On Failure, Rejection, and Showing Up for Each Other
Our society has gotten really good at glamorizing everything — from what we are eating for dinner, to the clothes we wear, and everything in between. And thankfully there is a growing discussion around social media and how much it encapsulates only the highlight real. It can be challenging to not fall into the dangers of comparing your lives to these high moments captured, filtered, and uploaded to the internet. I think the same thing could be said when looking at entrepreneurs and those who are running their own businesses. I think we all can acknowledge that entrepreneurs are hustling day to day, working so hard to bring their visions and dreams to fruition. But beyond the long days, and even beyond the rewarding elements of working for yourself, it can be tough on your soul.
One thing my art education taught me is that if you want to pursue this arena as a career, you better get ready for rejection. Every artist or creative person I know can attest to the fact that you hear a lot of “no” compared to “yes” in this industry. You have to be able to dust yourself off and get back up and keep trying. Again, and again, and again. I know this, I have lived this (for years!) and have even experienced the grueling process of group critiques on more occasions than I could tell you. But I think it should be acknowledged that—well, to be blunt—it can really suck.
I know the key is to let the rejection fuel your fire, and for every opportunity you don’t make the cut for, you should apply to 10 more right then and there (and give yourself a high five for pushing through it!). But I also think we have to acknowledge this very real part of the process, shed light on it and encourage each other through the hard times. Most people I know are only sharing their successes (which, I know, it makes sense!) but it helps to hear that someone else tried and failed too. And that they kept going, and their successes started to outweigh their failures.
I say all of this because when I first took this giant leap to pursue my artistic endeavors and business full time, I was met with a lot of really great successes. I had custom orders and projects lined up, I had been selected for my first big public project, and I was meeting a ton of new people in my industry and making those connections! It was like the universe was cheering me on! You can do it! And then, inevitably, I got a pile of rejections all back to back. A design I created didn’t get selected, my work wasn’t accepted into a show I was excited about, and my queue started to dry up. I don’t share this for any sympathy, but in an attempt at honesty and compassion. I have since applied for five more projects and continue to create new, more challenging work, but I am also a human and my soul is feeling tender right now.
If you’ve been hearing “no” lately, my heart goes out to you. And I want us to encourage each other to keep going, to keep our eye on our goal. Don’t be afraid of failure or mistakes, and don’t be afraid to share them. It may help someone else out there who is struggling, who is only seeing that highlight real and wondering how they could ever possibly compare.
I want to hear more about how someone I admire overcame their obstacles, how they were met with adversity and how they moved through it. I want to build a community where we can all show up, no matter what, instead of feeling defeated and ashamed, and wanting to hide. When I was receiving all of these rejections back to back, my initial feeling was one of embarrassment. I thought, “I can’t let all of these people see me struggle! I have something to prove!” and suffered alone. I don’t want anyone else to feel like they have to do that. In the end, I don’t owe anything to anyone but myself. I want to see my business succeed because I love what I do. And I chose the struggle so that I could build a life for myself and my family that I truly enjoy.
So let’s not be afraid to feel the disappointment and the pain of rejection. Give it it’s time and room. And then let’s learn from it, share what we have learned, and take the next step. It doesn’t have to be a leap! Just a step. You’re already way ahead of the game for even risking that failure to begin with.