Handle Rejection Like a Pro

Rejection sucks, and for many creatives, particularly the highly sensitive ones like myself, it can feel debilitating to have your work rejected over and over again.  

Our default brain is always going to bring up the fight or flight sensation when we experience rejection, even when we are just thinking about the possibility of rejection. 

But we don’t have to accept this response, and the more you practice this reframing of rejection, the easier it will be to move through it.

So, I want to offer you a perspective that may help you process rejection in a healthier way, one that will keep you motivated and sharing your work with the world.

It’s the idea of learning to take rejection like a professional. 

It’s a valuable skill so I hope you will try this idea on if it resonates with you.

A good example of taking rejection like a professional is that the majority of working and aspiring actors in Hollywood have to go to 150 to 200 auditions before booking one role. They physically put themselves in front of casting directors and agents and risk rejection every single day to land that one role. 

Now, the casting agents are not rejecting the actor personally; the actor just does not fit the specifics they are looking for in that particular role. It has nothing to do with the value of the actor as a person. 

A casting agent’s job is to sort, and rejecting is a sorting process. It’s not personal – it’s business. 

And that is true when it comes to producers choosing which projects they will have on their slate, same with book publishers, and art galleries, etc. Anyone buying from a creative artist is a sorter. 

When you put your work out there, think of it like that. Whoever you are sharing it with usually has specific things they are looking for to fulfill their needs. 

You could also compare it to dating. Not everyone you date is going to be a good fit, and being rejected doesn’t mean anything about you, it just means you were not right for that person. Potential suitors are going to choose what’s best for them. 

This is why you want to practice not being attached to the outcome. 

The sooner we can stop associating our value as a person with our work being rejected, the better we are going to be at processing rejection in a manner that serves us instead of destroys us. 

That’s the first step. Really focus on separating your value as a person and as a creative artist from having your work rejected. 

This does not mean that you won’t feel the sting of rejection. You may really be excited about the prospect of working with a particular producer, publisher, or buyer, and it may be disappointing if they decide they want to go with someone else’s work. 

Allow yourself to feel that disappointment. Express your emotions and then move on. 

It should never be a reason to give up.

Also, focus on what went well, what worked, and what positive things came out of putting yourself out there. Congratulate yourself for those things. There’s always something you can take out of a rejection that you can learn from.

Reframe it as a learning experience. Did you get feedback you can use to get better at pitching your projects or elevating your craft? That one thing you learned could be worth 10 times the value you would have gotten had you not been rejected.

Fear of rejection is one of our deepest fears because of the feelings it gives us. So, we have to be able to navigate these feelings, not just pretend like they’re not there.

Don’t be afraid to feel your feelings. Internalizing your feelings with no outlet makes you feel worse, so allow yourself to express your emotions and then move on. 

Don’t assume that you did something wrong because they don’t email or call you back. Nothing has gone wrong. Follow up once or twice after a few weeks, depending on the situation, and then let it go. Your project may just not be what they’re looking for. 

Remember to think of them as casting directors. They are just sorting.

Keep putting yourself out there. Don’t be like the person who sits by the phone waiting for that one guy to call, wondering why he hasn’t or if he ever will. 

I see this with screenwriters all the time. Someone requests a script from them and they just stop everything and obsess over hearing back from that one producer.   

Stay focused on your end game before a rejection – and after one. It’s only by going through the rejection and not giving up that you can get to the other side where all the good stuff is.

Do you have a good support system with people you can connect with when you’re feeling extra vulnerable? A mentor, a coach, a group of people who are on the same journey?

I always go back to that quote, “You’re either winning or learning.” What is one thing you learned in this Tiny Talk to move your project forward? 

P.S. As a creativity coach, I listen and focus on what you want and what is keeping you from getting there. If you are finding yourself constantly stuck in the same rut and you’re not sure how to get out of it, I can help. Book a free consultation and find out how we can work together and get your projects out into the world where they belong.