Everybody Hurts: How NOT To Deal With Rejection.
“You have to build a brand!” they keep telling me.
“Blogging isn’t about what you do — it’s about the personality you convey.”
“You’re not selling your stories. You’re selling YOU.”
When I started Domestiphobia nearly 5 years ago, I didn’t realize I was entering a life of prostitution.
And I imagine that’s how it happens with some people. You try something new, make yourself a little vulnerable, get drawn into the allure of a glamorous lifestyle, and before you know it, you’re dancing on a pool table and doing body shots off some guy’s hairy stomach, hoping desperately for someone to notice you.
And look. I’ve finally realized —
I can’t sell me.
I mean, look what we’re working with, here:
Sure, this was circa 1995 or whatever, but I really haven’t changed much since then.
I ditched the mom jeans and somehow managed to land myself a really hot husband (the trick is getting the braces removed), but I still have horrible posture, and I’m pretty sure that denim shirt is shoved somewhere in the back of my closet, just waiting for the Shawshank Redemption look to make a comeback.
So it’s time to accept the fact that I’ve never been the cool girl, and I’m not destined to be the cool girl.
I is what I is.
The other day, my friend said something interesting to me. She was worried about whether her brilliant daughter would get accepted into an educational program at school, and she said, “I just really hope she makes it. She doesn’t deal well with rejection.”
I love my friend. I love her daughter. I don’t want to see her disappointed any more than her mother wants to see her disappointed. But it was hard for me not to laugh and say, “How do you think you learn to deal with it? By experiencing it. By feeling it. By letting it hit you again and again so you can realize that while it doesn’t exactly feel like a day at the spa on a Carnival cruise, it’s also not as bad as being told that the ship’s going down and there aren’t enough life boats.”
Disappointment sucks, but you can always recover.
As a writer and general seeker of opportunities, I feel like I’ve experienced the gamut of professional rejection. (Talking about personal rejection would require opening a whole vault of suppressed memories from the Great Denim Era pictured above, and I’m not quite ready to crack the seal on that one.) Sometimes I’ve dealt well, and sometimes I’ve… well… I could’ve dealt better. But each and every time, I learned a little bit more about myself. About what I can take. About how it helps — and hurts — to react.
How NOT to deal with rejection:
- Don’t treat disappointment with depressants. Guess what? Alcohol is a depressant. One time I made the mistake of reading a rejection email on my phone while I was drinking socially with friends, and it was like my brain was telling me that the wine was Novocaine for my soul — I just needed more of it to get things good and numb. This proves that inebriated brains can’t be trusted, and I also have a horrible tendency to self-psychoanalyze with alternative music from the 90’s.
- Don’t act like the insecure ex. Listen. Breakups are tough. But 99.9% of the time, a person isn’t going to do it unless he really wants to do it. So no amount of “but whhhyyyyy’s” and “are you suuuure’s” are going to change his mind. If anything, it only strengthens the breaker upper’s resolve that the breaker upee has issues. Just like personal relationship breakups, the only shot you have at getting back together after a professional breakup is by giving them the space to realize what they’re missing. Of course, that might not actually happen, but the idea is to actually give yourself the time to realize that you don’t really need that relationship to survive.
- Don’t let it affect your overall self-esteem. Every time I deal with rejection, I visualize another coat of wax on my already rain-resistant finish. Those hard little pellets of pain? Just beads of water, baby. They slide right off. (Not really, of course, but this is what I envision when I’m balled up on the floor doing the ugly cry.) Really, denial is key. Or, if you’re too smart for denial, try being unsmotable. Whatever helps you understand that the disappointment is merely a moment with which you have to deal — not a permanent state of mind.
That girl in the denim was really good at bouncing back from rejection, and I’d like to say she’s gotten better with age.
It’s because I finally realized —
The only real way to move past the hurt of disappointment from rejection is to accept who I am, accept when that doesn’t work for someone, and then? Move on.
Professionally, I still need to pitch. To make myself vulnerable. To continue to improve, show what I can do, and find out where I fit. But there’s a difference between showcasing and selling. One involves an apology-free spotlight — you get what you get — and the other reeks of desperation and used cars.
It took a couple of decades, but the girl in the denim is finally figuring it out.
It’s only when you stop trying to sell that it ceases to matter if anyone’s buying.