How to Bounce Back From Major Defeat

“Keep your head up!” “It’ll all work out.”

“Everything happens for a reason!”

If you’re like me, you have a special distaste for people who feed you cliches like these when your world feels like it’s crumbling. Although you might not want to hear it at the time, they’re right — and thank goodness.

I’ll give you an example I once considered to be a skeleton in my professional closet. I was hired at an up-and-coming startup to lead content development initiatives and kickstart their company blog.

There I was, part of a brand new marketing department, where creative freedom was the biggest draw. Other perks included a bigger paycheck, a sexy, downtown office, workplace yoga, and free lunch. Every. single. day.

If I passed you on the street, I probably asked you to pinch me. It was a dream come true.

I dove in! Roundtables. Presentations. Cross-country business trips. High-stakes partnerships.

I tapped into the wealth of knowledge that came from my peers. God, were they saavy. I rolled with the punches in a professional setting that was a far cry from the small, traditional, family-run work environment I’d come from.

Approaching the 6-month mark, I felt like I was really getting a handle on this thing. That’s when the HR manager called me and a colleague into her office. It’s still a blur, but I vaguely remember statements like these:

“Dissolving the department…

...re-building marketing team in the West Coast office…

...severance…

...thank you for your work.”

???!

To say I was blindsided is to put it mildly. I was the breadwinner in my family — I needed this job. What would I do? How would I explain this to my loved ones...or at the interviews I needed to start lining up?

My knee-jerk reaction was to think of the entire startup experience as a bad tattoo. I’d hide it, and have an answer rehearsed in case someone happened to sneak a peek and ask about it.

This was the wrong approach, which I realized after a week or so of reflection.

I had gained so much from the opportunity, however short lived. I became well-versed in PhotoShop and Illustrator, and had sharpened my Wordpress skills. I had a firm handle on branding, and could crush an analysis report (a former weak point for me). I had come to know a handful of professional badass types who I still respect and enjoy on a personal level. I started the blog for a powerhouse of a startup, and you know what? My name’s still on it.

That all happened.

Why sour the experience just because the higher-ups took things in a different direction? It’s no surprise that tech companies are largely California-based. It’s no surprise that startup life can be volatile at best.

After a major defeat, cry. Cry your eyes out — an ugly cry. Get mad. Like shouting-curse-words- you-didn’t-know-you-knew mad. Wallow. For days, if you need to.

But then, reflect. Pick yourself up and realize your self-worth. Know that new opportunities will find you, and you’ll be better equipped for them.

Appreciate your new skills, or having had the chance to sharpen existing ones. Marvel at your own resilience.

Think of it this way: what goes up must come down. It doesn’t have to come crashing down in a fiery blaze. But know that your path to the top is bound to have a few dips.

What I’m saying is, the best way to bounce back from a major defeat is to view your journey this way:

Setbacks can't knock you off your path to the top. You're still killin' it. But when tough times do hit — and they will, really freaking hard — your internal dialogue is what matters most.

Be kind to yourself — then bounce back like a boss.

Kate Brierley is Community Manager for therapeutic skincare company Aidance Skincare, and a contributing writer for a range of publications and niche blogs, including Mom of 11 Kids and The Friendly Fig. She is certified in inbound marketing and information literacy instruction. Kate loves handwritten notes, family beach days, and sour candy. She and her husband will soon welcome their second son.