Last week, I was dealt a major blow of crushing disappointment proportions.
Nothing life-or-death, no major medical or family crisis, just got the answer I didn't want to receive for something I was not merely looking forward to, but really, really, REALLY wanted to happen.
Perhaps I was unrealistically confident and upbeat in my expectations of a positive response, so much so that I projected my charmed life after the anticipated "Yes" about 10 years and five giant steps forward. All this made the eventual "No" blow -- delivered via email, read and re-read about 175 times -- particularly painful.
Now I'm not unique, we've all been through rejections and dejections like this; wins that turn to losses, "the other one" picked instead of you, a contract un-renewed, a critical lambasting.
It ain't fun. It hurts. And it can be long-term traumatic.
The difference this time around, though...is that I knew how to deal with it.
Or put another way...
I knew the secret of how to defeat defeat.
I learned it, of course, the hard way. The circumstances aren't my favourite ones to recall, but it was at a failed speaking engagement that I greedily took only for the money (sadists who want to know more can learn further details here). Try as I might, I was a mis-fit with the audience from minute one and just couldn't connect no matter what I did. The end result was almost literally having the mic taken from my hands in front of a rapidly-depleting ballroom of people.
As I walked off stage and through "the valley of the shadow of death" (the aisle to the back of the room and the lobby to the elevator) the pain, embarrassment and humiliation was palpable. My gut felt like it had just been kicked by a kangaroo, I broke out into an icy cold sweat, my vision was Vaseline-coated blurry and my mouth desert-dry.
But instead of letting it all get to me, instead of being devastated...I comforted myself with these words:
"Hmmm...so THAT'S what total humiliation feels like!"
Rather than let the feeling overtake and define me, I defined the feeling. This examination and mental understanding of the defeat let me take control of it, and of myself. Instead of me breaking down, I instead broke the feeling down into small component parts...the size of which made them easier to brush aside. Three blocks away from that ballroom stage, in less than a 10-minute walk, I was laughing again, the episode and its sting behind me.
That's the big secret: Don't have a breakdown over failure; break it down instead.
It was this process, this learning, that helped me get over my most recent set-back. The physical reactions were different (nausea instead of pain in the stomach, hot flush instead of cold sweat, a little choked up), but again, instead of falling victim to it, I took it on head-on. A few minutes of wallowing in misery, a break-down analysis of the overall feeling into component feelings, an understanding and dismissal of them and I was back in business in a half-hour.
So great, now I know what total humiliation AND crushing rejection feel like.
ANDI know how to defeat them.
Which are important lessons to embrace and impart, I suppose.
But frankly, next time...I hope I get a "Yes."