Why We As Actors Need to “Stay In Our Own Lane” and Stop Playing the Comparison Game



Contributed in good faith by Alumni Allison Spence Brown


I am currently living in what I’m told is a “post-graduation-slump”.

Terry Knickerbocker Studio Graduating Class of 2019

I graduated from Terry Knickerbocker Studio’s Two-Year Program in June. The post-grad hoopla has died down I am left feeling slightly paralyzed. What’s next? What should I be doing? I know how to act, but now how do I make it my job? Is anyone hiring? How do I get in the door? Is my reel good enough? Am I good enough?


These are the questions that are keeping me up at night now that the structure of school has fallen away. I realize that without the scaffolding of class and rehearsals I am at a loss as to how to proceed.


I know I’m not alone. And to be honest? I’ve been here before. I think that’s partly why it feels so overwhelmingly, suffocatingly scary.


Instead of putting my head down and grinding, I have been grasping at straws, playing the comparison game.


“So-and-so from my college improv team is writing for SNL. Why am I not writing for SNL? I must really suck.”


“So-and-so from my graduating class just won an Emmy. Why haven’t I won an Emmy? Wow, I’m getting older and just continuing to suck more.”


“So-and-so from my acting class is the lead on that hot new show. Why am I not the lead on a hot new show? I SUUUUUUCK.”


What I’m fighting tooth and nail to remind myself is: Stay in my own lane.


“When you’re a race horse, the reason they put blinders on these things is because if you look at the horse on the left or the right, you’re going to miss a step. That’s why the horses have blinders on. And that’s what people should have. When you’re running after something, you should not look left or right — what does this person think, what does that person think? No. Go.” 

Jimmy Iovine


When the people you’ve “come up the ranks” with start to become movers and shakers, it can feel daunting. You can think “Welp, that’s one less spot at the table for me.”


No! No. No. No. NO! Not true. This is just the brain’s way of trying to make sense of the things that are ebbing and flowing around you.


Recently, upon starting a new show on Netflix I found myself in a deep dive of googling actors from said show. At first I was discouraged. Some got their big break in their late teens. Some came from prominent families with connections. Some came from the theater. I caught myself beginning to wallow, thinking: I’m never going to catch up.


Then I paused… and realized, every single person I was looking up had come to their “success” in their own individual way. That’s actually pretty refreshing.


Some people I look up to:  Michael Godere, Emmy Rossum, Terry, Chris Messina, and Sam Rockwell.


I realized I can’t necessarily control the speed with which I find success, but I can control my contribution to it. As long as I am doing everything within my power to stay open, curious and to continue on my grind something will inevitably happen. It has to.


That’s my actor’s blind faith. Do the work. Stay in your lane and work from a place of integrity.


It’s a waste of energy to play the comparison game — that’s time you’ll never get back. Ultimately, it will lead you nowhere except self-doubt and negativity. It’s a lot harder to manifest your dreams while you’re actively tracking yourself against everyone else. 


Think of it this way: your dream is a garden (blah, blah, I know… but this metaphor actually works). Your garden is definitely going to suffer if your water source is toxic.


The hard part is refocusing our time and energy to purify the water supply. Unfortunately, the universe is kinda working against us on this point.


Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to tune out of ourselves and into the lives of others. (Or at least, the version of their life they would like us to see.) We can hop on Instagram at any time, day or night, to see how we are falling short in comparison to our peers. This leads to resentment. It leads to us beating ourselves up and, if you’re like me, being a real brat when it comes to other’s successes. Why do I feel the need to make their success about me???


Honestly, it’s draining. Being a person in the world today can be overwhelming and exhausting. Plus, we, as artists, are sensitive beings. Social media, in particular tends to lead me to play a sub-game of the “Comparison Game” — the “I Should Game“. “Should” is a great way to talk yourself out of your dreams and into panic mode.


I’m trying to find a sense of humor around it when an “I should” statement pops into my mind.  Rather than should, I pause, take a breath, and do my best to refocus on what is actually interesting to me. Instead of telling myself I should be following in another “more successful” friend’s footsteps, I ask myself: Is that really the career I want? Or am I just freaking out?


Nine times out of ten, I am freaking out. 


TK Studio is built on mutual support. The entire TK Faculty do their best to make it clear: this is a personal journey. Our teachers offer us tools along the way, knowing that we will each internalize them at our own pace.


These guys aren’t my competition. They’re my support.


Terry encourages us to get clear on our individual goals — not what we think we should want. We are given space to cut through all the BS to: what do we actually want? Student A might be super into Marvel comics, while Student B is interested in period dramas.


Neither thing is better or worse — rather, it’s all subjective. It boils down to “who am I and what do I want?” The more specific we are about what our goals actually are, the more likely we are to manifest them. We can take back our power and reverse engineer the career  we want — we can be an active participant in following through on our dreams and making them a reality. We are so much more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. 


Personally, my favorite artists are people who have forged their own path. They know there’s no one right way to do this. Artistry is about getting in touch with what YOU have to say. It’s about innovating and listening to your gut. 


The only thing I’ve allowed myself to hold onto from the “comparison game” is this thought: If it’s possible for someone else, it’s possible for me.


All of this to say: you’ve got this! And I do, too.


Want to be more like Allison?


Terry Knickerbocker Studio offers comprehensive Two-Year Conservatory rooted in the Meisner technique, in a state of the art facility in Brooklyn, New York.



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