Earlier this summer, I had an experience where I felt the sting of rejection. It was somewhat unexpected, and a little challenging for my ego, but it was also a good reminder that I’ll win some and I’ll lose some when I put myself — and my ideas — out there.

In the moment, it can be quite a blow. Experiencing this rejection, which came in the form of an email (like so many of them do), I felt my face blush, my stomach tighten, and my mouth turn into a frown.

I questioned my abilities, my knowledge about the situation, and my level of influence in a particular academic community.

I was also just plain embarrassed.

But, like anything challenging, I look for the good, for the learning, and for the steps that move me forward.

Here are some of the ways that I dealt with the situation:

Walk it off. Literally. I walked away from my office, got outside, and took a nice walk for about 30 minutes.

Talk about it, but productively. While I was walking, I called my partner and talked through the rejection. Not only was he a good listener, but he also helped to put the situation into perspective. He’s also not someone to let me wallow in self-pity, so I was able to share the disappointment, but not lose myself in it.

Learn from it. There were definitely some lessons to take away from the situation (there usually are), so I spent some time thinking about what, if anything, I would do differently next time.

Make a Plan B. Once one door closes, you have to look for a window. In this case, it meant brainstorming some solutions with a colleague and almost immediately emailing someone to coordinate a Plan B (which totally worked out, by the way).

Focus on your strengths. The particular rejection I experienced in this case occurred in the later stages of a large project, so I was able to situate the rejection within a larger narrative of all I had been able to accomplish thus far. That meant I didn’t see it as a definitive judgement of my abilities, but rather a smaller setback that could be creatively remedied.

Try again. This certainly wasn’t my first time facing rejection and it definitely won’t be my last, so I can’t let it stop me from moving forward or putting myself out there. Having a Plan B helped me to immediately move forward and past the fear of more rejection.

Move on. While learning from rejection and failure is important, I also think that you can learn your lesson, know when and where to apply what you’ve learned, and then move on. Regrets about the past or anxiety about the future can negatively impact creative work, so it’s important to move past these situations in a way that doesn’t let them be too powerful or defining.

All of these methods were ways of practicing loving-kindness toward myself as I acknowledged the rejection and decided what to do next. It turned out to be an excellent situation in which to practice resilience and positivity in the face of an unexpected negative outcome.

If you are facing rejection, I hope that you find one or more of these strategies helpful. I’d also love to know what I didn’t include here that works for you.

To think on:

  • When was the last time you felt the sting of rejection?
  • What helps you to move past rejection and keep sharing your work and ideas?