Re-Thinking Rejection

May 28th, 2008

I haven't done a "Wellness Wednesday" post for awhile. Today I was thinking about how as part of wellness you need to learn how to embrace rejection. Well, maybe not embrace it, but at least re-think it.

There are all sorts of heavy feelings tied up with the word rejection, such as hurt, shame, and embarrassment. We all deal with it, whether in the form of relationships, our work, or simple exchanges with other people in the world. As a creative person putting their art into the world, hearing the word "no" is to be expected.

In the past, I've avoided putting myself out there because of the fear of rejection. Somewhere down deep, I was saying, "Aha, rejection, I've got you now! If I don't apply (show up, try it, etc), I won't have to experience you at all!" Well, this is wrong on many counts and the sad part is that it only ends up hurting me more.

Patti twittered the this quote the other day:

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.- Joseph Chilton Pierce

I've definitely been scared of being wrong. It's a fear that follows me around and shows up in my work, in my relationships, in my conversations. In a group, I might not speak up because I don't want conflict. Or I may get into a heated discussion with someone I care about because I want to be right. Some of this wanting to be right is all tied up with rejection and I'm slowly, but surely learning to let it go. I don't need nor do I want to always be right. I'm letting those stressful attempts at perfection (fruitless and never-ending attempts) go. I'm learning to lose. And through losing, I win.

I remember sometime last year when the hubster told me, "there's no such thing as failure." There is trying and there's not trying and every "try" is an experience through which you learn and grow. I think we can all look back on relationships, jobs, moments where we felt rejected in that moment, but now we realize it was for the best and simply part of our path.

So, why embrace rejection? Well, if you're putting your work out into the world, more rejections may mean that you are stretching, that you are going for it. You may get more "no" responses than you normally would, but you also open yourself up for the "yeses!"

It's also important to remember that rejections usually aren't personal. That gallery, job, person, experience may not be what they're looking for at that time (or the right thing for you either), but it doesn't necessarily mean they don't like your work. So, when rejection comes my way, I think to myself, "O.k., that isn't the right place for my work right now. Good to know. Moving on."

Speaking of moving on, as Julia Cameron says, the only cure for criticism is creativity (I'm paraphrasing here.) And while rejection isn't exactly criticism, it can sting just the same. Unfortunately, it's all to easy to let a "no" stop us dead in our tracks. I can tell you from experience, the best antidote is to get back to work in whatever way you can. As soon as you start to create again, the fog of doubts will lift and you'll get connected with what you love.

I've been putting my work out there more (and need to do much more of it.) Today I received two rejections (one very nice, one brief and form-like) and one acceptance. And that's one yes I would not have had, if I hadn't put myself out there. There's no doubt that some rejections are more painful than others. You may need to grieve a bit, but then pull yourself up and get back to it. As for me, I got back into it and had some fun with acrylic and ink on paper and made the painting at the top of this post! ("Birdhouse", 8"x10", acrylic, ink, pencil on watercolor paper.)

15 Responses

This is a very helpful post to me, Leah. Congratulations on your acceptance, and even more, on being creative when you experienced and weathered two rejections! Great post, Love, O xxoo

this makes me think of the quote on my tea bag this morning…everything i did in my life that was worthwhile, i caught hell for – earl warren

hello my dear friend!!! CONGRATS on your newest SUCCESS! You are so right. I am learning this myself these days. I have so much to tell you, but I’ll wait until our hookup next weekend!!!!!


Congratulations to you!!!! That is great! Loved your post- it hit me on all levels. Though I have never had my crafts outside my own house(not nec.wanting to at this point), but this can apply to everything in life.(friends, jobs, groups, etc.)I think I guard myself from feeling bad from rejection by perfectionism, on-top way of thinking, etc. This is a perfect writing prompt that I think I want to sort out my feelings. Thanks ;)

Rejection. I’ve been thinking a LOT about this lately and having trouble with it. Synchronicity that you posted it up today and set out such sensible ways of thinking on it. I will keep these in mind in the coming days. THANK YOU!

What a beautiful and inspiring post to a sometimes not-so-inspiring thing. THANK YOU, Leah.

great post leah, and such an important lesson to learn. Fear of rejection and failure kept me from pursuing my art for a long time. I think I might have mentioned this story to you once, forgive me if I have.

I was working in a frame shop and a watercolor painter often came in to get mats cut. She asked me if I was an artist and I said, “Oh no. well, i love to paint, but I’ve never put my art out there” And she said, “why not?” And I said “because, i dunno, it’s scary and what if I’m just terrible” And she looked long and hard at me and said, “An instructor told her that if you don’t have a room filled from floor to ceiling of rejection letters, then you’re just not trying hard enough”

It still took me several years after that to start painting and putting my work out there in the world, but that always stuck with me.

And the funny thing is, once you get the first rejection, it gets so much easier to stomach! :) haha! It’s not a big deal after all.

Congrats on your acceptance. rock on.

i really needed to read this tonight as i embark on
a new journey and offer something ‘out there’
~ thank you:)


so glad i found this. can I be a part of the everyday creative 2008 fun?

Ooh more flying houses but this time not just floating off where ever the wind takes them, this time guided by a bird!

I love that quote! I’ve put it on my blog as a daily reminder to myself. My fear of being wrong has more to do with feeling like I always need to be “right” or “correct” than it does with rejection. This comes into play with my daily art journal, where it doesn’t matter if I’m “wrong”, all it matters is that I create.

Great post! I think it’s one of the hardest things to deal with as an artist.

Love this and very timely considering that a friend and and I recently found out we didn’t get selected for a proposal we submitted together. A total bummer, yes, AND we reflected on how much we enjoyed our collaboration process and figured that hey, this is just the start of something bigger! Even though this particular opportunity didn’t pan out exactly as we had hoped, it may have paved the way for something more exciting! The key thing is it got us moving!!!

I love this post Leah. Thank you.
(I think noticing the rejections rather than the successes is a basic survival response.)
Congratulations on having your work accepted!

This is such a beautiful post, filled with honesty and inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

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