Healing the Wounds of Creative Success: Rejection
Rejection is talked about so often in creative circles that one may not take the wounds it can cause seriously enough. Even creative professionals who know that it’s just part of the journey tend to minimize the impact it has when discussing it. We’re brave (or try to be) and since it’s simply a fact of creative life, we often just try to shrug it off.
But is that healthy? And are we really healing from it? Do we even know we need to heal from it?
Rejection comes when we pin our hopes and aspirations on someone elses’ decision to represent or buy our work. Someone passes on our work and says no. If they are gracious enough they might tell us why, but for the most part, we are left guessing.
And what do we guess? You got it. The worst. Fear, doubt and insecurity come crashing in. We feel like failures. We second-guess our ability and our purpose.We wonder if it’s worth it. We blame the person who said no. We come up with excuses, rationales, reasons that make them the bad guy and us the good guy. We feel shattered and down and hit the ground with a thud.
When you’ve been through it a few times, you know despite what you’re feeling right now that eventually (sooner is better) you have to pick yourself off the ground and get back in the game. And you do.
But this process of being wounded by rejection and having to dig deeper roots and decide to keep going takes its toll on the spirit. And it can change who you are if you let it go unexamined for too long.
What are we telling ourselves?
I’ve said this before, rejection is 97% perception and only 3% fact.
Someone said no. It wasn’t right for them. They weren’t interested. They have their own opinions, their own preferences, their own pressure to perform. Imagine being in their place. How excited would you be if a genre or the subject matter just didn’t interest you or you simply couldn’t stand it (for me = horror films)? Why would you want to force yourself to try to feel enthusiastic about it and sell it?
I’m of the opinion that when you find the right representation or buyer, you do so because you find a fit between interests, beliefs, passions and visions. And that’s what you want. No representation is better than poor, unenthusiastic representation or representation that represents you wrong.
But back to my point. What are we telling ourselves when we feel rejected?
1. This person had the power to decide my fate.
Is that true? Your overall fate is in your decision to keep trying, keep practicing your craft, keep knocking on the doors that are right for you and your work. Fate is a heavy word. The weight of it belongs to you.
2. I’m not good enough.
Did they actually tell you that? If they did, did they specify why they think so? We jump to this conclusion only because we give the other person the right to decide who and what we are. Chances are, the person who rejected you had other reasons – multiple reasons – that went into the decision. You may need to improve your craft, true (we all do), but being or not being good enough is a perception. Your craft may not be up to professional standards yet – does that mean you’re not a good enough person? No. It just means you’re not ready yet, you need more time to grow and develop. There’s nothing wrong with being in that place.
3. I’ll never succeed.
That’s true. But only if you make that decision. You decide.
4. I’m a failure at this.
Only if you quit. But even then, is that really a failure? Failure has such a permanent ring to it. And so little in life is actually permanent. Not even quitting. You can start again. Failure is a term of measurement we use when we’re living according to what we think other people expect of us. I’m not sure anyone actually, really cares that much what we do with our creative lives, do you? Do what makes you happy. Ban failure from your thinking. It’s not a concept that applies to you. If you’ve already quit, you can start again. If you’re happy that you quit, there’s nothing wrong with that. Be happy. This is your life. You decide if you’re enjoying it.
5. I don’t know what to do next.
Take some time. Feel your pain. Let it flow out of you. Then ask for guidance. You will receive it. And trust. Trust, trust, trust the process. Trust yourself, trust your opinion, trust the Universe. Take the next step. Try another avenue. Keep going. Remember, it’s easier for the Universe to guide a moving object than a still one. So find a way to move and trust, trust, trust that you will be led.
What do you do if you’ve been burned one too many times?
Burns leave scars. Reminders that something overwhelmed you, damaged you and that you healed.
You survived the pain, the regrowth, the process of overcoming it and evolved from it.You are different today because of it. And the scar serves to remind you.
If rejection has come in the form where it’s caused you to lose your sense of identity, or if you face it from sources that seemingly have no reason to reject you (like fame), these scars may have altered who you feel yourself to be. You’ve adapted and changed. But you may have also become less daring, less willing to be near the fire, less able to feel the potential warmth out of fear of the potential pain.
Repeated rejection changes how you relate to yourself, your work and your world. And so much of the deeper aspects connect intimately to how you accept or reject yourself in relation to what others are telling you and their reaction to you. This is where connecting to Source is healing. Disconnecting your sense of value as an individual and human being from your place in the world and focusing on the innately beautiful spirit that you are is essential. Nurturing your spirit is essential.
Stop Believing It
One of the biggest things you can do for your spirit is to own your thoughts. How you think about your experiences, the Story you wrap around what people say and do and mean, is ultimately responsible for how much joy or pain you experience. We give meaning to other’s actions and words based on what we believe most deeply about ourselves. We interpret their intentions through the filter of our harsh inner critic. One of the most valuable pieces of insight I received years ago was this:
“Stop believing it. You wouldn’t react so strongly if you didn’t believe it yourself.”
And isn’t that true? When we don’t believe something is true about us, millions of people can say it about us and it won’t affect us at all.
When we believe it, just one word from someone will tip us into a downward spiral of self-judgement.
Our beliefs are the underlying source of the sensation of rejection. And a belief is just a thought that you keep thinking.
You can change your thoughts. And you can insulate yourself from rejection by changing how you interpret what a “no” means.
Think about what you tell yourself, think about what you believe.
Where can you experience healing by changing what you think?