When You Feel Discouraged, Keep Going
I’m good at taking tests or writing papers. Not so much at cold calling companies to set up internships. I tried for weeks to get an internship I needed for a class, and I had no luck. Some people said yes over the phone, then ghosted when I tried to follow up. One person told me, “Your school should be setting this up. Not you.” Click.
I was frustrated and asked my teacher for help; she told me to keep trying. Okay. But how?
I first learned about sublimation in a high school psychology class. Our book described it a healthy coping mechanism. It works like this: you feel a negative emotion, so you take your energy and use it for something positive.
A classic example: feeling angry about something? Go for a run.
Sometimes people take discouragement and lash out in ways that are unhealthy. They yell at the next person they see, or become really irritable and bitter. In my case, I could quit the class. But that’s not the best way to respond when you’re feeling disappointed.
One thing I recommend to a lot of people is writing. Writing down your thoughts can be a valuable form of sublimation. When I journal, I take a lot of emotions and daily frustrations, and then try to use the information to help myself improve.
The name makes sense when you think about the meaning of sublimation in physics: changing from a solid to a gas, without becoming liquid. When you sublimate, you don’t melt. You rise.
Granted, we can’t be productive, happy-go-lucky people all the time. Sometimes defeat happens and we’re not ready to change that into some wonderful, magical outcome, thank you very much. Maybe failure strikes us too hard, or too often, and we can’t pick ourselves up. In that instance, people might need to take a break, or seek counseling, or make a change — basically, whatever they need to.
And I’m not saying to ignore your bad feelings, and just put them aside. But for minor setbacks, there’s something to be said for trying to channel our frustrations into improvement. That seems especially true in creative professions. Something isn’t working out the way we forecast it, so we quit. Sometimes, we quit too soon, when just pushing forward a little more can lead to a drastic improvement.
I see this with my writing a lot. When I’m not hitting my goals, such as earning a certain amount of money or getting into certain publications, it can make it hard to keep going. But a publication rejecting us isn’t something we can control. What we can control is putting our effort into making the best possible writing. Your approach may sometimes need to change, but that’s an opportunity to learn more and grow.
I don’t think anyone has coasted through their career or personal life without a single bad day. Take all the negative experiences you can, and turn them into something positive.
Something I read about recently was people who find it difficult to do certain things — like find an internship — and start companies to help others. Chances are, if you’re struggling with something, someone else is, too, and they can benefit from your knowledge.
I know I can set up an internship, but it’ll just take a lot more time than I anticipated. Am I willing to put in the time needed to succeed? I guess I am.
When you feel discouraged, don’t just stop and run away. Use the experience to improve. Chances are, you’ll find what you’re looking for if you keep turning over stones … but the trick is, you have to keep turning them.