When it comes, disappointment creates a very uncomfortable dilemma: how do we deal with it?
Late last summer, I had what I’ll call a bit of a ‘wish it hadn’t happened but know I’ve definitely learned from it’ episode. You know the kind, when something happens that really shakes your confidence and leaves you feeling pretty worthless? When almost a year later, the echoes of it still render you nauseous and a little shaky? Those times that, on your lower days, still return to haunt you and make you question what you are even doing? Well, that’s where I was when I had begun communications with a bride-to-be regarding her wedding stationery and, quite frankly, if it had been up to me, I would have abandoned the whole idea. My ‘handmade creations and heart-held memories’ could very easily have been put to the back burner as a been there, done that, won’t be buying the t-shirt episode. (As a wee ‘by the way’, I was in two minds about whether or not to share this but, I learned so many valuable lessons from it, I thought it might just be a wee encouragement for someone else too.)
So, despite the feelings of inadequacy I’d already made a commitment to provide ideas at least and so, in the interests of full disclosure, I contacted the lady in question to let her know that, well, not everyone loved what I did, something I felt she needed to know before we went any further and to leave it in her hands to decide whether she wanted to continue or not. Well, if ever God used someone to turn a situation around, it was then. Kind, gracious, understanding and encouraging – undoubtedly characteristics every customer should have. And, I am delighted to say that when, a number of months later I handed over the finished products, I was very glad she’d had the faith in me to let me play even in a little part in her special day.
I would be a total liar if I said that I felt a stronger person for the ‘wish it hadn’t happened but I know I’ve definitely learned from the episode. Indeed, perhaps it’s a case of having a much greater awareness of weaknesses over strength and. But I do know that the aforementioned experience has probably helped me in ways I never thought possible even though I probably did not recognise this at the time.
For one, once the hurt had subsided, I realised that the major injury had been caused to my pride. And that, my friends, is a deep wound. My self-esteem was rock bottom, my pride sorely wounded and my confidence in tatters. I was totally floored but, there’s nothing like feeling you’ve hit rock bottom to make you choose the direction you are going to take next. I wallowed for a day or two and I can say, with certainty, that is not something you want to do for too long. Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice I was offered at the time was to recognise it had happened, accept it as a set back, take it as a lesson to learn from and move on. Thank you to the wise lady who told me this, because it helped me to focus on the fact that we can’t dwell on the past – what’s done is done, just because we choose to learn from it doesn’t mean we can’t move beyond it.
Secondly, it taught me a lesson or two about business. I am not a natural business woman. The thought of running a big company, employing and leading hundreds of people and being in control of millions is not something that I would ever desire but, I do love Little Green Tree and, while I have a heart to see it grow, I do want it to be very much about a personal touch rather than a potential multi-national corporation.(But ya know, if you’ve got millions to offer, we’ll see if we can come to some sort of arrangement ;o) ) I did realise though, that while I am small scale, there are still certain elements of business which I need to consider, as uncomfortable as I may find this, and so, that was definitely a valuable lesson. So, while I hope that the heart of Little Green Tree never changes, I have realised the need to put on a little business head where necessary, even when that makes me a little uncomfortable, including, I suppose, skills such as growing a thicker skin at times! Hasn’t it been said that we need to ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable’ … If you have any advice on overcoming these discomforts, please get in touch!
Thirdly, it made me very aware of how I deal with people when I am not happy. We can so easily get caught up in a moment of upset or disappointment and frustration and unleash that on others. I hope that one of the most significant lessons I have learned is to think of how I speak to others, even when I’m not happy with something. I think honesty is essential, but it’s how that honesty is projected and voiced that we need to be so very careful about. Despite your upset, put yourself in the recipient’s shoes before you speak out, or more easily, type, no matter how much you want to make your feelings known.
Fourthly, it was a very clear reminder to me that we need to take criticism in all its unpleasantness, and use it to our advantage. Once my wounded pride had started to heal, a little phrase that kept spinning around in my head, and still does in fact, was and is: ‘Good, better, best. Never let it rest ’til your good is better and your better is best.’
We can choose to accept that what we do is how it is or, we can use critical moments as opportunities to see what we can do better. When you create something, it really becomes very personal to you and so, it is necessary to take a step back and look carefully at things, making sure that we see with the business eye, as well as with the heart. Perhaps a little more constructive self-criticism would avoid situations where we have to take it from others.
Fifth and finally, I was left in no doubt about the power of positivity, encouragement and good old-fashioned kindness. On the day that I had my ‘wish it hadn’t happened but know I’ve definitely learned from it’ episode, I had earlier received some lovely feedback from two separate customers. Yet, that was all very quickly forgotten. Isn’t it incredible how we listen to negativity much more closely than positivity? I was really uncertain about moving forward after this, but having had the pleasure of working with some truly lovely people since, it has helped me to re-focus, to refresh my thinking and to approach things in a very different way.
None of us want to feel that we have failed, it’s human instinct to want to succeed, but there’s no doubting that in those moments when we are stripped of any confidence we have in ourselves, that we have the opportunity to start again. Just because we’ve been knocked down the ladder doesn’t mean we can’t climb back up again.
I never take for granted the gift of being entrusted with creating something. I regard each order as a real honour and it is my wish that I would reflect this in the work that I do. Each customer is a totally unique, valued and loved creation themselves and I only hope that I am able to simply reflect something of that in the completed orders I give to them. I hope that we can help to create heart-held memories, with our handmade creations.