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

Wholehearted Art

My heart is pounding.

I’ve stopped breathing as I scroll down my blood test results, looking for that ONE number.

The number that will tell me everything.

The number that speaks into every piece of food I have eaten in the past three months, every liquid I have drunk, and every supplement I have taken.

It speaks into every choice, and the swings of frustration and isolation I felt staring at fruit, pizza, beer, and cookies.

My A1C.

When I finally find it, at the bottom of the third page, I can’t believe my eyes.

I never expected THIS.

It’s the lowest it’s ever been.  It’s a total reversal.  My body chemistry has completely changed.

I stand in shock for a moment, staring at the number, just to convince myself it’s real. And I think,

Oh my gosh…I MADE it.

Have you ever felt this;  that feeling of arrival in your Art?

Do you believe in change?

 

You are pre-diabetic.

Even as the nurse on the other end of the phone was telling me this, I was in complete shock and denial.

I’ve been active my whole life, I eat organic, and I’m thin. How is this possible??

Her diagnosis was confirmed by a bio chemist nutritionist named Kylie Reiffert of KR Nutrition.

And I made a decision in that moment.  I wanted to be healthy, and I would do whatever it took to bring my blood sugar down.

I set my sights on a number, and started working with Kylie last summer.

In one fell swoop, most of what I was used to eating was taken off my plate. I had always had a dancer mentality around eating, and now my body was going to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs.  I mourned my popcorn, chips, and crackers.  I said goodbye to craft beer, and had to learn a completely new way of eating.

I was hungry a lot, and felt really isolated going out to eat, as I struggled to find things on the menu I could eat.

Everything was turned upside down.

In three months time, we were able to bring my A1C down from 5.8 to 5.5.  The range for pre-diabetes is 5.6 – 5.9. This was a HUGE win, as Kylie shared she had never seen anyone do this before.

I went from being pre-diabetic to just under.  I wasn’t out of the danger zone yet, as pre-diabetic starts at 5.6, so the diet continued, and I stayed the course.

And then I plateaued.

The next blood test was exactly the same, and I cried.  It had been a rough four months for me, including getting a nasty stomach flu, and trying so hard to get back to a healthy weight.

But even more so…I felt so discouraged.

Why wasn’t my blood sugar number changing?
Why was it standing stock still?

Have you felt like this in your art?
Worked so hard towards your goal, and see the same results?
Do you set a timeline to achieve your goal and then find yourself at the date with no change?

It can be SO frustrating!

So, what do you do?
Do you believe in change?

 

I was recently listening to this brilliant podcast called the Dharma Ocean. The teacher was speaking into one of the greatest questions we ask, especially as we are working towards our goals.

The goals of,
Publishing your novel
Booking your dream gigs
Selling your Art
Producing your show

and ultimately,
Thriving in your Art.

His question was,
How do we create change?

The answer was very simple,
Commitment.

He spoke into a deeper commitment, a wholehearted commitment.  One that isn’t dependent on what you feel by the day or hour, but transcends swings in moodiness and experiences of pain and pleasure.

Unless your commitment transcends that, it doesn’t mean anything, and we won’t change.

The commitment has to be unconditional.  It means you leave the option to quit out.

It’s really LOVE.  Love for your Art, for your voice, and for the passion that expresses through your words, music, and brush.

This is why it’s wholehearted. 

He had a brilliant ship analogy, saying you get into your boat, you point your ship due east towards your goal, and head there. Your journey is not dependent on the water.  Storms may come and go, you may pass shiny islands with palm trees, but you stay the course.

It can be common to have commitment that is contingent, which translates to
I’m committing BUT leaving options open.

If our commitment is not wholehearted, we won’t make the journey.  And then we won’t experience the fulfillment and fruition of our efforts. In essence, we give up.

And I get it!  We go through SO much on this path.  Some days we feel inspired, and other days we feel we want to run ANYWHERE and hide.  I felt all of this in the last year, and it was compounded by other health issues like a neck injury, building my business, and also experiencing disappointment after disappointment in dating.

But the main point it, whatever we are feeling in that moment, we practice self empathy, allow it to pass THROUGH us, and then come back to the direction.

Come back to the goal.
Come back to the number that tells you everything.
Come back to the journey.

Stay in the Boat.

 

If I had given up, I would have diabetes.
If I had given up dating, I would never have met my incredible man and experienced the love I was hungering for.
If I had given up, I would not have doubled my business in one year and be writing to you.

In one year’s time, I went from 5.8 to 5.0.  This is a miraculous result. I could have given up at the plateau and said, It’s NOT working! It wasn’t easy, I went through some hurricanes, but I stayed the course.  Why?

Because underneath every wave was the belief in our greatest reality,
CHANGE.

Change is constant.  You are changing as you read this.  

And the beauty is,
YOU decide what that change will be.

Believe in change.  Nothing is permanent.

Set your sights on your goal.

And stay in the boat, with your whole heart.

 

 

 

Photography by: Caitlin Cannon