Anna

*This poem first appeared in the 2013 edition of the literary magazine, Portal.

 
You seek the company of
flora over fauna.
You flourish while being
rooted through earth and blood
back to
China.

You curate a grove
of potted plants–
hyacinth and mint,
and compost ruby skins
of dried pomegranate peels.

You were shucked
as a child.
Being maimed so young
left you raw,
but you were ripe enough
to nurture a camera,
bright enough to understand
techniques and keep your composure,
but the exposure of your wounds
made you wilt, and withdraw.

The illness slid out–
a serpent that took
hold of your mouth
with its jaw.
And you spoke of angels,
childhood friends,
patterns and fractals,
lines on a leaf.

You spoke of waking
up on the ground,
pounding your heels,
pleading to be
reclaimed.

How To Survive Depression

(I would like to start with two quick disclaimers. The first: if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts and you’re reading this, take a moment and reach out for help. Call 1-800-SUICIDE, visit suicide.org for a list of International hotlines, or call 911. You are worth it, they do have time for you, and I will be waiting here when you get back. Second disclaimer: the advice in this guide is based upon my own knowledge and experiences, and I am not a certified health professional. Okay, here we go.)

What is the image that comes to mind when one thinks of the word ‘Depression’? It is often characterized as a void, as darkness, the downward spiral, a veil, and a black cloud. Winston Churchill described his own depression as a black dog. Personally, when my depression is milder, I picture it as shapeless body sitting heavy on my shoulders. When I’m falling into a deeper depression, the image of tumbling down a rabbit hole à la Alice in Wonderland comes to mind, in which I am clawing at clods of dirt to stop the seemingly inevitable plunge towards an unknown bottom. Finally, in the deepest recesses of my experienced depression, I am in another dimension, separate from those I love. Though we may sit together in the same living room, I am trapped neck-down in a swamp of tar, elsewhere.

All this is to say that ‘depression’ is actually quite a broad term that encompasses a variety of different states. One may experience depression as part of the grieving process following the death of a loved one, or in the aftermath of a life-altering event. Just as often, others experience depression for no apparent “reason”, which is why the question “why are you depressed?” so often cannot yield a satisfactory answer. The following tips are applicable to all levels and types of depression, however, the effectiveness may vary by person, state of mind, and circumstance. Also note that surviving depression is an ongoing effort for many people, myself included, but that’s not to say there won’t be those transcendental moments replete with meaning that gives life its lovely sheen. We’re never permanently condemned to a single state of mind, or, phrased in another way: This too shall pass.

1. Get your Basics Covered 
Unless we’re living in circumstances in which we have little or no control over resources, it’s crucial to eat, drink, and sleep. Sounds obvious, right? But with depression, these basic human needs can me sometimes hard to acknowledge, let alone act upon. Eating often requires cooking meals, which sometimes requires more effort than we can muster. When possible, we can call on friends and family to help in this task. If we’re living alone, it’s okay to resort to simple meals. While the adequate intake of food groups and vitamins can go a long ways towards feeling better, sometimes we go through phases in which pasta and tomato sauce is all we can come up with. That’s okay. This state of mind is not a permanent one; they never are. For fluids, water is of course, important. I often forget to consume an adequate amount, so I’ve taken to bringing a cup or bottle with me wherever I go. Finally, sleep can be tricky in that with depression, it’s easy to get too much or too little, and sometimes, paradoxically, both. Personally, I am prone to ruminating throughout the night, and if I’m not careful, I can sleep away the day. To quell the brain-chatter that keeps me awake, I’ve found it useful to listen to audiobooks as I fall asleep. You can access free audiobooks of classic literature in the public domain. And if you need that midday nap, go ahead and take it. You aren’t hurting anybody.

depressionblogbread
Not my finest culinary moment.

2. Never be Afraid to Get Help
This is such a crucial step, and it is also one of the hardest to take. Why? Perhaps we live in a society that still values certain stoicism, especially in the workplace. We still equate the need for help as a weakness, especially those of us wrestling with concepts of strength and masculinity. Furthermore, depression has a sneaky way of sapping our self esteem. Why should a therapist or doctor care about my problems when someone else may have it far worse? We may ask ourselves these types of questions, convincing ourselves that our problems, and our lives are not worth seeking help for. These are false beliefs. I know this for a few reasons: the first is that if someone came to me and confided their feelings of depression, I would absolutely be inclined to help in whatever way I could, regardless if this person was a stranger or a friend. I believe most people want to help others. The other reason, is that I’ve called suicide hotlines several times, and each time I have been greeted with kindness and support. I’ve talked with doctors and therapists who have also been helpful. And it’s not because my problems are more worthy than anyone else’s, that’s just what the professionals are there for.
If a doctor prescribes a medication to alleviate symptoms of depression, listen to their expertise. Medications can be a valuable asset in getting better. The only thing to watch out for is self-medication, or medications recommended by people who are not professionals, or who have no scientific merit. By this I mean not following the dosages correctly, using street drugs and excess alcohol, and also buying into “snake oils” that haven’t been tested or proven.

depressionblogphone
Before you make any calls, it might be necessary to google how these suckers work.

3. Acknowledge What is Co-Occuring
When depression throws itself a party, complete with black balloons and a sludgy cake, it makes sure the guest list is a long one. So it’s actually quite common to have depression and something else. For instance, one could have depression with another mental illness, such as anxiety disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder, to name a few. Likewise, depression can manifest itself as a buddy to all sorts of physical disabilities as well. Having awareness about some of these issues will help in the process of healing and of establishing ones’ needs. This will also help family and friends, because when we are able to understand what we need, we are in a better position to ask for it. As an example, my depression is best friends with my anxiety, and this sometimes manifests in a panic attack. Because I know about the underlying anxiety, I can ask my family to tell me exactly what I need to hear. Sometimes it’s just getting a different perspective that can alleviate anxiety, which in turn slightly lessens the burden of depression.

depressionblogdragon
Pictured: me in full panic mode.

4. Exercise if Possible
I say “if possible”, because sometimes due to physical or emotional conditions, it isn’t. There’s no denying the wealth of information supporting exercise as an effective therapy in dealing with depression, even if it’s light stretching and a walk around the block. Whenever possible, physical activity should be considered, but if it can’t be managed for whatever reason, don’t beat yourself up. The last thing a person with depression needs is another reason to feel bad and/or guilty. Again, this state of mind is not forever. If one can’t do yoga today, one can try to do it tomorrow.

depressionblogplant
I’m fairly certain that gardening plastic plants isn’t exercise.

5. Be Gentle
While there is usually little harm in pushing oneself to make that soup or take that walk, it’s important to acknowledge that our condition does affect us in certain ways. For instance, we may not be able to complete activities or assignments at the same pace as classmates or coworkers. We may not go to as many social gatherings, or we may not stay out as long. This is okay, there is no rule that says one must function at 110% capacity in spite of depression. Taking longer than others to complete a task does not make us less talented or less capable. (Also, I suspect that everyone kind of goes at their own pace, whether they’re willing to admit it or not.) Use kind words and encourage yourself, rather than resorting to verbal beatings. Your health and wellbeing is what matters most.

depressionblogball
Treat yourself as you would treat this little guy.

6. Find Meaning in Whatever Ways you can
Viennese psychiatrist Viktor Frankl pioneered a movement in psychology which underlines the importance of finding purpose in our lives. This incredible man survived German concentration camps during WWII by plotting and planning his future, and thinking about his love for his wife. We humans can survive the most arduous times, and Frankl suggests that we do this by finding the concrete meaning of our lives.
This is no easy task when one is depressed however. We tend to lose all sense of perspective. We ruminate on the past, we dread the future (what if it’s more of the same?), we ache in the present. And yet, it’s possible, even in our darkest moments of suffering, to cling to our purpose. It doesn’t have to be grandiose; we may not have the energy to imagine a glittering future full of accomplishments and accolades. But maybe there’s the person we love deeply and want to spare of the suffering they would undergo if we left them. Maybe we have an animal friend in our care who relies on us. Maybe there’s that story we need to tell, or a person we need to help. Maybe it’s a pervasive curiosity to find out what happens next. All reasons to survive are good reasons. We can adapt and change them as we go, because our conditions and circumstances will change as well. For more tips and ideas, visit the post on How to Create Meaning. 

depressionblogcube
Your purpose could be to solve this damn thing for me. 

These tips are the things that have helped me survive my depression. It’s not been easy, and I have wanted more than once to give everything up, but I’ve also had many spectacular moments in the midst of everything. My hope is that, if you feel depressed and are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you will find that acorn of courage and strength we all possess inside and reach out. You are and always will be worthy of survival.

 

 

 

Dining with Bigotry

Do you dread family dinners?
Does it make your jaw
clench, when someone passes potatoes
mid-bigoted-sentence?

What’s there to do when a relative spews
a gravyboat worth of hate
against certain immigrants?

Is it worth the dry turkey
to sit there ashamed, while your great aunt
blabbers on about homosexual campaigns?

Sure, you can offer your well-researched facts.
You might even do so with saint-like
tact. But if all else fails, feel free to leave:
Critical thought will provide more peace
of mind than would grudgingly passing the peas.

 

How To Deal with Bigoted Family Members

It’s strange, isn’t it? A relative can be the picture of kindness: they may volunteer for meaningful causes and donate money to charity, provide us with hugs and encouragement, and give us heartfelt birthday gifts, only to turn around and spew hatred against groups that aren’t “like them.” This may come in the form of jokes or mistaken beliefs, the use of language (such as mentioning what ethnicity a driver appears to be when it has no bearing to their story), or a more upfront, sweeping statement about a group of people. It can be difficult to reconcile the love we feel for our family while becoming increasingly aware of their un-lovable prejudices. The following is a list of ways to troubleshoot dealing with family members who have bigoted opinions. If number 1 doesn’t work, we may proceed to number 2, and so on. But one word of advice: know your own values. There is no single right way to go about doing this, and much of it will depends on what you find important in your life. Good luck!

1. Consider Yourself and Consider Them
The most crucial step when evaluating anyone’s behaviour is this old nugget: put yourself in their shoes. After all, not all bigoted opinions are created equal. One person may simply be unaware that they are using a slur when they speak with enthusiasm about their “G*psy lifestyle.” This is very different than say, the great-uncle who’s convinced there is such a thing as the “homosexual agenda” and consistently spits venom about it. It’s also important to realize that we may have our own bigoted beliefs; even though we may have the most open of minds, it’s hard not to internalize certain opinions. We are, after all, partly products of our society. To give you an example, in high school I was actually quite anti-feminist: I considered other girls and women to be my competition, I believed that I wasn’t like “other girls”, and I thought that traditionally “feminine” behaviours or hobbies were beneath me. Luckily, I eventually learned the error of my ways. The same can be possible for family members with bigoted opinions. Are they affected by internalized misogyny, racism, and homophobia? Are they unaware of their prejudices? Are they acting out of fear, because the world is quickly changing around them, and they just can’t seem to keep up? The answers will help you determine whether they are willing to change or not. Remember your own humble beginnings as well: no one is perfect.

bigotblog1
I’ll gladly put myself in these particular shoes…

2. Ask a lot of Questions
Suppose you aren’t sure how deep the bigotedness goes? A good way to test the waters is by asking a lot of questions. And this has an added bonus: asking questions will give the person the opportunity to examine their own beliefs (though whether or not they actually do this is up to them). For instance, suppose a relative makes a joke at the expense of an ethnic group. Not cute, right? Depending on how they are, they may either expect to elicit a laugh or get a rise. But what if you don’t play into their game? Instead, ask them: “I don’t get it — why is that funny?” They will either dole out an awkward explanation, a sheepish “never mind”, or, if they’re feeling bold, they may delve into a disturbing diatribe about why it is, in fact, funny. Either way, you now have a better idea about what you’re dealing with, without being complicit in their prejudice. Asking people to explain why they hold certain beliefs is another good option: “Why do you think that?” Playing the ingenue will let the person’s bigoted opinions stand out for what they really are: nonsensical and unfounded.

bigotblog2
Families can be tough…

3. Model Appropriate Behaviour
This step is always important, and hopefully it can become one’s default mode of being. Especially during family reunions, when there may be impressionable children or youth that may actually have a well-defined sense of right versus wrong, but, because of their deference to authority, may feel voiceless in expressing their opinions. It becomes important to be the person who speaks fairly. We can model appropriate behaviour by catching those mis-spoken stories and re-framing them: “Then the lady doctor did x”,  becomes “And what did the doctor do next?” We can also gently report facts: “Actually, that’s a common misconception, the majority of Indigenous people in Canada do pay taxes.” Note that indisputable facts are most effective here; there is often little point in offering a different opinion, as the person will be an expert in giving their own opinions. If, after giving the person a few facts to mull over and a period of time to do so, they still resort to parading their bigoted beliefs, realize that it is not merely ignorance that you are facing, now. This person does not want to modify their beliefs because it serves them somehow. Likely, their beliefs give them a false sense of superiority, security, morality, or intelligence. Furthermore, it may be the unfortunate case that if the person happens to be older, they may use this as “evidence” that you are simply naive and uneducated about the ways in which the world really works. Older people often do have wisdom, but this does not preclude them from mistaken beliefs and feelings of hatred towards others.

bigotblog3e
This robot is the ideal model for positive behaviour, but his cuddly side does leave something to be desired. 

4. Set Boundaries
Suppose we have tried all of the preceding steps to no avail. We’re still assaulted with a barrage of homophobic monologues during our visits. The next step is to set boundaries, for ourselves and our sanity, for the aforementioned children exposed to these toxic viewpoints, and for, in this particular example, our LGBTQ friends who may not be present but who would be saddened or hurt by these remarks. We must not allow hatred to fester, and we can do this by telling our relatives statements such as: “I love coming over and visiting you, but these remarks are really starting to make me feel sad/hurt/frustrated/, and I would appreciate if we could talk about something else.” Or, “let’s not spoil this dinner by talking politics!” Or, “In our house, we’ve decided to love and accept everybody equally, and we would appreciate if you would respect this while you’re here.” Doing this takes courage: despite your best intentions and your most gentle demeanour, you may anger or offend your relative (sometimes people are offended because they feel ashamed), but if this is the case, recognize that their reaction is more about themselves than about you. Weigh it out and decide what’s more important to you.

bigotblog4e
Please leave your racist monologues on the other side of this line. 

5. Give an Ultimatum
Generally, I am not a proponent of ultimatums, especially when we are not sincere or serious about them. Often they are used to heighten the drama of a situation without providing a real solution. But supposing we’ve tried all of the other steps here and our relative still decides to be disrespectful, it may be time to pull this out. You can put it in writing; sometimes it’s easier to say something difficult without being interrupted or being at the mercy of our possible lack of verbal proficiency. But there is no one right way to do this. It may look something like this: “I have asked you several times not to do X while we are visiting, because it makes me feel like Y. I feel like if this were to continue, we might have to shorten/call off/eliminate our visits.”

bigotblog6e
Don’t use this as a template. 

6. Distance Yourself
Oh boy, still nothing? We may have to ask ourselves how much our relative really cares about our feelings at this point. Are they saying things to aggravate us because it’s somehow funny to them? Are they showing us any goodwill or respect for our feelings? Even after we’ve explained to them the damage this inflicts on our relationships? If it seems more important to them to have their racist spiels, sexist jokes, homophobic rants, and hateful diatribes, it may be worth asking ourselves a very difficult question: is this the kind of person we want in our lives? This may be painful, but perhaps it is necessary. For example, the lesbian woman who has the aunt that continuously denigrates what she call her “lifestyle choices”, may be making a healthy choice by distancing herself from a person who is consistently hurting her. Again, there is no rules about when and how to do this. What one person tolerates may be different for someone else. But sometimes it can be better to handpick our families and fill them with people who love and support us for who we are.

bigotblog5
Ah, peace at last. 

While we will almost always have disagreements and arguments with family members, some of them are more serious than others. We must know ourselves and our own values, and take the appropriate steps to act upon them. Wherever possible, we should seek to promote education and tolerance among those closest to us. We can do this by first considering where they come from, model appropriate behaviour, and correct their mistaken assumptions with facts. When all else fails, we must resort to what is healthiest for ourselves.

How to Create Meaning

Sometimes we feel like we’re the object in our lives, rather than the subject. We feel as though the forces in life act upon us, leaving us with little or no agency. My friend has an interesting way of putting this; he said he sometimes feels as though he’s a plinking about in a pinball machine. Combine this with the common phrases “life is short”, “time flies”, and “where did the years go?” and we are left with the impression that we’re rapidly falling through time, trying to clutch at anything that might give us meaning. Of course, another way of going about this is to create meaning for ourselves. It might not slow down the ride, but it will give us the agency to clear our own path. And when we look back, we’ll see a series of accomplishments (and setbacks) rather than the arbitrary, blinding momentum of a pinball. So how do we do this?

 1. Know Thyself
All of those visionaries, like Charles Darwin, Michelangelo, and J.K. Rowling (let’s be honest) seem to have one thing in common: passion. But how does one know what one’s passionate about? For some, it’s an obvious inclination towards a particular subject, but for others, it may be harder to know. What if one likes a little bit of everything? The best way to go about knowing for sure might be to interview oneself, like a journalist would. It is important to note that we are never too old to try this exercise, as it is never to late to discover our passion. To interview oneself, one requires a little bit of time alone, and a notebook or a sound or video recorder. Simply jot down the questions or answers, or record them to listen to later on. The following are some of the questions I asked myself to figure out: just what does this meat-bag want out of life?

  • What activities bring me the most joy?
  • What do I value most?
  • What are my feelings about family and money?
  • What’s possible for me to accomplish in my life?
  • What will my legacy be, and what do I want it to be?
  • Do I trust myself? Why or why not?

These questions help bring some of our deeper assumptions about life to the forefront. Hopefully, by thinking about the things that bring us joy — those things we do even when we don’t always feel like it — we can pinpoint the thing we want to focus on. And this can be anything. It could be a creative endeavour, but it can just as well be to start or take care of a family, to learn about a certain subject, to be a business mogul. There are no wrong answers during this activity.

createmeaning4
Only you know the answers.

2. Don’t Judge
After asking these questions, one might be skeptical about the answers. Suppose you find out that you’re the most passionate and happiest while making dog sweaters (that’s adorable). This may not be what you wanted to find out. We’re often cornered by societal pressures and told to aspire to amass money and, if possible, power. Society tends to reward certain ambitions and disregard others. Combine this with the pressure one often feels from family “we just want the best for you, really,” and we’ve got a recipe ripe for ignoring our passion and striving for something that ultimately doesn’t suit us. The end result is that we may satisfy our most basic needs, but we will remain strangely empty, or unfulfilled. The solution is filter out this influence, and we do this by starting with ourselves. No matter what our passion might be, if it makes us happy then we should trust it. Of course, we will still have restraints and responsibilities that may require us to do a little bit of juggling, and in some scenarios we may feel like we’re taking a bit of a risk. But, as they say, “life is short.”

browniespider
In another life, my foremost passion is dressing my dog as a superhero.

3. Let go of Excuses
Those pesky things that stand in our way are more often than not excuses of our own creation. We can be very good at limiting our potential by posing barriers. This happens for a variety of reasons; chief among them is usually fear of failure. What if you give it your all and you’re actually terrible at it? The thing is, following one’s passion is not a one shot deal. It’s a practice; something you get to come back to and explore and perfect. Other common excuses are lack of time and lack of resources. In most cases, some clever brainstorming will solve these issues. The truth is, we will never have time unless we juggle and shift our lives around to create it. There are, of course, some legitimate reasons that could stand in our way, and these may include illness and unforeseen tragedies. Usually, we can determine whether a reason is legitimate or an self-made excuse by demanding an honest answer from ourselves.

createmeaning1
Sorry, I can’t today, my couch has something really important to tell me. 

4. Embrace Setbacks
Speed bumps are inevitable. Some of our setbacks will be devastating, and others will simply leave a bad taste. The only sure thing is that they will happen. It is tempting to put a positive spin on this, to try desperately to claw for a silver lining, somewhere. It’s often said, after all, that one door closes and another opens. But this often leaves us wondering where that damn other door could possible be. Sometimes these things just suck. Where there’s a lesson, we can try to learn it, and if not, the trick is to get up and move on. There may not be another open door, but we can kick down a wall.

createmeaning3edit
Charge against those speed bumps! (Not literally when you’re driving, though. Slow down.)

5. Stay the course
Once we’ve bulldozed our way through a setback, we need to adopt an attitude that will ensure that we get up and do it again. And again. Some may be tempted to call this motivation, and inspiration, but those twins are fickle, fair-weather friends that will only show up on certain special occasions (such as upcoming deadlines, for instance). We need tenacity and determination. These are vague concepts, but they can come in the shape of reminders such as repeating the question “what do I want my legacy to be?” They could be brief glances in a rearview mirror: look how far we’ve already come. Or, it may be a case of just gritting our teeth and getting through the day. Usually, once we start the task, we feel a sense of fulfilment and relief, which encourages us to get through the next day, and the day after that.

createmeaning2edit
Brave those seas!

6. Create Accountability
This is an optional step, but it can be very helpful to create a venue for oneself in which we can showcase our efforts and our progress. For many people, myself included, blogs can be a useful tool. Not only do they give us the opportunity to display a multitude of different talents, from cooking and art, to business advice, they also allow us to create deadlines that help keep us on track. Furthermore, it gives people an opportunity to give us feedback, which can be useful when we hone our skills.

blogception
It’s blog-ception, or, my way of staying accountable. 

Hopefully these steps will provide a bit of guidance and a boost of courage. Following ones’ passion takes a bit of guts, but that bit of apprehension might be well worth it once you look back and see the path you’ve forged for yourself.

Rejection

The following is a found poem. It uses only words received in various rejection letters. 

We thank you for your interest.
We appreciate it.
And we know it sucks. (another rejection.)
unfortunately, unfortunately, unfortunately,
We’re going to have to pass.
You aren’t quite right.
You don’t meet our needs.
You aren’t really the right

fit.

But good luck in the future. And thanks.

Quick Announcement

The wonderful people at Beautiful Minds Magazine have published a story I wrote on my experience with depression and checking into a psychiatric hospital. You can read it here.

Disclaimer: it deals with difficult topics including depression and suicide.

How To Cope with Rejection

The missing breath, the blood pounding in one’s temples, the terrible feelings of inadequacy—these are all common in the aftermath of a rejection. And there are many kinds of rejection: from not landing the job, to break-ups, to those letters stating thanks, but no thanks. Rejections are inevitable, and they seem to tell us we’re not good enough. For instance, in high school I was palpably awkward, and I decided the best course of action to woo an older boy I was interested in would be to ask him on a lunch date, point blank. In front of all of his friends. I didn’t speak loudly enough for him to hear me the first time, so I was forced to repeat myself, which caused more of his friends to perk up and listen. And the he laughed. He said: uh no, I don’t think so. And I stood there, under the glow of his friends’ grins, unsure of what to say. I wanted to disappear, or at the very least, move to a different country. Since then, I’ve worked tremendously on my social graces, and although I still consider myself to be an awkward person, I can cope with rejection a little more easily. The following are a few pointers on how to do just that.

1. Don’t Take it Personally
This is easier said than done. But sometimes we can get so caught up that initial feeling of failure and inadequacy that we forget that it’s not us as a person being rejected. Rather, in the case of a job, perhaps it’s our resume that wasn’t on point, or perhaps we have been passed over for more nepotistic reasons. In the case of rejection letters following queries for creative projects, it may simply be the whimsical preference of a publication. Even if our work is at fault, this still does not mean we are bad people. In the case of break-ups, so many things can be at play, including the thoughts and feelings of the other person. Often, it is more about them than it is about us. But even if it was our bad habits that drove someone away, it’s still a matter of something we do, and not who we are. For those of us with low self-esteem, myself included, this can be a hard thing to understand. We might have a tendency to measure our worth with our accomplishments and our lack of rejections. But rejections happen to even the most brilliant among us. J.K. Rowling, for instance, had the first volume in the Harry Potter series rejected twelve times before it was finally published. So repeat the mantra: it’s not about me.

rejection1
These kinds of rejections are not helpful in the least.

2. Get Some Perspective
So we now know that our rejections wasn’t about us being terrible people, but that still doesn’t help that awful feeling that we might as well hang it up and walk away: from our career, from having a love life, or from fulfilling our creative ambitions. After going on several bad dates, it may be tempting to get just a few cats and call it quits. And it’s okay to sulk, for a time. But it’s also important to get perspective. Is a rejection letter from a college going to completely determine one’s quality of life? Is a failed essay going to get one expelled? Is another bad date really going to signify that one deserves to be alone forever? It may be tempting to think so in the moment, but really, all it means is that one particular person said “no” in one particular circumstance. This is not nearly enough to define the course of our lives. We don’t need to be happy about our rejections, but we also have to give them their realistic magnitude, and usually it’s actually next-to-nothing.

rejection2
Don’t burn all of your artwork because of one critic.

3. Do Something Nice for Yourself
We often pop the champagne to celebrate our successes, but it’s also important to celebrate our rejections. When that silver lining loses its lustre and looks grey, it’s time to do something nice for ourselves. It’s the same principle as seeing a loved one fail: we feel compassion towards them, so we might treat them with their favourite food, a small gift, a friendly pep-talk, or anything that might bring them cheer. We can do this for ourselves. Of course, there is a disclaimer to use some caution, to make sure that our self-care does not result in indulging damaging behaviours: overspending, binge-eating or drinking, or drug use. Treating ourselves should make us feel better afterwards, not worse. (Feeling guilty is usually a sure sign that we may not have our long-term health in mind.)

rejection3
My favourite thing to do is pay a bubbly visit to Ducky.

4. Do Something Productive with the Rejections
The negative feelings after a rejection have more power if we keep them secret. We can remove some of the hold it has on us by telling others about it. We could swap rejection stories and have a laugh about them (as long as we make sure it’s not at our expense.) We could write about them in a journal. We can also make our rejections tangible, by writing them down and printing them, or using rejection letters sent to us. We can transform these into projects requiring paper maché or origami. Some people even frame their rejections for everyone to see. Stephen King said he kept his rejection letters impaled on a nail in his bedroom. This takes away their power: they become something mundane — a part of our experience rather than an enormous obstacle.

rejection4
Make yourself a nice cootie-catcher with that expertly worded letter. 

5. Re-Evaluate but Don’t Abandon 
Now that the rejection has lost some of its sting, we can look at it unflinchingly and evaluate its merit. Did the person breaking up with us offer anything that may be conducive to our growth or to further relationships? Did the potential boss offer us any feedback? This is a stage where we can objectively examine the claims made by our rejectors to see if we can use them to our advantage. (Of course, if someone tells us “You are bad, and you should feel bad,” we should probably just disregard them.) We  can tweak our approach but we don’t need to give up. It may just be a few things that we can correct that will make all the difference in the future. But this remains our decision. All feedback we may receive is not equally constructive, and it is up to us to decide whether we want to implement it or not.

rejection5
I’ll jot down some good ideas in my notebooks, but ultimately I decide if I’m making any changes.

Next time you receive a rejection, make sure to remind yourself that you’re still a good person. Often, the rejection isn’t even about you, anyways. Make sure you stay the course, do something kind for yourself, and take the power out of the rejection by opening up about it. Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you need some tips on tenacity, see how to foster resilience.