Disappointment sucks. Not one of us is immune to it. We want something, so we begin to hope for it, predicting an outcome not guaranteed to occur.
The longer we wait, the further our imaginations nose ahead, daring to believe that this time, our long-held desire will bear fruit. As a writer, this is the seesaw edge I live on. Submitting work, then waiting for one of two outcomes: rejection or acceptance.
The other day, I heard someone utter these wise words, “I’m trying to do my best and then disconnect from the outcome.” I’m wretchedly awful at the second half of that sentence. Trying my best is easy; accepting whatever results from that is difficult.
But I know it’s good for me to keep trying. We all have to. Value plays a sizeable role here. When I tell myself I’m a decent writer because someone else confirms that by praising what I do, advancing me in a contest or offering a contract instead of a form rejection letter, I’m sunk. My confidence recedes, my stomach drops, and I feel worthless.
The key is to hinge my worth on my own unique identity and not to anything I produce. My work is not who I am. This goes for every one of us. No matter what our culture may tell us, success at work does not equal success as a human being. We will fail and we will succeed, but these markers are outside of us. They are not levers on our identity, shifting us ever higher or lower.
It’s funny because one of my slides in my It’s On You seminar is called “Expect Failure”. Another one is “You Own Your Value”. I’m teaching these concepts to students and to adults, and receiving a beautiful opportunity to practice them in my own experience. These philosophies mean nothing if I’m not living them out myself. Example is king. I don’t listen to fancy words any more, when it’s clear that the person uttering them is not modelling the skills they espouse.
Rejection is another chance to practice disconnecting from the outcome. I cannot afford to hitch my belief in my abilities to the opinions of other people. I have to feel the sadness when rejection hits, then dust myself off and move on, creating what only I can do. Even if it’s just for myself.
We do our best, and then allow the consequences to unfold as they will. We can only control our end of the deal. Beyond that, we have to believe that when the time is right, we will see small measures of success. Until that time, we’ll keep on going, affirming to ourselves that we are not the work we do. We are worthy of love and care, whether we win or lose. If we keep walking up to the plate, one day we’ll connect with the ball as we’ve dreamed of doing.