How to Take Rejection Like a Champ
Why perspective is key to being a successful writer
Aeons ago, when I was trying out for various drama programs, I met a fellow actor who was auditioning at a school for the umpteenth time. I asked him why he was still doing this. He said, “I’m going to keep being me. Eventually someone is going to pick me for who I am.”
To this day, I still admire his perspective. This young man wasn’t trying to be someone else but rather understood the value of being true to who he was. He was persistent and patient with the process. More significantly, he wasn’t willing to compromise his integrity.
It is natural to want people to like our work. We seek validation and acceptance — it’s part of our human experience. Look no further than the selfie, like, or clap. It feels good when we are recognized or celebrated. But sometimes we aren’t seen or appreciated, and it can feel lonely.
Learning how to weather feeling slighted is part of reality, and it’s also how we grow. Trees don’t just grow from sunshine, they also need the rain.
Not too long ago, I submitted an article to a publication, and it got rejected. At first, I wasn’t upset because I understood it wasn’t the right fit for that publication. Later, I started thinking it must not have been good enough. I told myself that if it had been, it would have been accepted. I went back and forth deliberating between these two lines of reasoning, trying to determine which was right.
Eventually, I opted to submit the piece to another publication. I knew it might get rejected as well, but I had nothing to lose. A couple of days later I was notified that it was accepted.
What I realized from that situation was my own thoughts about myself. My interpretation of the rejection was far more hurtful than the event itself. Why did I succumb to the belief that my piece wasn’t good enough for publication?
My first reaction came from intuition — I knew it wasn’t the right fit for the first publication. Yet my second reaction focused on the quality of my writing instead.
The piece I submitted was exactly the same for both publications yet one rejected it and another accepted it. Both responses were based on other people’s perspective of my work. Not my work itself.
It is normal to feel a bit dejected when a piece I’ve poured my time, heart and soul into isn’t accepted. Especially if I think it merited publication. Just like another piece I spent days researching, having cited innumerable academic journals.
While I thought the discourse of musculoskeletal disorders would be a topic no one could refuse to publish, a handful of journals disagreed.
Does that suggest that what I’m writing about doesn’t have value? Of course not. While I might think it is imperative for everyone to learn about musculoskeletal health, it might not be a hot topic right now.
Or maybe I didn’t submit my work to enough publications for consideration to make that presumption. Or perhaps, the editor just didn’t find it interesting. It happens. A lot.
Viewing rejection as reflection of self worth or as sign of defeat is the equivalent of putting ourselves at the mercy of other people’s opinions. We can never win that game.
We will never please everyone — our writing won’t speak to every single person. And it shouldn’t. The magic of writing exists in the infinite possibilities of topics to write about and the abundance of unique writers to do it. We are each exactly who we are supposed to be.
Rejection should be viewed as an opportunity to self-reflect but without kicking ourselves when we’re already down. Rather than dwell, it can be a gift that reminds us we don’t need other people to tell us what the quality of our work is.
If we are the ones that accept ourselves, we’ve already been approved by the only person’s perspective that should matter the most. When we do that, we become the victor of our own story.
I write and teach about the mind-body connection and its relationship to health and well-being.