When I was in my teens and early twenties, I didn’t try too many new things or go after my dreams because I hated rejection. If I wasn’t awesome at something, I didn’t want to partake because that would be humiliating and reveal the fact that I was in fact a flawed, messy, awkward, mortal human being, which felt like a completely unacceptable thing to be at the time.
Our brains experience rejection in the same way they experience physical pain, so the sting of rejection you feel is real, not imagined. It’s ok if it hurts, it’s designed to hurt.
But just because something hurts doesn’t mean we need to avoid it at all costs. We’d never get stronger if we didn’t push our muscles until they burned and quite literally, tore. We’d never feel the full depth of loving someone if we didn’t risk getting our hearts broken. Pain isn’t always detrimental. In fact, it’s often a portal.
When I avoided rejection at all costs, I started four different blogs, and when they didn’t go viral after a few posts, I deleted them in embarrassment and decided I was not cut out for writing.
When my pitches got rejected, I would get so bummed out, and feel like I just worked so hard for nothing and stop trying.
When I got rejected in romance, I would think there was something wrong with me.
The more my self esteem improved, the more I was willing to put myself out there and face rejection. It got easier, but at a painfully slow rate. It’s like that saying in the fitness community, “it doesn’t get easier, but you get stronger.” It’s still challenging, but you can bare more weight. You might not like rejection, but the more of it you can bare, the stronger, and better you will get.
When you put it into perspective, and realize that all your idols faced loads of rejection initially, you get thicker skin, and life is just easier when your skin is thicker. You don’t take things personally, and you become free to be your unabashed self when you accept that you’re not for everyone, and that’s ok.
A few of my idols write about believing in their ideas in the face of rejection. Ashely Longshore, one of my favorite artists, faced rejection from galleries for years, but she was convinced it was them, not her, and kept self-promoting and believing in her art, she is now an artist to the stars and worth millions. She regularly sells her paintings on Instagram for $30,000 a pop.
In the face of rejection, I constantly remind myself that this is just a part of the deal. Everyone goes through it, even the people whose work I look up to. Your idols faced rejection. They continued to believe in their art, and in their work, in the face of a million “no’s”. You have to. You have to believe in your value, you have to keep trying.
One thing I’ve learned in the last few years, and an idea I have shed is that other people know what’s best for you, or what’s best in general. We’re all just tooting around spewing off what’s in our own best interest, and doing what we think is best, from our very limited point of view. That doesn’t mean we’re trying to sabotage others, just that we are working with what we know, which is just one teeny little perspective in the grand scheme of things.
When I was younger, I thought my parents knew everything, and constantly consulted them for advice. I still do sometimes. As I got older, God Bless them, they are brilliant in their own right, I see they are just normal, flawed people, like the rest of us, doing the best they can with what they know, but objectively, I might not want to take everything they say as gospel.
Culturally, as adolescents and especially as woman, we are taught that we don’t know what’s best, and to default to authority. As you get older and learn to think critically and gain life experience, you realize this is often bullshit.
The editors who reject you, the galleries that don’t want to hang your art, the publishing houses that say no, the investors who turn you down…. of course, they have some expertise, but what they say isn’t the golden forever ultimate truth. The golden forever ultimate truth doesn’t exist. So live your truth. Maybe your work does need some work, and that’s ok! All work could use some work.
Take criticism and feedback and use it to elevate. Don’t give up. If you genuinely think your idea is great ,and someone else rejects it, keep pitching it. Someone else is bound to see what you see, but it’s never going to happen if you take that one opinion, believe it is the ultimate truth, and then bury your idea.
Believe in your ideas. Believe in your own authority. Some of these people in power that we look to didn’t even get there on merit.