I first learnt the bitter taste of repeated rejection when I decided to quit my job and become a freelance writer.
I knew that starting out as a writer would be challenging. Everyone hurried to share this piece of information with me. My former teachers at university, other freelancers, the media, my parents.
I was warned that I’ll need to work for free for months, if not years, and that I’ll need to forget what a weekend feels like. I knew that I’ll be constantly competing with thousands of other freelancers on sites like Fiverr, where I’d work myself into exhaustion, one blog piece (worth a few coins) at a time.
Hearing about how impossible it would be to get into freelance writing was what stopped me from pursuing a career in it when I graduated with a degree in journalism more than 6 years ago. I buried my dream to become a writer under my desire to make a living and worked in market research for many years instead.
But this time, it was different. I was determined. I quit my job, so that I would expose myself to my biggest fear – not having a regular income. Hearing about how tough it will be couldn’t discourage me any longer. I was ready for the long hours – and lots of unpaid work.
So, I began sending out pitches.
My days were spent sending one email after another, until the words on my screen became a blur. I was pitching to websites and magazines, sharing examples of my work and applying for freelancing gigs at the same time, crossing my fingers each time I would hit ‘send’. Maybe this time I’ll hear back?
But, 9 times out of 10, there would be no response. It would be like I had never applied. The items were in my ‘sent’ folder, ignored by the people they had been delivered to.
The first few weeks were painful, but doable. I told myself that it was the only way to begin. All freelancers go through the stage of rejection. I’ll just have to endure being ignored for a while.
But then, weeks turned into a month, then two – and it became harder to justify the silence.
I started questioning it all.
Maybe I don’t have what it takes?
Is my writing not good enough?
Maybe I’m not good enough.
I knew that starting out as a freelance writer would be difficult. But I wasn’t ready for the emotional resilience test it turned out to be.
A few months later, after trying a million different ways to motivate myself (including meditation and affirmations for freelancers), I landed my first paid gig. I shed some real tears when it happened.
I often contemplate rejection – and I still deal with it on a weekly basis. I’ve accepted it as part of my choice to be a freelancer, and now it doesn’t hurt my self-esteem (as much).
But I know that if I hadn’t told myself certain things to help me through the tough times, I would have quit a long time ago.
When you’re getting rejected over and over again, tell yourself the following truths:
1. Rejection doesn’t mean that you are not good enough.
This is our initial response to being rejected. I probably don’t have enough to offer, you may think. While there may be things that you can improve, don’t let the thought of ‘not being good enough’ become the dominant idea on your mind. We are often held back by our negative attitudes and our inner critical voice, especially when we face a difficult situation, like being fired or rejected. Don’t let your critical voice win. Let these thoughts come, and then let go of them with a mindfulness meditation, or by repeating affirmations such as ‘I am good enough’ and ‘I am constantly learning and becoming better at what I do’.
2. Getting rejected isn’t where it all ends.
Did you know that Spielberg was rejected from a university he wanted to attend three times before he got accepted by another school? In fact, many successful people had to face multiple letters of rejection before they achieved their goals and became who they are today. It is an unpleasant stage, which you must go through to strengthen your determination, and become better at what you do. There are two possible ways it can go when you get rejected. You can either quit trying and give up, or you can keep pushing forward. The truth is, only those who push forward have a chance at succeeding.
3. There may be external factors.
Sometimes, you may get rejected simply because of external factors, which you have no control over. Sometimes it isn’t the right place, time or situation for you to be accepted. There could be tons of external factors which influence a person’s decision to say ‘no’, and those factors could have very little to do with you. Of course, that won’t always be the case – but it’s worth remembering that it could be why you are receiving another rejection email – or not hearing back at all.
4. This is your opportunity to learn about yourself and build your resilience.
It’s difficult to think positively when you get rejected, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t encourage yourself to. You got rejected. Instead of throwing yourself a pity party, have a think about what it’s teaching you. Being rejected over and over again taught me that sometimes you have to work hard to achieve something good. It taught me that resilience is key in life – and that I get to choose whether to give up or continue going forward. It also taught me about the importance of believing in myself. If I don’t believe in what I do, why should someone else?
5. Don’t be rejected – be guided.
How we perceive rejection is entirely up to us. Do we choose to see it as a painful experience, and a sign that world is unfair, or as an opportunity to make our offer better, so that we can get accepted next time? Getting rejected can help open our eyes to a crucial element we have been missing, or an additional skill that could be beneficial in our career going forward. Maybe it’s our attitude that needs changing – or maybe we’re not going about it in the right way. Rejection can be a powerful tool that allows us to reconsider what we offer, and make changes that allow us to improve – or even change our course. Let rejection be your guide.