Nobody likes to be rejected. It sucks. Whether personally or professionally, it can make you feel worthless; and especially in the entertainment business, it can make you question yourself and your talent. It can make you compare yourself to others and wonder why so-and-so has this-and-that when all you have is a lousy rejection letter.
At one time or another we've all felt the bitch-slap of rejection, I'm no exception. The following are some excerpts from rejection letters I've recently received (my favorite being the last one):
Appreciate your giving us a shot with this one, but I'm afraid we're not going to use it.
Thanks for submitting to [omitted]. Unfortunately, this isn't quite what we're looking for.
I'm afraid this list isn't quite funny enough for us to use. Thanks for trying, though!
Several years ago, such rejections would have put me in a depressive state for a week causing me to binge on deep-dish pizza and question why I ever wanted to try to succeed in the first place (Although writing a sh*tty Facebook status about that last rejection letter made me feel better. So, there's that.). And while we can't absolutely avoid rejection in this world we live in, I've found there are some ways to deal with it. And lest I come off sounding preachy, let me fully admit, I don't have it all figured out. But I am finding some tricks that help.
Rejection isn't and doesn't have to be that scary! After absorbing the initial shock of "Oh, this person thinks I suck," you're still "you." The planets are still orbiting, the coffee maker is still percolating, and Tyra Banks will, whether for good or bad, continue to make "Top Model" episodes. Life is continuing on and just because someone has taken time out of their day to specifically say "no, thank you," it's not the end of the world. It's the end of that particular path but there's also a dozen other paths out there that are continuing in the face of opportunity.
Which leads me to my next point...
You can't be all things to all people and that's f*cking okay! There are some comedians and performers that I just don't care for, no matter how much the media or others try to get me to like them. And then there are some performers that I absolutely adore. The same goes vice versa. Half of you reading this article may think, "Who the hell is this girl and where does she get off spouting all this rejection crap?" And the other half of you are thinking about cheese (Mmm... cheese). The point is, knowing from the outset that there are going to be people who just don't "get" or "gel with" what you're doing is a lot more freeing than having the mindset that you have to make every person or thing love you. It's impossible and unrealistic. Except for Tom Hanks. I mean, who doesn't love Tom Hanks?!
Build up your callouses. I played guitar for about a week before my fingers were so sore that I said, "Screw this!" But let's face it, without callouses there would be no "Stairway to Heaven" (I know some of you hate that song, but I'm a Led Zeppelin fan, so back off). Point being, the more you put yourself out there to be vulnerable to the feedback or critique of others, the more you'll build up those callouses to where it won't sting so much. You'll get to a point where rejection won't instantly be an open gaping wound and you can actually listen and maybe learn from the feedback. Granted, sometimes people are just jerks. But by then, you'll be able to tell the difference.
It's OK to poke fun at and have FUN with rejection. I have an entire email folder (Yes, a whole folder. Yay, rejection!) where I file my rejection letters. I've humorously (a.k.a. stupidly) labeled it and that's where all my rejection emails go to slip into a coma until I finally pull the plug. I love my rejection folder. Essays/stories/jokes that I once thought so holy and sacrosanct can, in one fell rejection email swoop, get downgraded to crap. It reminds me: don't take this all so seriously! Yes, work hard. Yes, take the time and quality of your work seriously, and then send it off to the great toilet that is "submissions" and flush it away. If it comes back, just like in real life, it'll be a surprise.
If you're submitting your work anywhere, rejection is inevitable. But, so is the chance that you'll one day get published. That you'll hear a "yes" at an audition. That you'll get that promotion. There's a bit of masochism involved with constantly putting yourself out there. But, with a little bit of temporary pain can also come a good deal of long-term pleasure.
*Author's Note: During the course of writing this article, your author received two callbacks for the lead in a Broadway musical. She (I) did not get the role. Rejection: It's all in the timing.
(photo courtesy zlien.com)