Yesterday an email arrived in my inbox, announcing the Critical Mass Finalists for 2015.
Several years ago only dreamed of having work that I felt was worthy to even enter into the event, but that seemed like a far off dream. I was convinced that I wasn't good enough and wasn't creative enough to ever have work meaningful enough to enter.
Last year I finally had the beginnings of a portfolio that I thought might be competition worthy, but I didn't make the cut.
This year I hesitated about entering. "Why would you want to enter the same portfolio that got rejected last year?" That cruel voice in my head mocked me.
You could enter 10 images, but only three could have been entered before. The cruel voice stepped in again, "You sure as hell didn't create enough to make it worth your time to enter again. You'll just be rejected all over."
But I powered through the application process, that voice mocking me the whole way.
So when the email arrived yesterday with a list of finalists, the voice was there again: "Don't even bother reading it. Your name isn't on it."
Then a kinder voice in my head thought, "Well, ok. Even if your name isn't there let's read the list anyway. You'll get joy out of seeing familiar names."
So I began.
Towards the top of the list I saw a friend's name. Grabbing my phone I sent her quick a congratulations, grateful for someone to celebrate and a quick reprieve from what I thought was certain rejection.
Back to the scrolling. I began to slow when I got towards the "K"s, emotionally readying myself for what I was sure would be a let down.
And then there it was. Relaxing back into my sofa, I realized that I had been holding my breath the entire time.
Then I sat back up again, and read it a few more times just to make sure I hadn't imagined it and it wasn't a type.
I didn't cry like last time. This time I was just stunned.
It wasn't a disbelief kind of stunned, but a "does not compute" kind of stunned.
For years I had wrapped myself in a blanket of perceived unworthiness, as though it were a shield against outside rejection. "You don't have to be bothered showing me your disapproval, I've already beaten you to the punch!"
While I know that this is a defense mechanism from growing up in a cult that used fear of disapproval as a method of control, it still bothers me to see how it follows me around.
When good things happen it takes me a long time to process and accept them. Though I'm getting better, my acceptance is still hesitant. It used to be that I was full of outright rejection. Hence, the crying last time.
But here is the moral of my small story: no amount of outward validation and acceptance can heal the wound. It takes self-acceptance and self-validation first; otherwise we reject all of the good we are given and offered.
It may be a long journey, but it's worth every step.
So create what heals you and release what destroys you. Celebrate the small steps and celebrate the big accomplishments. I'm here to celebrate with you.
I'll be rooting for you, and I hope that sharing my story and journey helps you in yours.
So here's to the journey!