THE SCENE: It was midsummer a few years ago. I was sobbing hysterically on my bedroom floor, crying so hard I was dry heaving. I'd just gotten feedback from an audition earlier in the week. It was for a role I wanted desperately, in a glorious Off-Broadway play. I thought I'd nailed it, but everyone else felt differently. The notes on me read: "Zosia butchered the writing so horrendously that the playwright was offended. I'm not sure she even learned her lines."
The words hit like a metal glove to the face. It was my worst nightmare. I called my father and told him what I could between sobs. His calm response: "Really, so what? Everybody's got an opinion."
This simple statement was revolutionary. It forced me to examine and realize that my rejection was not the truth about me as a person; it was merely someone's commentary. This tiny perspective shift kept me from quitting; it helped me learn that it's what you think of you that's most important. Here are the things I focus on whenever doubt creeps in:
DON'T LET REJECTION DEFINE YOU
When I took my dad's little gem and started applying it to my daily life, an amazing thing happened: The rejection didn't hit as hard. I tried the strategy out with guys—plenty have rejected me in one way or another. (My favorite was an ex who, anytime I wanted to talk, told me that I was "too much" for him.) If a guy kicked me to the curb, I thought: OK—that's his opinion. It was so freeing. We all view life through different eyes. The way someone sees you isn't a defined truth; it's just their sunglasses. (And by the way, I'm not saying that people's opinions don't matter. For me they decide whether or not I work. And if someone doesn't love you back, of course that blows. Opinions are relevant; they're just not gospel.)
DON'T MOAN "BUT WHY?"
You never know what's influencing someone's opinion. I've been behind the scenes in casting offices—it's wild what you find out. Maybe the casting director had indigestion, or you look too much like his ex-wife. Who knows? So don't try to guess. Same goes with men and "Why didn't he call?" The scenarios we come up with ("He's CIA and had to go to Tokyo"), the hours we exhaust wondering...and for what?! Who cares? He didn't call. Instead of trying to figure out why, move on. Find a guy who will call.
LIMIT THE WALLOWING
We're all sensitive. But you can diminish the hurt of rejection. What works for me: (1) Giving myself a self-pity timeline. Could be three weeks or three hours. (2) Focusing, intensely, on something else. I go to Spin class (but if you don't enjoy exercise, I wouldn't recommend it because then you'll be wallowing and sweaty). Try getting lost in a novel. Or (3) wearing something silly, like a massive sun hat. Just being ridiculous helps pull me out of my funk.
Above all, have faith that scars heal and that they're the mark of experience.
Anyone who's had her heart broken knows that when it first happens, you think: This is it—I'm going to live in this miserable darkness forever. Until one day you're skipping down the street, singing along to whatever's blasting through your headphones, maybe shakin' your booty, and you realize the clouds have lifted. As the girl band the Ace of Cups sings, "When it gets so black you think the end is near/Well, that's when all the stars appear." So look up. There are stars out there.
Columnist Zosia Mamet is an actress on Girls. Follow her on Twitter @ZosiaRMamet.