Wouldn’t life be so much easier if everything went our way? If everything we worked so hard for, we got? That would be fair, right? I often think that and even more so over the last couple of years when I’ve started thinking more seriously about my future and my career. But, alas, life doesn’t work like that – it throws us curveballs, it pushes us to the limit and every now we might cry into our Pinot and wail “but it’s not fair!” to our S.O like a forlorn five-year-old but it’s overcoming set backs that defines who we are.
This is something I’m becoming a total pro on. My friends always used to say that I was jammy, lucky and always landed on my feet and in some respects it might have looked like that. While they went to collage or took up internships in the fashion industry to prepare them for uni, I took a gap year and worked (ahem, partied) and still managed to get in to an over-subscribed course. I landed great internships, graduated with a 2:1 and have worked in some incredible places.
BUT I’ve also received my fair share of set backs – from (perhaps) sacrificing my career to move back home from London to not getting an amazing collaboration project after it was put in place. I could reel off countless of situations but none have been quite so frequent since I went freelance. Oh yes, whether your self employed, applied for a job or just had all of your hopes on one opportunity you will know how this feels. You have an idea, you put the work in, quote it and send it into cyberspace feeling well, pretty damn good about it actually. You’re confident, planning celebratory drinks in your head when there it is. The first line of the email. “Thanks so much for your email, I love XYZ. Unfortunately.” How can one word hold so much weight – “Unfortunately”?
It’s soul destroying and there’s no other way to take it but deeply personally. The good news is that it gets better. I know it doesn’t sound very optimistic but overcoming set backs can have positive effects and this is how you do that, from someone who is well adverse to the “unfortunately” email!
SIT WITH IT
When that set back happens, you will feel all kinds of emotions. Anger, frustration, embarrassment and sadness. Don’t fight them. People around you will try to make you feel better by saying cliches like “something else will come along” or “you are amazing, it’s their loss” but the chances are it won’t make the smallest bit of difference. I’m all for bucking up and try, try again but for that first hour, evening or day it happens, feel it all. If you want to cry, cry, if you want to eat ice cream, grab a spoon! But whatever you do, don’t do anything. Don’t reply to the email when you’re feeling so emotional, it’ll probably either read with a “fuck you” attitude or come across with a whiff of desperation.
KEEP THE FAITH
As tempting as it is to pull the covers over your head and give up, there’s a stronger person inside that will benefit from overcoming set backs. Remember those cliches that we dismissed earlier? It’s time to listen up. And the best one? Everything happens for a reason. I didn’t really believe this until we lost out on our dream house. It was perfect – everything we could imagine and well below budget. It was looking good, our offer was accepted but the seller had a bigger private offer that they took instead. We were devastated. Truly. I cried on the phone to the estate agent (so embarrassing!) and gave up looking again for months.
But I told myself that that wasn’t our house over and over until I believed it. Six months later, another house came up – Grade II listed with beams and open fires and a lot of potential to make it our own. This is now our house and I love it far more than the one we lost, which incidentally, had subsidence. It may not be what you expected or hoped for, but it might open the door to something better later on.
This is something I’m getting really good at. There has been so many times where I’ve pitched a feature that I’m so passionate about I’m in disbelief when it gets rejected. But I’m coming to realise that it’s OK if someone else isn’t passionate about it. It might need tweaking more for that audience or take on a different angle for the time of year and if all else fails, let it go and move on. Overcoming a set back means you’ll have to go back to the drawing board which can be tough, brutal even, but it’s how you gain perspective.
Sit back, write it down, look at what it is you want to achieve and find an alternative pathway to getting it. If one route is blocked, find another.
DO SOMETHING FOR YOU
When you have a set back it’s easy to become all consumed by it. Often it’s all you can think about, talk about or write about. While it’s important to not give up, it’s a fine line to be all consumed by it and that’s when you lose perspective. I try to do something for me when this happens to pull myself out of it. Usually, it’s a workout – high intensity training is perfect for getting out pent up frustration and the endorphins will give you the feel-good hit you need.
SHOP THE POST