“Thank you for your interest, but unfortunately your post was not chosen this time around.”
Those words were tough to read, and even tougher to swallow. When I started writing full time, I had a long heart-to-heart with myself about rejection. I know it won’t be the last time I receive a rejection letter. It just comes with the territory.
Most of us don’t like to think about rejection. It’s a topic that often evokes feelings that we would prefer to shove down and ignore, thank you very much.
Part of the reason rejection stirs up negative emotions is because it feels so personal. If you’ve been rejected (and who hasn’t!?), it’s likely you immediately wondered what you did wrong.
Many of my writer friends would agree. Our words, ideas, and feelings are our own. When someone rejects a piece I submit or I receive a negative comment, it hurts. It sometimes even feels like a personal attack.
But I’ve learned that rejection is necessary if we are going to grow.
Rejection Happens to All of Us
Rejection is one of many experiences that unite us as humans. JK Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, was rejected by publishers twelve times. Consider, for a moment, what that must have been like. How devastating would it be, after the years of work she invested in her writing, to receive rejection after rejection?!
It would have been easy to give up. To believe that she must not have a future as an author. To declare once and for all that she has no business trying to publish a book.
She could have avoided the potential for further rejection by keeping the story for herself. But she didn’t. And her resilience birthed a multi-billion dollar franchise.
So many successful people we admire faced rejection in their lifetime.
- Walt Disney: Rejected because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”.
- Elvis: Rejected and told he should go back to driving trucks.
- Stephen Spielberg: Rejected by a school of cinematic arts.
- Michael Jordan: Rejected and cut from his high school basketball team.
- Albert Einstein: Rejected and expelled from school.
The thought of rejection can be terrifying. However, it helps to remember that we are in good company. We can’t fear rejection so much that we simply don’t try, because we will certainly miss out on some incredible opportunities.
Adjust Your Mindset
I followed the advice of a trusted mentor and created a rejection folder. It’s filled with polite “Thanks but no thanks” sentiments in response to job applications and article proposals. Why in the world would I want to save them? Because they serve as a reminder that I’m trying, and I’m doing the work God has called me to do.
Rejection doesn’t feel good and I certainly don’t break out the wine when those emails come through. But it’s a valuable reminder that sometimes the most painful experiences foster the most growth.
Rejection begins from an early age. As kids, we likely encountered broken playground friendships, had crushes that weren’t reciprocated, and felt the sting of being cut from the team. And now, as a parent, there’s nothing more gut-wrenching than the pain of seeing your child come to the car with tears in their eyes, or burying their face in your shoulder, releasing sobs of disappointment over the feeling of rejection. It’s crushing.
But it’s necessary.
My kids need permission to really feel that disappointment, but also to accept rejection when it comes (because it will). I want to teach them how to pivot and learn from it. I want them to ask valuable questions that promote personal growth.
- Are there skills I can work on to improve for next time?
- What will I look for in future relationships to find the people I’m meant to have in my life?
- Where can I tap into my strengths to help achieve my goals?
If we shift our mindset when it comes to how we look at rejection, we may find that it leads us to growth!
Sometimes Rejection Leads You Where You Need to Be
I parked my car in front of the school. My black high heels clicked in a steady rhythm along the sidewalk leading to the front office. I applied for the job after a friend of a friend mentioned they were hiring. I knew I was fully qualified, so confidence was not an issue. My resume was updated, and I prepared to dazzle them with my well thought-out answers.
What I failed to do was research the school’s history, their teaching practices, and their mission statement. When those specific questions came up, I did what any self-respecting professional adult would do. I stared silently at the ceiling, feigning deep thought.
My mind suddenly became devoid of any coherent response.
Shifting uncomfortably in his chair, the interviewer quickly moved on to the final question. Needless to say I did not get the job. But I learned a lot about the interview process from that rejection. I let disappointment sting for a little while, but didn’t let the “no” stop me from pursuing future opportunities.
In the following days, I went back and did some research on that particular school. I read about their teaching philosophies, and discovered I didn’t agree with most of them. It was abundantly clear that that it wouldn’t have been a good fit for me.
Rejection can often reveal to us exactly what we need to do and what steps to take next. Had I been hired, it would not have been a good match professionally. That rejection helped me to truly seek out what was best for me and my career.
Eventually I interviewed at another school, and this time, I made sure to do my research beforehand. Rejection helped me make necessary decisions that led me to the job that was right for me.
Lessons Learned from Rejection
I’m certainly not saying that we should be thrilled when we are rejected. It hurts. It’s disappointing. But once we process and accept it, that’s when the magic begins. What do all those celebrity rejections have in common? They marched forward to discover that the best was yet to come.
Putting yourself out there in all areas of life is just part of living. Not trying, not reaching out, not applying…none of those are valuable options. You will leave an impact on the world. It won’t always go the way you hoped, but you will always gain something from the experience.
Rejection is simply a part of life. How we respond to it is up to us.