Ouch! The Pain Of Rejection

By Alyssa Gregory
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rejectionRejection hurts. And unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence for freelancers and business owners, especially for those in the creative world. We get rejected by potential clients; our design ideas get rejected; and we get rejected for new business opportunities. Have you ever thought you were a shoe-in with a new client, or created the “perfect” design only to get shot down? Yep, me too.

Even if you are anticipating the rejection, it still never feels good. Human nature makes us want to succeed and be accepted, and being rejected is never something we look forward to or accept happily. As much as rejection stinks because it derails our carefully laid plans, deprives us of a much-desired new opportunity, and provides a solid hit to our egos, it does make us better at what we do, smarter and stronger. Here’s how:

You learn something.

Actually, you may learn a lot of things. Being rejected can teach you something about yourself, your work, your capabilities, your ability to communicate effectively, areas you need to improve, and how you deal with criticism. If it is a project-based rejection, you may also learn a great deal about the client and what they’re looking for. This information is a vital part of the design process, and it helps to think of it that way instead of as a personal rejection.

The best type of rejection includes constructive criticism and feedback that will help you do it differently (and better) next time. Each potential client relationship and un-won proposal is a worthy practice in selling yourself and your abilities. The more you pitch yourself, whether you win the contracts or not, the better you will get at it, the more confident you will be, and the more success you will achieve over time.

It puts things in perspective.

Most rejections are not personal. And most importantly, a rejection does not define who you are or how successful you are at what you do. A rejection simply means you’re not the right person at this time for a particular opportunity. In the big scheme of things, being rejected will mean very little, and it frees you up for other opportunities that may come along. Just like the saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens.”

It makes you hungrier.

Getting rejected gives you an opportunity to start fresh with a clean slate, more determined to succeed the next time. Being told “no” can make us want to hear “yes” even more, which means we may work harder and focus more on the details in order to put ourselves in the best position possible for avoiding being rejected again. Not to mention, success is so much sweeter when it was preceded by a struggle, and rejection can make victory much more appreciated.

What’s your silver lining when you face rejection?

Image credit: Ali Farid

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  • All too true. Great title, too! Love it.

  • Philip John Basile

    I agree. Rejection only makes you stronger. I come out of interviews and client meetings happy knowing what I know and I jot down quickly afterwards what I don’t know. First chance I get, I look it up and then I’ll know what I didn’t know just minutes ago. It’s a learning experience regardless if the project/position is attained.

  • akayani

    Thank God for cats and dogs!


  • picohax

    Don’t call it rejection. It’s not “rejection” like “your friends rejected you” or like “your office colleagues rejected you” or similar. If you know the effort you have put into your work and you have the hours of thought and the paper/files to show the work you have done before the deal was off, you have undeniably done that much.
    If you have worked hard, that work is not lost. Your brain is your asset – and there’s one great thing about the human brain – memory. You just have to feed the right data, and it is stored forever. The reasons why the deal was off, once properly analyzed by you in your mind and maybe conferring with someone here or other forums, will stick and surface at the right time when a more important deal (important != money) is at hand and will help you there.
    There’s this thing called luck that nobody can do anything about. The guys who are successful out there also had good luck. This is not philosophy, a few years back I wasn’t getting the deals I get now. I would simply say that I was not trained enough.
    Your client is not the goal of your life. Your own learning and perfection is.
    Shit happens. To everyone. Bar none.
    What you need is a cool head to figure out what you did tactically/ethically wrong. Most often it turns out that the client was not sure of what he wanted or not wise enough to understand your explanation of the situation. I’ve seen a few clients call me foolish, act high-handed, sometimes insult me too. Then a year later I hear that they’re out of business.
    Everyone here has had their bad clients. Everyone here has made mistakes and taken hits. That’s part of the job. So, don’t call it rejection.
    Treat each deal case-by-case – which means that you don’t find a pattern which says that you are incapable of something or you’re a loser.
    I’m repeating this because I’ve seen quite a few people being self-critical when the problem was outside. There are also people who always put the blame outside. They are the guys who do not work hard. If you’ve been “true to thine own self” you have nothing to worry about, just patience.

  • picohax

    Do you know about the most famous “repetitive loser” of the computer industry?

    So we “rejected people” are in pretty distinguished company :-)

  • Jash Sayani

    Great post !!

  • picohax