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  • Writer's picturekirstiewright

How to cope with Rejection

Rejection can really hurt. Think of a past time you experienced rejection, maybe it was rejection from a romantic interest, rejection from a dream job or a critique of an artistic creation. What do you remember most from that experience? Chances are it was a sinking feeling or a complete numbing of feeling. I have certainly experienced rejection and it doesn’t feel nice. I have responded in many ways to rejection. I certainly wouldn’t recommend all of the ways I have responded including justifying my work and why the other person is wrong, rumination and berating myself for feeling bad in response to rejection.  So what is the best way to cope with being rejected? After all it is very unlikely you will not experience rejection in your life.

rejection creative industries


Rejection in the creative world is common and can included rejection of jobs, commissions, opinions, and your work. It can be hard when you have poured your heart and soul into something and shared something deeply personally connected with yourself and it gets rejected.


First lets take a look at why does it hurt so bad when we feel rejected


MRI tests, which are tests that involve scanning the brain have shown that when people report being rejected the same area of the brain that is active when we are in physical pain is active when we experience rejection. This demonstrates that rejection does hurt. The theory behind why rejection triggers physical pain is that we are a social species. Our survival depends upon others. In the past this looked like hunting together in groups, exchanging crops and looking out for others safety. In the past being part of society and a group was linked to survival so rejection would be a threat to your very existence. The automatic response to rejection is there to signal danger. In todays society a rejection is less likely to be linked to survival but we still have this response.


We need to challenge the view that you need a thick skin in this industry.


In the creative industries including film, TV, writing, radio, dance, music, performing arts and arts phrases are often used including you need a thick skin to work in the industry. This phrase can make people feel bad if they experience negative emotions in response to rejection. When in fact it is very human to feel negative emotions following rejection.

rejection creative industries

If we have this response what can we do to cope with rejection?


Feel the pain

Rejection can cause pain. Allow yourself to feel the pain. If you avoid the pain short term you will experience relief but longer term you will learn rejection is bad and scary which worsens the fear of rejection. Next time you experience rejection it will feel harder and the cycle keeps going.


Be kind to yourself- don’t self reject

A common response to rejection is to criticise yourself. You will often have thoughts along the lines of ‘I can’t believe I did that why am I such an idiot’, ‘See I knew it wouldn’t work’, ‘I am worthless’. Be kind to this part of yourself and try to work out where those thoughts are coming from and notice them as thoughts not fact.

rejection creative industries


What happened?

Try to think about what happened from a neutral point of view, why did you get rejected, what might have been the cause? You will often jump to the worst case scenario, but try to think about other reasons. Then ask what I can I learn from this?


Connect with those who you care about and who care about you

Experiencing rejection can make us doubt ourselves and feel less connected from others. Spending time with people who care about you can remind you of what you are about and what you care about. It will make you feel more connected to the group and ease feelings of disconnection.


Act in line with your values and focus on what you can do

The natural response to rejection is often to retreat from opportunities and avoid putting yourself out there. In the past this would have helped if a group rejected you when your survival depended on the group but in todays context its often not a helpful response. If you don’t try or seek opportunities you can guarantee you increase your chances of not getting to where you want to be.

rejection creative


Does it matter?

Lots of the emotional response to rejection appears to be automatic. We react to rejection naturally. Take a moment and think does it really matter? We tend to treat all rejection the same but does a rejection from someone you don’t know really matter What could be the opportunities in this? What can I learn from this. Rejection is subjective and is often a result of a matter of opinion.


Rejection hurts more if we dwell on it and act in a way that hurts ourselves more.

Try to think of a time when a colleague has experienced rejection. Did you think it was all over for them, the chances are you didn’t so why judge yourself in this way? Why do you respond kindly to a colleague? What are you aiming to do? The chances are you are encouraging your colleague to be kind to themselves and to not dwell on the rejection and take actions that are in their long term interests because you think this will help. So do the same for you, be aware of your natural tendency to engage in activities that may hurt yourself more e.g. isolating yourself, eating junk food and avoiding opportunities.


Facing rejections

Take time to note down people you admire including their rejections. Rejections feel super personal but this can help remind you its part of being in the creative industry. For example Oprah Winfrey reportedly was fired from a job as a news reporter in Baltimore because she could not disentangle her emotions from the story. Stephen Kings first book received over 30 rejections before it was published. Michael Jordan was cut from his school basketball team. Steven Speilberg was rejected three times from the University of Southern California School of Theatre, Film and Television. Rejection doesn’t mean you wont reach your goal and reminding yourself of the stories of rejection of those you admire can help. This also reminds you that you are not alone in experiencing rejection.

rejection creatives


Focus on self-care

Rejection can hurt so its important to care of yourself following a rejection. This can look like different things for different people but can include listening to music, exercise and meditation.


Seek out constructive feedback

Rejection can hurt but look for opportunities to learn from the feedback

Desensitize to rejection

There is a school of thought that suggests the more you open yourself up to rejection the more you become used to the negative emotions and see the opportunities. A ted talk focuses on this topic. The speaker spent 100 days focusing on setting a task daily in which he faces rejection.


Rejection may be common in the creative industries, but it still hurts. The above tips will not immediately lessen the initial pain of rejection. As discussed above it physically hurts. The above tips are there to help you cope with rejection and lessen the duration and intensity of negative emotions. If you want support in how to manage rejection do not hesitate to contact us for one to one therapy or workshops on the topic.

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