourself, that you're the best person for the job (and if you don't feel that way, get some training and experience, and build your skills and your self esteem until you do believe in yourself). Keep getting photos taken until you get one you can hand out with pride -- as if you're saying, "This is me, and I'm proud of it!" There's nothing harder on your self esteem than walking into an audition for a role you really want and having to hand over a photo you're embarrassed about or unsure of -- it can affect your whole presentation. Self esteem also means that you take care of yourself -- casting people prefer their actors well-groomed and looking great (and your photo and resume should be neat and well-trimmed as well).

Finally, remember that, for an actor, it's okay -- and even a good thing -- to promote yourself. You can tell that little "modesty" voice inside your head to go take a nap while you work at promoting yourself. As long as you keep your focus on being proud of your true accomplishments and being respectful as well of others' talents and achievements, you probably won't become an egomaniac. There's a big difference between Self esteem and egomania.

And love yourself, no matter what. Even if you screw up an audition, you're still basically a good person, and you probably still have a lot to offer. Everybody stumbles and falls; even the greatest actors started somewhere, and made mistakes. The secret is to pick yourself up, shrug your shoulders, and set your sights on the next goal, aiming to do a little better every time.
Katherine Mayfield is the author of "Acting A to Z" and "Smart Actors, Foolish Choices".

Copyright © Katherine Mayfield. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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