View this post on Instagram
Rejection. There is not a person on the planet who does not fear that word.
Whether we are a student, writer, artist, lover, parent, or job applicant, this word will keep us from stepping away from our fears and going for our dreams.
My first memory of this gut-wrenching feeling was when I was just a little girl. I remember kissing my father goodbye, being put in the back of our car, staring out the back window, tears streaming down my face as we drove away, and being so confused and devastated. From what I could discern in my little broken heart, my dad did not want us anymore. Was I not pretty enough? Did I misbehave one too many times? Was I just not worthy of his love?
Mom treated my brother and I to a Dreamsicle, my favorite, and it was probably the beginning of my using food as an emotional crutch. When I got a little older, my mother tried to explain away my fears by sharing that it was her, not me, who was not worthy of my dad’s love. This explanation did little to elevate my fears. It just reinforced the idea that one could be unworthy of love.
I spent many years on this path of rejection. From feeling like an outsider in my school years, being told I laughed too loud, my socks were ugly, and my hair was just…all wrong, to “looking for love in all the wrong places” as I tried to fill the void of not being good enough. I identified with women like Janis Joplin, who had been ridiculed and verbally abused for daring to be different. Even after she was a well-known, idolized blues singer, her high school classmates still dismissed and scorned her.
That broken heart didn’t keep me from dreams of being a writer. My passion for the written word was just kept hidden in locked journals and boxes filled with stories and poems that would never be read by anyone. My debilitating fear of rejection and being told one more time that I wasn’t good enough made me a closet teller of tales and poetic shamester. Yes, I made that word up! Reject it or embrace it—it is now my word!
As I got older, I became brave enough to announce to trusted family and friends that I was a writer, but that ugly fear of rejection would not allow me to share my words with them. I could not imagine a pain greater than having my soul, which is what was on that paper, scoffed at, criticized, or worse—laughed at. Even though I refused to allow others to read my work, my friends encouraged me with gifts of beautiful pens and ornate notebooks. My mother bought me my first typewriter.
I was pregnant with my daughter when I finally mustered up the boldness to share a poem I had written for her. I think of it as my first act of courage as a parent, wanting her to know that this fear could be mastered. I am sharing it here with you just to show how brave I have become!
Letter to my unborn child
In the beginning
You were just an image in my mind
Of things I wanted you to be.
You began quietly letting me know
That you had ideas of your own.
A subtle push for more attention
A kick when you thought I was crowding you
Or just a flutter to let me know you were content.
You’ve shown me in this time
That it is not my job to shape you
But to help you shape yourself,
To guide you with love
And give you the freedom to learn to love yourself.
I am awaiting your arrival anxiously now
Knowing we both have a lot to share.
She is a grown woman now, and though she has faced her share of rejection, she has handled it with grace and courage, and I couldn’t be more proud. She keeps the original handwritten version framed on her fireplace mantle.
I have heard a lot of no’s and received a lot of well-meant—and well-taken—criticism since I started sharing my work. I wish I could say the letdown gets easier, but that would not be true. I have just become more fearless in my desire to be heard and seen.
There are a few things that have helped me deal with the pain of rejection, and make no mistake, it is a real, oftentimes actual physical pain, that like any jury, takes time to heal from.
1. Don’t take it personally. Not everyone will understand your journey or agree with it. That does not mean your voice is not worthy of being heard. If it is true and authentic to you, it will be appreciated and valued by the people meant to hear it.
2. Share with trusted friends and loved ones. They will respond with love and steer you in a direction that will keep you true to yourself. They are invested in your success.
3. Don’t give up. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers before finally being accepted and only then because the publisher’s daughter saw it and fell in love with it. The right partner, or college, or job, or publisher is out there waiting for you. If it is meant for you, with a bit of hard work and determination, the connections will be made.
4. Don’t tie the rejections to your self-worth. I know, believe me, I know. This is easier said than done. Whether it is a romantic interest, a job, or a novel, the rejection does not define who you are or the importance of what you have to offer. It is just an opportunity to become more self-aware and an invitation to seek out what is meant for you. And remember what is great about you!
5. Show gratitude. Another hard one but necessary to the moving on process. Just simply say, “Thank you for that opportunity. Next one please!”
I get braver with every attempt I make to be seen, shamelessly putting myself and my words out there for others to embrace or reject as they see fit. I am determined not to let the fear keep me from living my dream.
In the larger scheme of things, whether you end up with the boy, get the big paying corporate job, receive that college acceptance letter, or get your novel published—or not—what really matters is that feeling of pride that comes with living authentically, doing your best, and knowing that if your life’s work helped even one person live their best life, then you are a resounding success.