It seems only fitting the banner image for this post is a street in New York, a city that can eat people up and spit them out. New York City isn’t for the weak, but it is somewhere many people go with a dream that may or may not come to fruition. At the end of the day, some people will inevitably fail while pursuing the dream they so desperately want. Inevitably, we all fail in some aspect of our lives. We won’t just fail once, either. We will fail multiple times in different aspects of lives. However, how one handles that failure says a lot about their character. On the same vein, some failure results from rejection. The rejection that rears its ugly head at the worst, most earth-shattering times is the most damaging, but rejection in any form, even the insignificant, can impact us.
When we want to succeed so badly it hurts, someone telling us, “no, now is not your time,” stings a bit extra. It’s like getting lemon juice in a papercut. So, how do we handle rejection with grace while also subtly saying, “that won’t deter me, but nice try!” to our nay-sayers? Well, I think the biggest thing we can do is not let people in our heads. Don’t let someone’s comments or “not good enough,” insinuations get to you. You can take constructive feedback, but if the comment is just flat out hurtful and beyond the nature of constructive, it’s perfectly fine to disregard. I was scrolling through Twitter the other morning, as so many law students who aren’t ready to face mergers and acquisitions reading do, and I noticed a thread from the author of The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney that immediately caught my attention and made my thumb lift from the lit-up screen. Her tweet said this:
“When I heard When I heard an agent say a ‘middle-aged woman in a writing class’ was not a client he wanted & I thought I’LL SHOW YOU
When I read this, I wondered what had spurred it. There wasn’t anything in particular that preceded this in her feed that indicated it was a response to something. However, following this tweet, there was another:
“So don’t listen to dummies and don’t be discouraged. Just make your manuscript the best you can.”
I liked the sentiment of the tweets because the author is encouraging people to ignore those that say such rude, condescending things, and keep pushing forward. The agent who said this was rejecting D’Aprix Sweeney as an author, belittling her work in the process, but D’Aprix Sweeney, rather than curling up and crying, said, “hm. let me prove you wrong.” She may not have said it to the agent’s face, but she took action to become a successful author whose novel is the topic of book clubs and Goodreads threads around the world. This is, of course, just one example of someone handling rejection well. However, handling rejection isn’t easy…handling it well is even harder.
Rejection is just part of life, unfortunately. Whether we’re working hard in law school to get that big firm job, or on every dating app in search of something, or trying to maintain friendships we can feel are failing, we set ourselves up for someone to tell us “now is not your time,” over and over. However, success is kind of like lightning in a bottle. You’re not always sure what’s going to happen, how you’re going to get X, but once you hit it just right, it’s pure magic. So, we have to put ourselves on the rejection chopping block time and time again to see if this time we’ll hit it just right and find success. Handling rejection with grace isn’t some equation or perfect step-by-step process. If anything, handling rejection with grace is saying, “thank you for your time,” walking away and trying again tomorrow. While someone can say no to you, they can’t rob you of your gumption. So for every “no” uttered, remember you only need one yes to get somewhere.
I grew up in an environment where I was told, “the worst they can say is no,” every time I was hesitant to do something – talk to a romantic interest, apply for a leadership position, go after a job, apply to law schools I knew may not take me, etc. It created a less scary aura around everything I wanted to do – if they said no, bummer but I could move on. If they said yes, well, I got what I wanted! Being fearless but realistic is important in handling rejection. We cannot be so scared of rejection that the fear alone is the biggest roadblock in our lives. We have to keep going, putting ourselves out there, and remember that we will get what we want if we work toward it strategically. If you can’t get X immediately (I know, hard to believe in the instant-gratification world we live in), maybe try getting to X the long way around, by starting with Y, moving to Z, and attacking X tangentially.
I’m not going to tell you rejection gets easier or that you become immune. Rejection is discouraging as hell and by the fifth or so “thanks, but no thanks,” you can feel your ego bruising. However, if we stop putting our name out there and let the few rejections push us so far down they become the end game, we’re letting ourselves down. So, how do we handle rejection with grace? We say, “I understand,” take the night to drink a glass of wine [or a scotch, neat], take a bubble bath, listen to some James Arthur before getting up in the morning, putting on our big-girl pants and showing the world it cannot shake us.