10 Tips For Overcoming A Bad Audition

We’ve all been there. You’re in the audition room. You’ve practiced. You’re feeling great. And then…

You forget the words.

Or the accompanist throws you off.

Or your voice cracks right in the middle of your high note.

You stumble through the rest of the audition, mentally kicking yourself, and pasting on a fake smile as you thank everyone in the room...

..and then proceed to obsess about it for the next week.

A bad audition can take over your entire day, and make you nervous for the future. Here are my top 10 tips for quieting the negative voices in your head.

1. You Are Not Alone

Let me shout this one louder for those of you in the back row. You. Are. Not. Alone. Every single performer on earth has had a bad audition. Scratch that. Every single performer on earth has had MANY bad auditions. It comes with the territory. A bad audition doesn’t make you a bad performer. It simply means you had an off day.

2. Get Real With Yourself

Most of us have a tendency to make excuses, when we are embarrassed or ashamed. When we don’t want to face our mistakes, we can miraculously find a way to blame everything and everyone for what went wrong. The truth is that blaming other people is never helpful. Strong, confident people can own up to their mistakes.

Try it out. Next time someone asks you how your audition went, try shrugging it off. Tell them the truth. You didn’t do a great job today, but you are going to do better next time. It’s amazing how admitting you made a mistake can put everything into perspective.

3. Take Time To Reflect

Now that you’ve been honest with yourself, take a second to reflect on what went wrong. If it was something in your control, how can you fix it for next time?

Our fearless leader, Maggie Bera, often talks about how an audition journal can be a powerful tool. In addition to keeping track of which pieces you performed, it can offer you lessons on which pieces are consistently working for you, and which aren’t. Do you feel unsure every time you use Song X? Never get the response you are looking for with Monologue Z? Get rid of them! Auditioning is hard enough on its own. Make it easier on yourself by having pieces on hand that you consistently love to do.

4. Treasure That ‘Survival Job’

Everyone dreams of being able to work full-time in their creative profession. But, in the meantime, your ‘survival job,’ can be your saving grace. Not only does it help to pay your bills, but it can offer you relief from the sometimes overwhelming world of auditions and performing. It can remind you that you do have other skills to offer the world, and one ‘off day’ does not define you. Think of it like this: If you are waiting tables and mess up an order, you don’t take it personally and torture yourself about it for weeks, right? You simply fix what you can, and do a better job with the next order. See if you can’t apply this perspective to your creative life.

5. Find Other Creative Outlets

Once upon a time, some smart aleck told aspiring actors that, “if you can imagine yourself doing anything else, do that instead.” Since then, this nugget of wisdom has been parroted over and over again. Definitely to me. Probably to you, too.

Frankly, this is the worst advice I’ve ever heard.

We are complex human beings capable of doing hundreds of different things. This is not a negative trait. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love acting enough. It means that you are interesting.

Use that to your advantage! Write, draw, paint, crochet, make model birds out of clay, if that’s your thing! So much of acting is waiting for someone to give us permission to practice our art. That can make every missed opportunity feel doubly painful. Counteract that by giving yourself an artistic outlet that you can always go to… without anyone’s permission.

6. Get Back On That Horse

You know what is the best remedy for a bad audition?

A good one.

It can be tempting, after a really rough audition, to cancel any upcoming ones, or take a day off. I encourage you to not give into those urges. If you’ve prepared, chances are that your next audition will be much better than the last. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can forget about your past mistakes when you feel good about the latest work you’ve done.

7. No Social Media

They say that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and nothing makes comparison easier than scrolling through someone else’s carefully curated Instagram page.

If you are having a day where you feel bad about yourself, do your best to avoid using social media as a distraction. There are so many people, in this day and age, that are experts at marketing themselves. They can make every night out, every wait in a holding room, and every job as an extra on set look like the world’s greatest achievement. It’s a skill, for sure, but not one you need to subject yourself to, when you are feeling low.

8. Do Good

Kristen Bell once said, on an episode of Armchair Expert, that the best way to build self-esteem is through esteemable acts. If you are feeling low, or down on yourself, focus your energy outward. Help a friend who is moving. Volunteer. Or simply try and take action. Spending your night at the gym, or reading a book will help you feel a whole lot more accomplished, than another night of binge watching Gilmore Girls. For the twelfth time (yes, this is my subtle cry for help).

9. Be Kind To Yourself

The other day, I had an audition that...just didn’t sit right, with me. I drove home, wishing desperately that I could just go back and redo it. It bothered me all night. I climbed into bed, my head buzzing with all the things I wished I had done differently.

Until, I stopped it. I shut down my brain, and spoke out loud, in the darkness of my room.

“You’re going to be okay.”

I said it three times, until I really believed it. Then I took a deep breath, and went to sleep.

It’s powerful to verbally acknowledge that this is not the end of the world. No one else is lying awake at night obsessing over your inconsequential mistake. Don’t waste your own precious time doing it.

10. Talk About It

One of the reasons I love the Actor Aesthetic platform, is that it builds a community of people with shared experiences. Sharing your highs and lows with those around you deepens your relationships. So share your story with someone. Chances are, if they’ve ever gone to an audition, they have a similar tale. Change the narrative of your day by making your bad audition into a moment of laughter with your friends.

What are your secrets to getting over a bad audition? Share in the comments below!

Maureen O'Malley

Maureen O'Malley is an actress, musician, and writer based out of the Twin Cities.