In the world of writing, there is a lot of rejection. There are magazines, contests, and publications to which you can submit your work and wait, for what feels like years, to hear what they think. If you’re a writer yourself and have willingly subjected your work to this kind of critique and assessment, then you will know how much it hurts to have someone tell your work no. It makes you question every word you have ever written. And regardless of your friends and family reassuring you that your work isn’t total crap, you still find yourself thrown head first into doubt.
For months I worked on a collection of poems to submit to a national competition. I spent hours each day pouring myself over and over these poems, trying to get them just right. Trying to get every breath, every syllable to sound like the pain or joy I was trying to share. Five months ago I finally submitted it and since then I had been waiting, rather impatiently, on a yes or no from the competition. In early August, while obsessively checking and rechecking the web page, I finally got my answer. In their defense it was probably the most gentle rejection I have ever received; a very eloquently worded email about how grateful they were for me to have let them read my work, but unfortunately, I have not been chosen as a finalist. At first, I really wanted to cry. You know, just freaking burst into tears, lay in bed all day under the covers, only coming out for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (preferably the one with a cheesecake core, but I’m really not picky).
But just as the tears were surfacing, my phone lit up with a notification of a message replying to one of my blog posts. The message was sweet and kind and it made me smile. I forgot about my planned sobbing session for a moment and got caught up spilling as much gratitude as I possibly could without gushing all over my messenger app.
That one, well-timed yes, made me completely forget about that one, painful no. It saved me from that no. It almost immediately filled the emptiness that the no had created, but what if that yes hadn’t come then? What if I had to sit in that no without a yes?
I had been waiting for the contest to validate me. Sending in that collection was what I viewed as the final tangible piece in a season of healing. All the pain I had felt I used to make something and all those poems were that something. I had been waiting to hear what the magazine thought to validate my work, my skill, and my pain. I needed them to tell me how powerful my work was, how it moved them, how it shook them. I needed them to read my words and say “Yes, a thousand times yes. Your pain was real and raw and we love the art you made with it.” That’s what I wanted (I also kind of wanted the prize money, but that was less for validation and more for supporting my shopping habits).
The yes from one of my readers affirmed what the contest didn’t. It gave me the sense of validation that I was seeking from an external source that was not a friend or relative. I was teeter-tottering my worth on whether or not someone said yes or no.
We are surrounded every day by thousands of yes’. Thousands of tiny yes’; people liking our Insta pics or commenting on our new Facebook profile picture, people at work or school complementing our outfits or our hair. While we ignore the small yes’, we wait on the edge of our seats for the big ones. We put everything we are into waiting and hoping for that big yes. Yes, he likes you. Yes, you got into grad school. Yes, you got the job. Yes’ that you let define you. We build ourselves out of them. Our worth completed by them.
No’s, no’s that leave us aching, tend to come less frequently than the yes’ do. We don’t often dwell on the tiny no’s, but when the big no’s come, they come in hard. The boy that didn’t want to date you, the roommate who wanted to live elsewhere next year, or the job that found a better fit. The big no’s usually come in what seem like life changing moments. We collect yes’ to help us recover from the no’s and when that no comes you cash in that big pile of yes’ for that one no. That pile of yes’ completely erased by a single no and a single no leaving you completely shattered.
Over the years, I have been demolished countless times because someone told me they didn’t want me or like me or approve of me. I’ve come to the conclusion that shattering is inevitable when we build ourselves out of validation from others. We are built up or broken down by what people are saying to us or about us. If we erased all of those yes’ what would be left of us? If we were unchanged by those no’s how much taller would we stand?
I want you to know that you are always whole. It’s something I’ve been learning slowly this past year, but its starting more so lately to really stick.
In the face of any yes or any no, you remain whole. Nothing will ever come into your life and nothing will ever leave your life that will make you any more or any less. A yes, a no, a yes that turns into a no, a yes that turns into a maybe (and don’t even get me started on maybe’s because they are total crap); they all leave you whole.
There is something truly magical in knowing your worth and being complete in yourself. No relationship, friendship, or job is ever going to come to an end and take you with it. You’re going to be ok with or without it. Your soul is whole in the universe. You are a full and complete entity. Sure, there are things that help us develop and grow, but growth happens as you mold and form into something bigger, growth is not sticking foreign items onto you to make yourself appear larger. You don’t have to stick yes’ onto yourself and wear them around just so you can feel bigger. You are not half of a soul or half of a body. Your soul does not need another soul to tell it yes in order to be complete. It already is.
So if we are always whole, regardless of the boy saying no or the friend saying yes or the job saying maybe, why do we shatter for the no’s? Why do we build ourselves out of yes’? And why do we sacrifice our wholeness for the fickleness of others?
Well, I am so over shattering. I’m done surrendering my wholeness.
If my state of wholeness relies on answers from others’ I will always be uneasy, unrestful, and teetering in and out of completeness. I’m choosing now to stop letting the opinions of others define me. I can stand here firm in myself because I know my self-worth is rooted in something much deeper than any yes or any no. It’s rooted in love: self-love. I do not need anyone to tell my work yes because I get up every day and tell myself yes. I can take any no and be unchanged. And how freaking beautiful is it that in life we can love everything? We can love everything as it comes, love everything as it stays, and love everything as it leaves. And when it leaves, we can rest in the fact that we enjoyed it while it was here, that we are still whole now that it is gone, and we can now look forward to the next thing to come.
We can be prepared for any yes or any no, because… you guessed it, we are whole.
Love & light always,