Overcoming Rejection: Stop Letting Others Decide Who You Are
Few professions are as subjective to the opinions of others as creative ones. Perhaps because artists are usually self-proclaimed. Yes, you can get a college degree in your artistic field, but that doesn’t make you an artist, does it? Usually not. You’re an artist when you decide to be one.
The only problem is we don’t trust ourselves, enough, do we? And we fall into the trap of validation. Or rather, letting other people’s opinions and job titles decide whether or not we really are artists.
We’ve all been there:
- waiting for an agent to decide if we actually are writers
- waiting for a script to sell to decide if we can call ourselves screenwriters
- waiting for a manager or label to sign us to decide if we are musicians
Then, once that happens, we start to look at numbers:
- large sales = we must be artists after all!
- fans and followers flow in = we’ve made it!
- second, third, fourth deals are made = we’ve arrived!
Or have we?
- sales fall = we wonder if we aren’t good enough after all
- fans attack, criticize, followers unfollow = we question our talent and abilities
- deals break, we’re passed over, agents resign = we wonder what we were thinking in the first place
Yes, it takes dozens of other people and circumstances to align to achieve monetary success in any artistic field. But would we be more successful if we stopped allowing other people to decide who we are and we made a decision to be who we want to be?
I think so. People sense vulnerability and insecurity. If you don’t know who you are and you give other people the power to decide who you are, they’ll decide.
Would people relate to us differently if we held a firm conviction of who we are and did not leave that up for debate for anyone?
Would being an artist hurt less? If we were judged on our work and didn’t mix it up with our identity? After all, if you’re a doctor, you’re a doctor – doesn’t matter whether patients like you or not. You don’t question whether you’re a doctor, you know you are. Everyone else knows you are, too. Same goes for almost every profession I can think of.
Rejection is 97% perception and only 3% fact. We attach huge meanings to rejection as artists, hinging our identity, our self-worth, our value even as human beings on the very subjective opinions of others. In reality, we’re inflicting this pain on ourselves.
If we didn’t leave our identity as artists up for debate, we’d start to see that when someone says no, it may have nothing to do with the quality of our work at all. It certainly has nothing to do with our identity at all. People have very refined tastes for what they like and don’t like, what interests them and doesn’t. I know I do. I can tell within the first 3 seconds of a song whether or not it interests me. Does that mean that the song isn’t good or that the artist isn’t a “real” artist? Hell, no. Whether I like or don’t like a book, a song, a film has everything to do with me and very little, if anything, ever, to do with the artists who created it.
The business of art has created some very odd dynamics. The idea that you submit art to an “agent” in the hopes of finding a match are very much like trying to find someone to marry you. It doesn’t work that way. You need to be the best artist you can be, learn your craft, do quality work, stay true to who you are, don’t pan to trends and say what your spirit has to say. You need to be happy, enjoy creating, love what you do. Be content but ready for what’s next.
Then fate steps in. Magic happens. You meet the right person at the right time in circumstances you could never have imagined.
You have to have faith and you have to be yourself. Wholly, truly, confidently.
That’s what attracts the right business decision-maker to your work, and more importantly, to you as an artist.
You decide you’re an artist.
Others respond – positively and negatively - to your work.
You keep being an artist.
The key word is “be.”