You could say I’ve asked for it.
Someone who doesn’t like facing constant rejection should probably not go into writing, acting, singing or missionary work.
I’ve done all of the above. I’m practically a human pincushion. Editors and agents have rejected my writing, directors have rejected my auditions, and, oh, so many people (especially Germans) have rejected my attempts to talk religion. Despite this, nine out of ten people who know me would likely say I’m a happy guy, who continues fighting all of the above battles.
How do I still have a shred of self-esteem?
For starters, I should say that some days are better than others. My self-esteem does go through highs and lows, and sometimes I do feel like giving up on the things I’m passionate about. I have, however, experimented in my life with the best coping mechanisms for me. They may not be the same for everyone, but I’d like to share a few that have gotten me through the less-than-rose-colored days.
- Allow Some Time to Mourn (But Not Too Long). I don’t think it’s to hold things in. Trying to pretend that something didn’t affect you when it did serves no purpose. Feeling a little genuine grief can actually be a cathartic, healing experience. But do put a cap on it. If you languish with a bag of Oreos for a week after every time you get a rejection, you might be overdoing it. I usually allow myself 24 hours to feel bad about a rejection, and don’t feel guilty about mourning a bit. Then, however, I honor my agreement with myself and set it aside.
- Remind Yourself of Your Successes. It can be easy to focus on the negative after a rejection. Sometimes, it dredges up all the memories of past rejections, and these start to seem like a mountain whose shadow you might never escape. It does me so much good in these times to remember the things I have succeeded in. A few years ago, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of becoming a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. One of my personal mantras when faced with rejection is “that one success can cover a mountain of failures.” Your successes need not be large things, but I promise you, if you peek out from behind the cloud of pessimism, you will find them.
- Take Time to Appreciate the Success and Effort of Others. Rejections can hurt especially bad when observing the success of others around you. It is easy to forget all the time, struggle and anguish another person in a similar situation had to invest before achieving success. I remember once reading a quote from the famous basketball player Michael Jordan, in which he expressed his regret that at the height of his career that he made playing professional basketball look so easy. So many young boys thought they could be just like him, but didn’t understand all of the practice, the failures and the immense amount of time it took for him to get to where he was. After a rejection, I make it a point to spend a little less time on social media, where people most often display their best news, so that I am not tempted by jealousy. If I do see something, however, I give my best effort to appreciate that person’s effort and to remember that it might very well be me someday.
- Get Back in the Saddle. In my book, I believe persistence will take your farther in life than even talent. Talent without persistence is hallow. No matter how hard it seems, you need to launch into your next project and keep revising and submitting. I often remember that Abraham Lincoln ran for many public offices and lost all of the elections until the big one. He’s now so famous that his face gets to be on both a bill, a coin, and a Steven Spielberg movie. Did I mention the big shrine in Washington DC? Maybe that won’t happen for you, but one thing is for sure—you definitely won’t have anything like that happen to you if you quit.
- Look at the Big Picture. The truth is, most books get rejected many times before finding their place. What may seem like a tumble from a cliff may really be only a minor speed bump. Even sore bruises heal with time. Remember how far you have come, and don’t take your eyes off on where you want to end up. And while you are getting there—enjoy the ride.
Above all, I realize that rejection is a part of life. Sometimes, I even find the audacity to smile at them. A rejection means that you overcame your fears of trying. That is so much farther than most people go. For every writer, singer, actor, or whatever, there are thousands who wished they had the courage and patience to be any one of those things. A rejection then, is not a black mark on your record, but a badge of honor.