I have previously written a blog about facing rejection from a show. That call had been very specific and I actually did a painting, like an assignment. I must admit I was surprised when they did not accept my work for inclusion, but as I stated in the blog, the rejection had less sting because it was the piece I made specifically for the submission, not “my work” , they had rejected. What I submitted was simply not what they were looking for. ( I attended that show - I still can’t tell you exactly what they were looking for ). So it was a little easier to take the high road and be philosophical.
This time was different. During the same week, I was tuned down by an artist’s cooperative I had applied to with high expectations. Ouch! Then there was the highly selective show with a guest juror I was really hoping for. Rejected. (“we had many, many worthy applications blah blah blah”...), there was the state Artists Fellowship, and then I was turned down for another hoped for opportunity in another aspect of my life.
Then, I did a bad thing. I piled all of these things one on top of another. I hugged them to myself, like they were precious. I reminded myself of other “failings” and lacerated myself with my shortcomings. I built my own personal hell within my mind.
Sadness at the loss of a dream can overtake you. You can lose your vision. You question if you should even continue ( “Oh why bother to paint anymore?”) Finality seems to be writ large.
Suddenly, I realized this painful experience of rejection was of my own doing and that this is an opportunity to develop resilience, to keep on keepin’ on
Once I realized that I was creating the source of the mental anguish, it took a little while to truly choose to leave the hurt behind. That is ok, sometimes you need to take recovery time, but at some point you will cripple yourself if you don’t stop and look for a new approach.
Let it go
When I was ready, I pulled myself up, I stopped stockpiling, stopped reliving the rejections, and examining them for new ways to hurt my pride. I let myself be. I looked with curiosity at what it was about the rejections that caused me to feel so badly. I took a few deep breathes ... And I started taking care of myself...
Turn to your support system
I reached out to friends. My writer friends listened compassionately to my stories. They helped me put all the losses into perspective. Then they shared their rejection stories. “Do you remember your first rejection letter?” they asked each other... I heard their stories, including the one about the rejected submission put aside and accepted for publication four years later without a single edit. I felt connected to all of them and realized this experience I was having was not special to me.
I am blessed with people who understood what was going on and why I was so hurt. Sometimes the people around you just cannot understand why the rejection cuts so deeply. If you cannot speak to anyone who can sympathize, find a practice that will make you whole again.
In my case I meditate daily. I practiced as usual and added sessions. I turned a corner after I did a guided meditation “Allowing, accepting and releasing”. Something in me shifted
Another of my spiritual practices is to look for a reason to be grateful in all circumstances. I started to look for joy in every day occurrences, I looked for reasons to be grateful. The next day I noticed how many people were so very nice to me. I could easily have overlooked all those kindnesses if I was still paying attention to the disappointments.
I decided to be more then a survivor, I decided to become a willing participant again. Which brings me to
Get back up on that horse
Start again, sing, dance, write, add up a column of numbers, do what you do and recognize there is value in your work. As an an artist, I know to go back into the studio to see what I can discover. Writers tell me they go to the next project. The work becomes the the path back to yourself. Paradoxically by shifting your focus away from yourself and those rejections to your work, you get a better understanding of your capabilities and who you are,. You come to recognize that what is happening right now in your life is truly enough. Nothing needs to be added to make this moment good, true, and right.
If you are lucky, or blessed, the hurt you experience is a stimulus to develop more compassion toward everyone you come across in your life, including the person who turned you down. I found myself writing an encouraging note to a Face Book “friend” who received one of the same rejection letters I had . No, I did not say “me too”. Instead, I told her the story of my very accomplished artist friend who submitted the same water color to two shows. Rejected from the first show, it was accepted for show in the prestigious national watercolor society and awarded the first prize at the annual exhibit that year.
Noticing that I was reaching out in kindness to someone I barely know, I said to myself “well look at that....”