So today has been an interesting day. Let's go with that. Interesting is a good adjective to describe today. It honestly had some pretty significant low points. In particular, there's a project I've been working on for a few weeks now. I have put my heart and soul into this. It's one of those things where I've worked on it so hard that it became embedded in my psyche.
I would go to sleep at night and not really sleep because my mind would still be running through and replaying scenarios related to it over and over and over again. So while I was awake, I was consumed with this project. While I was asleep, I was dreaming about this project, and it all came to a head today in the sense of... it's not going to work out, it's just not going to pan out.
It's not in the cards for me, not the right time for it. And once I got that sense of finality, things sucked. For lack of a better word, it was just f*cking bad... f*cking bad. It hurt. And I was definitely in my feelings when I realized that all of this passion and work and energy that I had put into something wasn't going to pan out.
And then all of that work felt wasted. I started, sinking into this place of having a feeling of "I'm just not good enough. I'm just not smart enough. I'm just not talented enough. If I was everything would have come to fruition. Exactly. As I had hoped." And one of the blessings of being such a personal development nerd is that my first thought was to step back and do some research.
My second thought beyond the research, or I guess I should say before I got to the research, my second thought was really where I felt a spark of optimism and positivity in this situation. And that boys, girls non-binary pals, that second thought was that all this is an opportunity for me to be more like Lady Gaga.
Hear me out on this. If you don't know, I am a huge Lady Gaga fan. When she came out onto the scene in 2008, I was starting high school and Oh my gosh, I fell in love immediately. And there's so much about Lady Gaga that I really respect and admire, and if this became a Gaga appreciation podcast, that would be just as satisfying for me.
I could talk about Ms. Stephanie Germanotta all day, but in this particular case, the reason I decided to lean into the idea that this failed project of mine makes me more likely to Gaga is because, if you're not aware, early in Gaga's career, before "Just Dance," when she was still, getting started and performing --I believe at that time, she was still primarily performing as Stephanie Germanada rather than lady Gaga, but, she was developing that persona and had been performing as lady Gaga in clubs up to that point-- but regardless, before "Just Dance" came out, Lady Gaga was signed to Def Jam Records. And that was her first label that she had signed with. She was super excited to get going. And I want to say it was about three months into her relationship with Def Jam, they dropped her.
She's talked about it in interviews and in articles before, about how that was one of the most painful days of her life and how it just came out of the blue and it felt so sudden, and it was unexpected and she had been working so hard to get signed onto a label.
She gets signed to Def Jam, and then before they even put out an album, it's over, it's gone, she's fired, she's dropped from the label. She went on to say, I'm going to paraphrase here because I don't remember the exact quote, but one of the things she went on to say was that if something like that is going to stop you, then you're not cut out to be an entertainer.
She knew that she was destined to be an entertainer. A star was born before she was cast in A Star is Born. So she knew that she had to get back up, get back out there and become an entertainer. Or I guess I should say, make a bigger career out of being an entertainer. She was already entertaining.
Then, the rest is history I'm sure you're aware of. She then get signed on to Interscope records. "Just Dance" comes out. She becomes the it-moment of pop music and she revolutionized pop culture as we know it.
If you think I'm exaggerating, look at the way in which pop music shifted after her album, The Fame came out. Look at how fashion shifted after she started going to red carpets dressed in these completely batshit crazy-yet-couture outfits, everything in pop culture shifted because of lady Gaga. So anyway, I will do my best to stop stanning lady Gaga and focus on the topic at hand, which is a rejection and how we respond to rejection.
So I mentioned before that my first thought was "let's turn to the research and let's look at what research says about the experience of rejection and how we can handle it." One of the things that kept coming up as I was reading, and I want to say it was, Jay Shetty, the author of Think Like a Monk, who talked about rejection, I want to say either on his blog or in a podcast... I should find it and put it in the show notes.
Hey, Blake, as you're editing this, find that and try to put it in the show notes... (Blake from the future: hey, Blake from the past, it was this podcast).
But, one of the things that kept coming up and the, he talked about specifically was that with the experience of rejection, in part there's this very primal component. With our cave people, ancestors being kicked out of the community meant your life was on the line. Without a support system to protect you and to work alongside, your chances of survival weren't great. And in many ways, when we're rejected today, it triggers a very similar physiological response.
We immediately feel this need to protect ourselves from isolation when we're rejected, but beyond that, one of the things that was really fascinating to me was that the experience of rejection really mirrors the experience of shame in the sense that they both create this inner dialogue or this inner narrative, I should say, where we feel that we are unwanted and unworthy because of what has happened.
Now, there are some really key differences here, and I don't want to say that shame and rejection are synonymous and that Brené Brown should have talked more about rejection or whatever. These are separate entities, but that feeling of being unwanted is shared between them, rejection embodies shame in that aspect.
Of course, primary differences being, with shame, it's often rooted in our internal sense of worth and value, whereas rejection is often triggered by a specific incident. Either romantically we get dumped or someone, doesn't want to go on a date with a us. Or we don't get a job that we really wanted or, whatever. There's a specific event that triggers that feeling of rejection.
And so once I started putting those pieces together and thinking , those are shared emotions. That is a shared burden. That feeling of being unwanted. And with that in mind, it became a lot easier to think about rejection and responding to rejection. Once I reframed it within the context of shame resilience and, for my project that didn't pan out, I asked myself like, okay, I had this feeling of, "if I was better, maybe things would have gone better," by my standards, I should specify. I'm sure that for the other parties involved, the outcome will be right for them.
I started asking myself, "okay. In this situation, if I was recognizing to myself that what I am experiencing is not rejection, but shame, how would that change the way that I responded to it?" Right off the bat, the various, the first thing that I did was put my harnesses on my dogs and we went for a nice long walk. And then once we got back from our walk, I went to the gym.
For me, there's nothing to deal with stress and shame quite like working up a sweat, and being out in nature with my dogs is a bonus as well. I love those little shits. They're terrible. The older one often pees on the younger one while we're walking. If you feel bad for the younger one, as I say that the younger one is bigger by 40 pounds. He's a horse. He's a chonk.
Even though they are a little sassy sometimes on our walks, there's very little that gets me in a better mood than being with those dogs, walking through our neighborhood and across the local college campus. And then, I of course wanted to take that further and just go to the gym and put my anxiety into a shoulder routine.
My shoulders are a weak point, and I feel like when you're stressed and dealing with negative emotions, if going to the gym and getting an, a workout is, accessible to you, I recommend just going in and going for whatever your least favorite muscle group is to work, because that's really where you're going to challenge yourself.
You're going to push yourself. For me, it helps me focus more like I can't be sitting here having a pity party for myself when I really need to focus on my shoulders so that I can get stronger, protect my rotator cuff, and have a meaningful time in the gym. And after doing those two things, I immediately started to feel a lot better and a lot more optimistic.
I think with shame and shame resilience.. So I'll go ahead and do my plug for things that you should read and listen to. On the topic of shame, there is no better authority to look to. Then Bernay Brown. Her work is magnificent. Whether you pick up one of her books or listen to her podcast, you're going to learn a lot about shame and dealing with shame.
As my obligatory one per podcast, self promotion, in my book, Big Picture Living, the second section of that book is all about shame and shame resilience. So that's another option if you want to go into a bit more depth about shame and shame resilience. But for me, one of the things that I've learned, especially after reading folks like Brené Brown, is that as I start to get into a better head space and think about why I feel that sense of shame.
The more I peel back the layers, the more I am able to see where determination and optimism and opportunity come into play with my own processes. And what I've learned and, with the model of introspection that I outlined in Big Picture Living, asking that question of why do I feel this way? What is at the root of this emotion? Is this actually something intrinsic about me or is it just, something here involved with these external circumstances that I have no control over all of these multitude of factors converging and coming into play.
Is it possible that something in there could be a deciding factor rather than some deficit or deficiency or shortcoming in my own self? From there, once I've gotten into that healthier place, recognizing like bad things didn't happen to me because I'm unworthy. Bad things just happen sometimes.
From there, that's where I start to say, "okay, If I can accept the idea that I'm not intrinsically unworthy, what can I learn from this situation? How can I take a learning moment out of this so that I can, in this case, the situation I've been dealing with today, it was, what can I do to acquire the skills and experience that would make this different if I were to do it again in one year?"
But in general, thinking through that process of, okay, clearly this sucks. This hurts. What am I going to learn from it?
Learning from difficulty and from pain is like how bones harden after a break has healed. So if you're not familiar with that process, when someone has a broken bone and it gets set, and that bone heals, where that fracture occurred and where the healing process binds and rejoins that bone, it becomes stronger.
And the same thing happens to us when we look at something that just absolutely sucks and say, "okay, I have to heal from this. What am I going to learn?" Learning is like putting a splint on a broken bone. It gives us an opportunity to get stronger in that area.
Sometimes that's as simple, the learning opportunity is as simple as saying. "It's not going to keep me down." Maybe you have that Lady Gaga mentality of, "you know what, I want to be an entertainer. This comes with the territory. I'm going to get back up and do this again."
Maybe it's more like the shit sandwich metaphor that I've talked about in the past of, recognizing yes, this sucks, but this is also my calling and the parts that I love about this outweigh the suckage I'm experiencing right now.
And I, by no means, want to suggest that we should repress and avoid feeling painful emotions. We shouldn't. They're part of being alive, and when you repress emotions, you're not learning from them. You're not healing from them. You're just burying them. And they're like zombies. They're going to claw their way back up to the surface.
But when we do to learn from them, we're not ignoring it. We're not saying this didn't happen. We're saying this happened, but I'm going to get back up. I'm going to get back in the saddle and I'm going to figure out where I'm going next.
It's really similar to the concept of grit. If you're familiar with the book Grit by Angela Duckworth, that's really what happens when we respond to shame and rejection in this way, it makes us grittier. It puts us in this place of saying, "you know what? Sure. I'm the underdog right now, but I'm going to get back up. I'm going to be the victor one day."
And with that mentality, we're able to commit to that process of becoming victorious and overcoming that sense of being defeated because we keep our focus on what it looks like to move forward, rather than saying, "this is a stopping point," it's a mentality that says, "you know what, this is a challenge, but I'm going to overcome it."
Challenges are not endings. Challenges are not definitive. They're not finite entities that encapsulate us within a specific moment. They're just challenges. Challenges are challenges, Roadblocks, we can get over them. And so for me, it's really been an interesting process to think about how I'm responding to this at this point in my life, compared to where I was a few years ago.
I fully recognize that so much has changed between then and now. I have a stable income. I have a great support system. I'm on antidepressants. I have a regular gym routine. I have all of these things buoying me up and, keeping me afloat through a challenging time.
But more than that, the more I have invested in learning what it means to live with a sense of direction and fulfillment, the more I've been unable to get relief clear with myself about what setbacks mean. Had this happened three years ago, when I was at my lowest, I would probably be locked in my bedroom with the lights off, doing everything I could to avoid crying.
Fast forward to today, here I am on a microphone, talking about how I f*cked up and how things didn't work out the way that I wanted them to, and how it hurt and how much it sucked and, it's, so it's so different to be at this place and to be able to talk about it as "this is just a setback, this is just a challenge" rather than feeling "this is the end of something, this is a dream not coming true." It's... no. That's not the case. It's just a dream deferred. Sure, I'll probably be a little sullen or resentful for a little while when something related to this comes up, but at the same time, I fully recognize I'm just going to keep going.
There's still so much that I want to do and that I can do, and that are all these things within the scope of my ambitions and my values, that one thing going wrong, isn't going to devalue all of those other things. They still have purpose. They still have meaning they're still valuable.
I really want tonight to, or today-- it depends on when you're listening to this, but regardless, for me, it's at night, I'm about to go to bed after I finished recording-- and tonight before I go to bed, I want to issue you a challenge. And that challenge is the next time you start to feel the sting of rejection, before you do anything in response to that pain, go for a walk or a stroll or a roll, whatever's within your level of physical ability. Get outside. If you can move a little bit, give yourself some time and some space and some fresh air. And then when you're ready, rather than dwelling on your feeling of hurt, I want you to get out a piece of paper or if you want, you can email this to me if you just want to put it out in the universe and have a sense of accountability with it... but regardless, once you're in that better head space, I want you to sit down and I want you to write about just... let's go with three... three of the things that you still want and can work toward, in spite of the rejection you experience. What are three things that you're still really passionate about and excited about?
I'm not saying you have to immediately feel happy. You don't, you can still be sad. You can be pissed off. You can be resentful, you can be angry. That's okay. Those are just emotions. We all have emotions. But what are three things, regardless of your emotional state, that you want to get back up and start working on?
Okay. So that's the first thing that I want you to write down. The second thing that I want you to write down is what it is that you want to learn from this situation. If during this initial sit down, if it's still too raw to put words to it or t o breakdown and analyze the situation in a clinical way--
because emotions completely can interfere and prevent us from doing that-- but I want you to just jot down what it is that you're going to take away from the situation. If it is too raw, that's okay. Give yourself some more space. Maybe just write down, "I am going to learn from this" or "I am going to grow from this." Or "there's going to be a silver lining that I don't yet see."
And with those two things written down, give yourself a little bit of space to process what it is you're feeling. Send that energy out into the universe, in whatever form that takes. If you just want to tuck that note in your journal and stick your journal back on your shelf, or, write it down on a scrap of spare paper and then go out in your backyard and burn it, or like I said, if you just want to email it to me, just put that energy out there. There are still things I'm working on. I'm going to get back up. I'm going to learn something from this.
Once you do that, let the healing process start. It's okay, like I've said, it's okay to be sad for a little bit. It's okay to feel resentful, but just know that you're going to process it. You're going to focus on giving yourself space and kindness and then. When your body and mind tell you the time is right, you're going to think of those three things that you still want to work on, and that you still really value.
And you're going to get to work on them. You're going to put together some action steps. You're going to carve out a little bit of time in your schedule, and you're going to start making progress there because again, that rejection, that challenge, that roadblock, that pain, that shame is not a stopping point.
At its worst, it's just a pause button. You're going to hit resume. You're going to get back in the saddle and you're going to be okay. So if you're like me and in that process or, if sometime in the near future, you find yourself in that process, just know that I've got your back. I'm here to support you, and I think we're going to do pretty great things together.
He/ Him/ His pronouns. Blake is a writer, gym addict, dog dad, researcher, and general life enthusiast. He's passionate about helping others reach their goals and live happier, more fulfilling lives.
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