What’s Holding You Back? 5 Common Actor Roadblocks and How to Deal

shutterstock_1044835672Sometimes, we play by the rules, put in the work, and can still look around and feel like something is ​just missing.​ If your acting career feels inexplicably dead in the water, don’t panic. It’s not permanent. The important thing is to take the time to figure out what it is that might be holding you back. Below are some common actor roadblocks and thoughts on how to start dismantling them.


  1. Self-Sabotage.​ Fun fact: Fear of failure and fear of success can be equally destructive! If you find yourself consistently putting off preparing for auditions, neglecting your book work, and generally setting yourself up for a fall, you may be self-sabotaging. The important thing is to find out why. Whether this requires a step back from your life, meditation or therapy, take the time you need to check in with yourself and figure out why you might be getting in your own way. Don’t put this off. Self-sabotage will not go away or get better on its own.
  2. Mental Health.​ God save us from the romanticization of the tortured artist ideal. It has done generations of actors a tremendous disservice, positing that art can somehow only be moving and genuine if it is a product of the artist’s pain and suffering. Free yourself from this toxic notion. Ignoring (or subconsciously encouraging) your mental health issues is not only personally destructive, but it can also hamper your artistic career. Depression, anxiety, executive dysfunction, ADD–whatever you’re dealing with, it is important to address it in a healthy manner. This is not to say that an actor can’t turn in a brilliant performance in spite of, or inspired by, struggles with mental health. But take care of yourself. I put off therapy and medication for years because I was afraid it would somehow minimize my ability to get in touch with intense emotions. But I have learned that I am at my most productive in my acting career when I’m stable and taking care of my mental health.
  3. Physical Health.​ It is so easy to neglect physical health in an actor’s hectic schedule. Often we work long hours with little set routine, running from one gig to the next and cramming day jobs in the spaces between. Who has time to exercise? Or to sleep, for that matter? But neglecting your physical health will lead to burnout in a hurry. Prioritize healthy habits. If you’re finding it difficult to get into a routine, start with something that excites you, even if it’s temporary. Start small. 5 minutes of meditation in the morning, or a Groupon for a week of yoga, or just drinking a set amount of water each day. You can build from there.
  4. Destructive Habits. ​Keep an eye on your vices. It sounds boring, but it is incredibly easy to let the rejection and stress of this business bully you into self-medicating without realizing it. An unhealthy relationship with alcohol or pills or drugs, even if it’s not full-blown addiction, will drain you mentally and physically. Superficially, you want to keep yourself looking fresh and healthy on camera. More importantly, self-medicating with destructive habits can wear on your mental health and undermine your ability to perform and deal with the challenges of your career.
  5. Toxic People.​ The people in your life affect you as much as the nutrition you consume. Make sure the relationships in which you’re investing are fulfilling and positive. Pouring time and care into toxic relationships will sap your confidence and undermine your creativity. You need a support network that will build you up.


If none of these resonate with you, but you’re still feeling like you’re not potentializing your career, seek help. Find a therapist, and consult with your agent or manager or industry professionals you trust. Nothing will get better if you don’t treat the source.
Finally, recognize when you’re doing enough. Celebrate your triumphs. Don’t let insecurities and comparisons tell you that something is holding you back if nothing actually is. Make sure you allow yourself to live in your success.

By Rachel

Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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