Ever heard of John Kennedy Toole? He wrote a novel called A Confederacy of Dunces. He lived in New Orleans and he submitted the manuscript to Simon and Schuster for publication. However, he and the publisher could not come to an agreement on the novel’s need for significant revision. Ultimately, the book was rejected and Toole took his manuscript back. Further attempts by Toole to publish his book were unsuccessful.
The rejection of A Confederacy of Dunces sent Toole into depression. He started to drink heavily and increasingly became agitated and paranoid. His mental state continued to deteriorate until Toole committed suicide. He killed himself in his car with a garden hose running from the exhaust pipe to the window.
Two years after Toole’s death, his mother started making attempts to find a publisher for A Confederacy of Dunces. She got numerous rejections. She took it to Walker Percy who was a novelist and teaching at Loyola University in New Orleans. Walker Percy read the manuscript which impressed him. He went on to submit it to a publisher. It was finally published by Lousiana State University Press. As a result of A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.
Now what happened? What is the difference between the rejected manuscript and the published manuscript? It was the same. The author was dead. He did not edit it.
If your personal worth is tied to getting other people’s approval such that you are devastated when you do not get it, this is what you have done: you have taken your worth, put it on a roulette wheel, and spun the wheel saying, “Whatever the world decides is my worth, that is it for me.” This action is very dangerous because the world (the wheel) will not come up with your number as often as you would want.
It is important that you separate your worth from your work. It is also important that you separate the result of your work from your work but when your ego runs you, you find this pretty difficult. Your worth as a person is not tied to the success of your career, album, book, or anything else.
When one gets a taste of success, one can begin to have a more inflated sense of oneself and even become addicted to the positive feedback and attention. This is why you may find popular celebrities, star athletes and top CEOs who have become huge, self-entitled egomaniacs. They have made it and they have switched their mindset to “getting what is mine.” Now that recognition, that award, matters. They need the media attention, the money and the title, not for the team but for themselves, “It belongs to me. I have earned it.” Controlled by the ego, they fail to realize that none of the things they presently crave got them to where they presently are.
The egomaniac feels entitled to future success as a result of past success. Life hardly works that way. No one is totally immune to obstacles, mistakes, and failures. As the sense of self of the egomaniac keeps getting inflated, life looks for ways to get him humble. As life does this through his life situation, the egomaniac instead of becoming humble ends up getting angry and frustrated, “What I have earned is being denied me,” he thinks. Put aside your ego and see this: no single result can completely define you for better or worse.
You are not the result of your work. Stop attaching so much importance to what happens to you. Even what happens to you should come under question. What happened simply happened. It did not happen to you. You think it happened to you because you brought yourself into it and told yourself a story. It is a matter of a negative interpretation. For instance consider Ifeanyi and Titi who are in a relationship. Their relationship is three years old and Titi has just gained admission into the university. All the while, Titi has been evolving and now that she is in school, she wishes to move on, not out of hatred for Ifeanyi but simply to continue to allow the process of her awakening without hindering what is trying to come through her. At this point in her life, she also wants to focus on her studies. She decides to move on and tries to explain to Ifeanyi why she does not want to continue with the relationship. What does Ifeanyi do? He blames her. He gets angry and develops hatred for her. Titi does not in any way intend to hurt Ifeanyi but Ifeanyi has interpreted the whole thing negatively and his ego has created a story out of it. He finds himself in a drama. What really happened is quite different from what Ifeanyi is telling himself. Where Titi has actually not hurt him, he has brought himself into the picture and sees Titi hurting him. He has not bothered to consider what is best for Titi. He has identified with his ego. The consequence is what you call pain.