1Matchfire, the duo improv team with my husband Roger, did not make it into the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival. This is the third rejection this year. (Well maybe it’s the second and a half. We were a last minute substitution at one local festival.)
No matter the score, I took this one hard. I tried fighting these feelings. I had breakfast, walked the dog with Roger and sat down at my computer to work, hoping to transform my misery into a blog post, but it came off as just a lot of whining. I finally gave up. I went to bed with my iPad and played 2048. I cried when I kept losing. Of course I never win, that’s what makes the game addictive.
I wallowed in my misery and submitted to intense feelings of self-hatred.
DISCLAIMER: Before I lure you into complete sympathy, you need to know that Roger and I will perform at the Pittsburgh festival with Left for Dead, our other improv team. So I still get to go and experience the festivities. And if only one of my teams could make the cut, I’d rather it be Left for Dead because it’s so much fun traveling with them.
Now seeing the full picture, I think you’ll agree: This rejection was all ego, making it a perfect situation to analyze.
When I shifted from wallowing to self-analysis, I realized I didn’t hate myself. People who hate themselves don’t self-soothe by playing electronic games. The core emotion was fear.
Paying attention to the specific thoughts streaming through my head, I found three that scared me.
- I have been discovered for the hack I really am. Worse than that… even though some improv friends already knew it, they didn’t want to bother telling me.
- I’m not as good as I thought I was, which means I have no ability to distinguish between good and bad improv. Therefore I’ll never improve. (The logical disconnect between this fear and the previous one didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I only realized this as I worked on my second draft.)
- This rejection symbolizes my entire life. If I’m not good enough for this festival, I am not good enough for anything. I can’t do anything well. I will never accomplish anything of value again in my life.
As I type these out, they seem ridiculous. And even though I’m pretty confident you have similar thought processes, I’m a little worried you’ll think I’m a nut case.
But two hours ago, these conclusions seemed completely valid and believable. Plus I validated and confirmed them by scanning my memory for other rejections, disappointments and failures. Along with that I dismissed any prior achievements or forward movement as either insignificant or anomalies.
After documenting all this with pen and paper, I eventually came to my senses and realized:
Today’s rejection is only today’s. It’s not a predictor of the future, nor symbolic of my past.
Even after this epiphany, which is obvious when fear isn’t in charge of my brain, I still felt crappy. So I dug some more and hit my personal mother lode.
I measure my self-worth based on how I compare to others.
Moreover, when I fall short of others, I’m not just less, I leap over all gradations of less to completely unworthy. In other words, if I’m not the best, then I’m nothing.
Admitting this makes me feel shallow and dirty. But by stating it I can work on it. And I already realized something:
Everyone comes to the party we call life with a different set of gifts and challenges, making all comparisons between us meaningless.
But wait there’s more:
There is inherent self-worth in just showing up and struggling through each day.
No matter what happens—what rejections, disappointments and failures I endure or what accomplishments I achieve—I am worthy. And you as well. We are all equally worthy.
So thank you Pittsburgh Comedy Festival for the opportunity to remember that self worth should defeat rejection every time.
I’d love to hear your comments about how you handle rejection.