As an artist, I’m familiar with losing. Showing in today’s highly creative and competitive art market is difficult and often comes with rejection. Indeed, every exhibition I’ve been a part of was preceded by at least ten rejections.
This morning, I’m reminded of what it means to lose — only this time it’s on a national scale. As a vocal Clinton supporter, I’m legitimately scared of the road ahead. Will the progressive strides we made stumble along our new path? Will xenophobia and misinformation become primary values? These are the questions echoing in my heart and on my newsfeed.
But as a frequent loser (which is really the only way to become a frequent winner) I have a few tips for moving forward:
1. List five things that are good. Whenever you feel the world caving in, think of five good things. I’ve found that when I fill my mind with thoughts that bring me joy; there is no room for those that bring me down. On rough days, I may list for hours, counterbalancing negativity with weights of gold. (example: hummingbirds, my memories of Egypt, the glow of neon ink, the way he smells, that sunset from the plane flying home last week)
2. Distract yourself (or ‘idle hands are the devil’s playground’). Nothing steers a downward spiral as deeply as inactivity. Your brain is chemically constructed to solve problems. When it can’t find a solution, your body activates hormones that trigger depression. This is because the chemicals that help your brain solve problems are the same chemicals that produce depressed thinking. So do something! Paint, draw, exercise, go go a walk, call a friend, play a video game, read a book — do anything. The distractions give your brain a chance to rest (and to heal).
3. Be kind to yourself (so you can be kind to others). Part of moving forward is taking care of yourself. This means getting up the next morning, brushing your hair and teeth, bathing, dressing well for the day, and any other ritual to help you succeed. Taking care of your body, your responsibilities, your job, and your health help ensure that you stay balanced and kind, especially when faced with adversity. Being kind to yourself sometimes means leaning in to routine. That’s okay! Living life is the best way to adjust to a new normal.
4. Remember your triumphs. You can’t win everything — not in art and definitely not in life (or politics). And that’s okay. When faced with rejection, I like to remember my triumphs. Wherever you are in life, you have made accomplishments. What are they? Some may be easy to identify, such as degrees and awards. But do you speak another language? Have you impacted the life of another? Have you created something with your hands? Can you cook? Triumphs are all around us; we just have to remember to look.
5. Create a random act of love. Losing is hard. It feels awful — a pit in the stomach or an ache in the heart. Luckily, we are multifaceted beings capable of layered emotional responses. Like a painting, we can conceal or reveal our depths with knowledge and practice. I often find it difficult to hold on to my anger or disappointment when congratulating a friend on their success, when complimenting a stranger, or when helping another. Find a way to be kind. It’ll change your day along with another’s.
I’ll close with this thought: I often see a homeless man on my morning commute. His name is Phillip. He gives a blessing to everyone with passes by, whether they give a dollar or not. He is a barometer to me, reminding that no matter how difficult life may feel, there is always room to bless another. If Phillip can find the goodness in the face of all his adversity, so can I.