Overcoming Criticism and Rejection

Have you ever had a horrible performance and just wanted to hide?
Have you ever gone out on a limb with your work and had it completely rejected?

It can feel awful, right?

Maybe you spent a lot of time on your art, and were SO excited to share it with your audience, only to either hear crickets, or even worse, be shredded in criticism.

From the criticism comes a flooding of doubt, and I imagine you feel like your confidence is nonexistent.

As you are working on your next project or performance, you can feel that voice coming up saying,
I don’t know what I’m doing
They’re just going to hate it…

And you begin to question everything you’re doing, and your creative process goes from a place of joy to one filled with stress and anxiety.

You may even stop your work, paralyzed in place for fear of being booed, judged, and rejected,

How do you get past this block?
How do you regain confidence and feel amazing again?

 

This past weekend I went for marriage counseling with my fiance up at Zen Mountain Monastery.  We met with the Abbott, Shugen, who has been a guiding light for me since my divorce.

To have counseling, we had to meet in the Abbott’s room, and as I walked in, a huge realization came over me.

I had only been in this room once before, and it was five years ago. 

When I walked into this room five years ago, it was to have my first ever face to face teaching with a Zen teacher.  I was participating in the Intro to Zen Training weekend, and my heart was in my throat.  I was barely able to choke out my burning question of ‘how do I let go??’…..I wept that whole weekend and I was coming to grips with losing my home, marriage, and possible motherhood.

I felt shaky, unsure, and fragile. I was dealing with the largest rejection of my life.….hearing I was no longer loved or wanted.

Same room……

Now I was walking in hand in hand with my fiance, planning my actual ceremony in this Monastery.

Same room…..

I could barely conceive this was possible five years ago.  I though the rejection would destroy me. And the whole energy of the room was different for me.  There was more space, the room felt larger, and I felt so at ease.

Space and ease.

Maybe it wasn’t the room.

 

So, how do you find this in those heartbreaking moments of rejection?
How do you return to the same “room” and have different results?

 

As I sat in the chair facing Shugen, and looking at my life partner, one word came into my head,
CHANGE

Change is constant.

When I was facing the most devastating rejection of my life, this was my mantra. I learned I had been wrong for years…I thought things would always be the same.  I thought things were permanent….like my marriage, my home, and my performance fears.

I thought I would always suffer in the same places, choke on the big auditions, and not get picked for the roles I really wanted.

And yet…..I watched it all change.

My marriage I thought I would have forever….end.
My apartment I thought I would have children in…be sold and bought by a new couple.

And as I accepted this change, I found it freed me to take larger risks in my art, and a thought occurred…
What if I DID get picked for the roles I wanted?
What if I could give my best performance regardless of outside pressure?

What IF I could return to audition rooms and stages where I had been rejected before and now shine?

At first it was a sliver of an opening….a simple energy I took into my performance, and with each new song and dance, I would try it out….one day at a time.

And then I watched my whole performance career return, and directors and choreographers offering jobs and roles I was excited about!

I went in for a big Broadway audition where the pianist played the music horribly….and I wasn’t phased.  This was a HUGE difference from before when I would have been derailed and left feeling dejected.

 

So, when was the last time you felt criticized and rejected in your Art?

Take a moment and allow yourself to feel the disappointment.
Close your eyes, and place your hand on your heart or belly.
Connect to your breath, and allow the feeling to rise, and then fall.

So often, the strong emotion just wants to be acknowledged.  Often times, once we accept it and offer love, the feeling disappears.

Change.  It’s there and then it’s gone.

Turns out, it’s not permanent. It doesn’t last.

If this can happen with a feeling, it can happen in your Art.

It can happen in your performance, and how you are received by your audience. That criticism can change and WILL change when you return again and again with the intention of making great work.

You are becoming and changing in every moment, and what a miracle!
You feeling stuck is only a bump in the road.

Come back to your inspiration and your vision of what you want to SAY as an Artist.

Same room…..filled with space and ease.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

Illuminating the Dark

I used to be terrified of the dark.

I was thoroughly convinced the boogeyman existed, and he lived in my attic.  As the sun would set, the dark shadows would envelop the door outside my room, and I imagined his glowing eyes waking and staring at me, his teeth bared, and his wicked grin widening in response to my terrified eyes and shortened breath.

And it wasn’t just the attic….underneath my bed held it’s own playground of demons, aliens, and misshaped creatures, who’s tentacles and long fingers would wrap around the edges of my comforter.

Did you ever feel like this?
What did you do to ward off the demons of the night as a child?

My defense was stuffed animals, and I had them on BOTH sides; piled high so no matter where the monsters arose from, I was protected. I would disappear under my sheets, because here it was safe.

Safe from the dark.

While I would love to share this fear fell away as my Barbie’s were sold, it actually dug in.

I remember seeing M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller, Signs, and barely sleeping after seeing it, waking my then-husband in the middle of the night to walk to the bathroom with me.

I was 27.

This fear of the dark stayed with me, for ten more years, until I had to face what the dark was really about for me….loss of control.

 

At 37, I lost my home, marriage, my car, a dear friend, and many belongings that were stolen.

All of this was out of my control.  I felt like I was swirling in a tsunami. I didn’t know who I was anymore…
Who was I without these things?
These identities?
Mother to be, wife, artist?

I sat face to face with a Zen master and sobbed my deepest question which was hounding my days,
How do you let go?

He looked at me, gently handed me a box of tissues, and asked me the most powerful question,
Are you ok without him?

As if snapped awake from a terrible dream, an energy released in my body.  Indeed, I WAS ok.  I was sitting here breathing, my basic needs were being taken care of.  I was alive.

And something crazy began to happen.

I began to take solace in the dark.

I would come home from a busy day, or a disappointing date, and leave the lights off in my apartment.  I would sink down onto the floor and just sit in the dark, the vibrant city alive outside my window…and me, taking a moment.

Turns out there was no boogeyman waiting in my closet, or alien under my bed.  This space that once held such fear and uncertainty was now actually comforting.

The dark was just darkness….nothing else.  Now that I had realized I am ok within it, I was willing to spend more time there.

Being in a place of not knowing and releasing control actually was HEALING. I had spent so much energy in feeling I had to KNOW every step, control every aspect of my life, and that had only exhausted me, and stolen my ability to show up most powerfully as a performer.

I wanted to believe for the first 37 years of my life that things were permanent….and that I could control that. My year of loss taught me differently.  And to be honest?  It was a huge relief.

Maybe there was far more magic occurring.  What if I took my hands off the wheel and tried something IN PLACE of control….what if I tried TRUST?

Was this what was waiting under the bed for me all along?
What’s waiting for you?

 

Where do you control in your Art?
What monsters have you convinced yourself are waiting in the dark for you?

What is YOUR dark?

The creative process is full of magic and mystery.  And it requires we release control to allow not only the muse, but to enjoy it!

I watch so many Artists stop themselves because they get caught in uncertainty.  And trust me, I get it!  I could have won a prize for how many times I did this in my professional career. But, the dark was not what I thought it was.

I thought letting go of control would harm me.  Instead, it freed me.

Letting go of control freed me to take risks, to play stage roles I could have never played before.  Letting go of control freed me to launch a business, build a global fan base, and get back to my childhood love of writing.

 

What if the uncertainty is actually your gateway to powerful creation?

And if you released control, what would you do differently?

You may peek under your bed and see simple dust balls piling under the bed frame…..and beyond that?

That’s where the real discovery lies.

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography