On Rejection

CakeSpy has a lovely post up about the process she went through when her book proposal got rejected. As an artist and creator, it’s incredibly hard to separate rejection of our work from rejection of ourselves. In my own process, if I am being true to my work, I put pieces of myself in it. These artifacts are extensions of myself, little arrows I shoot out in the world, with the hope they will hit their mark.

love every wish

It was when I got to this part that I recognized my own response to rejection:

But I’m not anorexic or bulimic anymore.
I let myself have the freaking cake, and raised it one by adding a cup of milk. And then, while I was eating that cake, I acknowledged to myself that I was deeply, deeply hurt.

In some ways, it felt awful “sit” with the awful, gnarly feelings of rejection. But even less bearable? Trying to ignore those feelings and then constantly feeling them on the periphery of my thoughts, lurking in the shadows.

When I can recognize that I feel hurt and can sit with those feelings and then articulate what I believe those feelings are telling me, I always come out the other side realizing that thoughts generated by those feelings aren’t true. Something happened recently and I felt awful. I went for a swim and let myself listen to the thoughts that arose. They told me I was unlovable. Once I stopped avoiding the pain and actually faced it, I realized those old beliefs aren’t actually true. I am loveable. I am worthy of love. We all are.

Learning to face those painful feelings was hard. I’ve already detailed what I learned from therapy. My conclusions was:

I had to learn that what I had to offer was enough. That I am enough. That I have value and what I have to offer has value. If what I have to offer doesn’t work for someone else, it’s not my fault. It’s not their fault. It’s just not a fit.

But I have another piece to add – or perhaps an addition to it’s not personal. I can think of two concrete examples where decisions were made behind-the-scenes that had nothing to do with the people who were affected. There is so much that we will probably never know about the decision-making process, particularly when it comes from an organization with a lot of people.

Cakespy also said:

By strengthening connections to people and things that don’t have to do with my work, I don’t have to place all of my self-worth on the work.

This is the other thing that rang like a bell. I make my best effort and put it in out in the world, but how the world receives it isn’t an indictment or endorsement of me as a person. It’s just a piece of information that what I’m offering doesn’t fit. It might have nothing to do with me OR what I’ve put into the world. It find that incredibly comforting, and I return to those examples as reminders that there are often reasons I will never know that have nothing to do with me.

I hope you find that a source of comfort, too, and I’m curious like Cakespy, how you respond to rejection.

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11 thoughts on “On Rejection

  1. Jameson Fink

    I still spend too much time reliving personal and professional failures, dissecting them, and turning them over in my restless mind. I appreciate what both you and Jessie have shared. Thank you.

    1. slowbloom Post author

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my own dissections, it’s that there are many, many things going on that are often completely removed from our own actions. I’d be happy to tell you some stories (over a glass of wine)! 😀

      And I’m glad these posts are helpful. You might like these tagged failure, too.

  2. Frances K R


    I get sad. I don't always get angry about the rejection, but I'm more irritable after one comes in. It hurts, because I'm trying to say something, and I get that no-one else needs to support it being heard, but I keep wishing that…

    I keep wishing they'd picked me. And I'm learning to untangle "my story" from "me" but it's slow going.

    So I try to do something quiet, that takes into account my being sad and is likely to change it, and I try to get the work back out before the rejection sinks all the way in, and I try to focus on the achievement of actually sending it out, and soon I work on the next one as well.

    …I'm tired just thinking about it. But I keep going.

    1. slowbloom Post author

      That is beautiful, Frances. It honors YOU and where you are. You are an inspiration to me!

  3. CakeSpy

    I love this post so much. For one, I am completely honored that something I wrote resounded with you in so many ways. I’m also heartened to learn, through your reading, that I’m not the only one.

    This really made me feel better, too: “There is so much that we will probably never know about the decision-making process, particularly when it comes from an organization with a lot of people.” It is true, in spite of how much pity I might want to bestow upon myself. There’s so much we don’t know.

    You are a beautiful person – I am happy that you have entered my orbit!

    1. slowbloom Post author

      Thank you so much!

      I have found, via the magic of the intarwebs, that whatever we think, we are truly not alone. No, you are not the only one, and in fact, you are in excellent company!

      I’m honored you feel that way. I hope I can live up to it!

  4. G.G. Silverman

    I totally hear you on this. It’s so tempting to take rejection as a measure of self-worth, but best if we don’t. For whatever reason, women take rejection harder than men, statistically, and will stop sending out stories sooner than men. Men will hang in there longer. When I read this, I got angry at myself, because I had just about given up, but the anger forced me to work harder. Two weeks later, I got my first story acceptance in two years. I have changed my attitude toward rejection substantially since then. Rejection = work harder on the next opportunity. P.S. The rejection statistics I mention above are from Poets & Writers magazine from this winter.

    Keep going, Jill! Your dedication is inspiring!

  5. Brenna Layne

    Great post! These reminders that we’re not alone in our often solitary creative journeys are vital. I’m querying agents right now, and racking up rejections. It’s rough. I’ve been following my brother’s example–give yourself an hour to be really upset, and then send out another query. I have to admit that my “hour” is usually more like 24, but I always, always send out another query or two, and just that small act of persistence in the face of rejection buoys my spirits enough to keep me going–and to help me remember why I’m doing all this in the first place. I think it’s good to take a little time to grieve any loss and not just push through it, but at some point, we have to emerge again. Thanks for your really thought-provoking piece!

    1. slowbloom Post author

      Thanks so much, Brenna! I really appreciate you sharing your experience. Also, this is a good reminder that I need to find new markets to send two pieces to. And it’s true for me – sending a piece back out quickly removes the sting.

  6. kathleenicanrah

    Hey there-
    coming over from twitter– thanks in advance for any doula help (and I’ve enjoyed checking out your blog!)

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