“This is not a competition,” the TEDx organizer told us.
“We’re calling this Salon an audition for TEDxBirmingham, but remember that this is your TEDx talk … and one or two of you may be invited to present at the larger event.”
I nodded, feeling a blush creep up my cheeks. I’d been caught red-handed, thinking competitive thoughts. Taking a deep breath, I reminded myself that it was a tremendous honor to give one 4-minute TEDx talk.
The TEDx Dream
A few months ago, I wouldn’t have even had the courage to claim giving a TEDx talk as a dream. Yet there I was, wanting not one talk but two.
My spirit whispered, Be happy with what you have, honey. Enjoy it. Remember that the other speakers are people to love, not competitors to be crushed.
The problem was, though, that my ego drowned out the voice of spirit. My ego cackled: Ha! That’s a good one! Saying, “This is not a competition,” to me is like handing drugs to an addict and saying, “Now, these are just for looking, not for taking.” This guy does not know who he’s dealing with here.
It was only when I was alone in my car afterward that I could I relax and breathe and get some perspective.
I’ve spent years trying to hide my competitive side, because I feel ashamed of it. But recently, I’ve realized that there is a better way. Instead of denying my driven nature, I can look at it with loving eyes, the way a beloved Grandmother might.
Moreover, I can choose to focus my attention on what’s more important. I can give love the last word.
When Your Dream is Dashed
Alas, I learned a few weeks ago that I wasn’t invited to speak at TEDxBirmingham.
I’m sharing this news with you because I trust that you’ll understand. I trust that you know what it’s like to see a dream dashed. So I wrote this letter for you, in case you need to hear these words as much as I needed to write them.
It hurts right now, I know. That’s how it goes sometimes: you practice and pray and say YES with everything you’ve got … and still, the answer is no. That’s reality, and it feels so harsh.
But please, resist the urge to be harsh in return. Instead, be gentle with yourself. Put on your favorite warm socks. Watch that movie that you love, the one that makes you laugh until you cry even though only two of your friends think it is even remotely funny. (The Emperor’s New Groove, anyone?)
Right now, that rejection feels like a sucker-punch breakup. Yesterday you and your dream were together and happy and hopeful, and today you’re not. To add insult to injury, no one can give you a decent explanation of what went wrong.
Maybe this loss will never make sense from where you’re sitting. But sooner or later, you’ll have to stop demanding an explanation. It will not be forthcoming, and you will only exhaust yourself pounding your fists against a locked door. And maybe you don’t need a reason as much as you think you do.
Stepping into Acceptance
So do what it takes to break the “it should have been different” spell. Personally, I recommend reading this Dear Sugar column – thank God for Cheryl Strayed.
“… acceptance is a small, quiet room and what I meant by that has everything to do with … bearing witness to the plain facts of our life …. Acceptance asks only that you embrace what’s true.”
As long as you are rebelling against reality, raging about how this should never have happened, you won’t be free.
I know you hate surrender. But if you give up your old dream, then you can hold fast to the things that are actually true and real, and therefore nourishing.
You can reread that Theodore Roosevelt quote, too:
“It is not the critic who counts …. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
To fail while daring greatly is terrible. When it happens, it leaves you both vulnerable and volatile. You don’t have a thing to say and you have a thousand things to say. You are a walking contradiction.
You are Meant to Rise Again
When the rubble clears, though, you’ll look around and see that you are still alive. Gradually, it will dawn on you: I can survive this; I will get back up.
My TEDxBirminghamSalon talk highlighted the same process of death and rebirth. Heck, I actually said, “… the human spirit is a phoenix, able to rise from terrible ashes.”
I hate being right; it’s awful to take one’s own medicine.
One last thing I want you to know: when you start creating again, when you start to write or dance or speak after the disappointment, your mind will protest. Loudly.
It will exclaim, Are you crazy? You took a hard fall, and you want to get back on the horse?!
But don’t worry, honey. Your heart – your tenacious, irrepressible heart – will respond the way it always does …
Yes. Absolutely I do.
Do you think that you are meant to rise again? Join the conversation in the comments below!
Friends, I cannot thank you enough for your support in watching and sharing my TEDx talk! It has been a delight to share it with you. In fact, the Youtube video has been viewed 5,300+ times (!) as of this writing.
And I’m thrilled to hear that you’re enjoying the free ebook I launched this month: Getting Real & Letting Go: A Collection of Quotes for Recovering Perfectionists. Receive posts via email, along with your free copy!
Finally, I’ve been meaning to include links to two recent guest posts:
MindBodyGreen: The Next Time You’re Terrified to Do Something, Do This
The Art of Simple: Caroline’s courage in making a major life change
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