Who’s driving the bus?

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” William Shakespeare

Rejection for a freelance is something that happens when you apply for a piece of work and someone else gets it, and that’s all it is. A creative freelance generally has to apply for every single piece of work via an audition, pitch or short contract. Rejections are just normal.

What makes it a positive or negative experience depends on what meaning you apply to it.  Or to paraphrase the great bard, rejection is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so!

Take a recent situation I was involved in, where a group of journalists were being made redundant from a national daily newspaper. All were initially shocked and needed to take a bit of time to process the news, but the reactions from all those people were startlingly different, two in particular stood out, I’ll call them Jack and George. Both were in their early 50’s, good pensions, due a respectable redundancy payment, and reasonably financially stable.

Jack, once he got over the initial shock, was really happy, he had plans for travelling with his partner, which he had never had the opportunity to do, so he very quickly saw this event as freedom and an opportunity to catch up on his dreams.

George, however, didn’t seem to get over the shock, he only seemed able to focus on what he saw as the underlying message that he was not needed, and therefore useless and worthless. He couldn’t initially see how his life could ever improve from this, as he saw it, condemnation of him.

The rejection was the same, the consequences were similar, but the meaning, freedom, versus condemnation, made all the difference to the experience.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The truth is, no one can make you feel anything without your consent!

What people often don’t recognise is how much choice they have in how they react to events in life, even seemingly tough ones like rejection. When we are tied up in the moment, it is easy to feel like we are at the mercy of our thought processes, but we can learn to steer our reactions in a more useful direction, it just takes awareness and practice.

Some ways to achieve this are:

  • See this experience in context, whatever is happening is only happening in part of your life, it does not define you, and it does not change who you are. You are so much more than whatever is happening in your life right now. Take some time to think about other areas in your life that are good, family, friends or your health for example.
  • Step back from the experience, physically take a step back and imagine stepping out of your upset self, and see yourself standing where you were. Giving yourself space in this way, can allow you to take a break from the feelings and let you gather good quality information about the situation, from a more analytical position, rather than an emotional one. This can be a great source of new insights and an alternative perspective to any stressful situation.
  • Step across into your best friends shoes, and offer yourself some advice and support from their position. We often talk to ourselves in ways that we would never talk to another living being, learn to talk to yourself in a more positive supportive way, learn to be your own best friend.
  • You may not be able to control the situation that is upsetting you, but there are many things in life that you can control. Take a walk if it’s a nice day, go meet a friend, do something you enjoy. Do something constructive about another work opportunity. This will not only take your mind off the thing that is bothering you, it will remind you that there is so much more to you and your life, than this single event.

You don’t have to be a passenger in your own life, grab the steering wheel and start driving yourself!

Rejection for freelances is as much a part of that lifestyle, as accumulating manure is if you keep horses! Do horse owners buy bigger premises so they can keep collecting all the horse manure that is deposited around them, combing through it regularly to see if it has changed? No. They recognise that this is an inevitable by-product, and sell it to local gardeners?

In exactly the same way, there is nothing to be gained by any of us sifting through the minutiae of our rejections solely for purposes of self torture! We need only sort through them once, make sure we benefit from anything that can be learned from the experience. Then we need to spread them out on our metaphorical roses and let the sun and rain rot them down, so we can benefit and grow from the experience.

So, who’s driving the bus? You are! So go pick the nicest possible route for yourself!

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