Tips for Dealing with Rejection


I’ve been thinking a lot about rejection lately.  As artists, we work in an industry that is based on judgement.  For many of us, this is a contradiction to our own inner work as eloquently conveyed in the words of Brene Brown, Comparison is the thief of happiness.

Unpacking rejection, I realize, it is a matter of the heart. Being rejected by one you love, or from a show, stem from the same place in your heart.  Although one has a greater impact than the other.  When your heart is tethered to an external source or outcome, heartache is inevitable.  There is grief in not getting something that you wanted.  Facing rejection is a rite of passage of sorts, all artists, all humans, have to traverse its pain.

Every artist that entered the Sky Harbor Show experienced a form of rejection as no single entry was accepted in its entirety.  Even for some who did get in, they experienced a sting of disappointment that the piece they really wanted to get in was not selected.

The Sky Harbor Museum show was a difficult show to jury.  309 pieces were submitted with no theme to unite the work.  The reality is, it isn’t so much that the work was judged against, it was about how your work conveyed in relation to others.  The curators had to consider how it will hang together to create a cohesive exhibition that would not confuse the viewer.  With 8 cases – each case becomes its own micro exhibition.  However, all 8 cases have to unite in some way.  Rejected or selected may have had nothing to do with the quality of your work and more to do with the scale, subject, color, medium, or some other consideration.

Despite all that, being rejected from a show hurts. I’ve assembled 5 tips for dealing with rejection, adapted from author, Amy Morin.

Five tips for Dealing with Rejection:

There are many essays written on Rejection. Essentially the message is the same; that rejection taps into our number one greatest need, the need to belong.  With that comes our greatest fear, of not belonging.  How you deal with it allows you to grow or to stagnate.  Rejection has the propensity to build grit and resiliency or can cause continued pain, insecurity, and even anger.  Below are five tools to help you navigate the terrain of rejection.

  1. Acknowledge your emotions. As Pema Chodron says, lean-in to your emotion, rather than disregard or discard them. This allows you to grow emotionally.
  1. View it as an opportunity for pushing your limits. Don’t be afraid to go for it, even if it may be a long-shot.  If you don’t get rejected you are living way too far inside your comfort zone. Keep putting yourself out there and living on or beyond your edge.
  1. Speak to yourself with compassion. Rather than bashing the juror as well as yourself, give yourself a kinder more affirmative message.  This is a great quote sent to me from Dan Prendergast;  It is not rejection.  It’s just a difference of opinion. – Sharon Loudon
  1. Don’t let the rejection define you. Keep it in perspective.  Don’t let yourself, your work, or value as an artist be defined by one show, one juror.
  1. Learn from rejection. What did you gain? Turn it into an opportunity for self-growth.  With each rejection, get stronger and better.  Rejection can be a great teacher, to move toward something more.

I invite you to look at what you believe to be true for you.  And then remember these wise words:  Sometimes not getting what you want is a stroke of luck – Dalai Lama

And remember, peace begins where expectation ends.



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