Rejection is the new inspiration: just don’t let them see you sweat

I have not been rejected much in life. Ok. So, now you hate me or are intrigued by why and where is this going. See, I am considered smart, somewhat attractive, cunning, quick-witted, and fashionable.  Who else can rock a Betsey Johnson pink goth handbag? Also, I tend to excel at whatever I take on. I’m kind of a package. I say all this tongue in cheek, of course. To a point.  Just two days ago, while on a teleconference I was called out as the cat’s meow. I have been given to understand that is a good thing. Apparently, it is an old school way of noting I was a whole “it” package. I laughed and soaked in the compliment. As a woman who has studied the way women communicate, I knew better than to deny or minimize the rejection as many woman are want to do.

I have a good dose of self-confidence as well as being humble. Seriously, I am repeatedly called humble when I travel and meet with non-profit business partners or community members. Consequently, when I get that infrequent rejection, I really do not take it well internally. Outwardly, I put on a smile and keep on trucking.  My inner self, is wearing a cap that say “take this job and shove it.” Rejection is quite a bitter pill for me to swallow and I tend to engage in all sorts of fantasies to avenge myself of the rejector. I have never done so, as most of the rejections I have encountered were impersonal and, again, minimal. I actually, very quickly forget via an eventual externalization coping mechanism. If they don’t want me, they are surely exhibiting poor judgment, which in turn invalidates their decision-making process. See the wheels spinning?

Lately, however, rejection is all the rage. Or suffering from rejections, that is. And this trend has me thinking about what I may be missing. On CNN’s Fareed  Zacharia’s GPS segment on the youngest self-made female billionaire, he asked Sara Blakely what she attributes her success to. I waited with bated breath for her pithy answer (not really, I expected a sugary sweet abstract generic answer). She went on to explain that as a child, her father would ask her every week what had she failed at that week. He would then go on to high-five her. See, failing at something meant that you had tried. She took that as her life lesson going forward and went on to develop Spanx to hide women’s imperfections; or as she markets them: body shapers!. There is a sense of irony here, right? I admit I own two sets of Spanx underwear but I rarely use them as they cut off my circulation and as a result remind me of my bulging flaws. I don’t need to add to her bank account by feeling bad about myself.


Now the rejection we are talking about is the rejection when you try something and don’t necessarily succeed. For example, you submit your latest article to various magazines and get rejected. You apply for a new job position and get the “we received so many applications from qualified individuals, it was hard to choose” letter. This type of rejection comes from trying and not discounting oneself from the outset. This type of rejection actually stems from confidence.  Many note that the best way to become a better writer is to submit one’s writings repeatedly to reviewers.  Look at J.K. Rowling’s experience. J.K Rowling was famously rejected by 12 publishers before Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was accepted by a smaller publishing firm. It would appear then that part of the rejection process is being able to learn from it and move forward.  If you get paralyzed by feedback, think twice about whether rejection is the right inspiration for you. Most assuredly, I would not recommend that you try this at home if you suffer from Kakorrhaphiophobia which is the acute fear of failure or defeat.  I don’t know the numbers of those afflicted with this phobia, but even a mild form of it might preclude some people from trying to go on Sarah Blakely’s path of rejection inspiration.

crazed rejection

Interestingly, there is psychological evidence that suggests that some of the same neural mechanisms that are part of the experience of physical pain may also be involved in the experience of pain associated with social separation or rejection. Meaning hurt feelings may actually signal physical pain (Panksepp, 1998) and vice versa. Thus, the same way treadmill machines have warnings on them that you should consult with a doctor first, consider that warning applicable to seeking out rejection.

Psychological research has also found that narcissists are more angry and aggressive after experiencing a rejection than were non-narcissists (Twenge et al., 2003). Let us look at a celebrity case in point. Do you remember back in 2010, before Kanye West was a dad he had a new album out titled My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy?  Kanye decided to try his hand at artwork creating an album cover piece. That artwork was rejected by his record label. He then proceeded to tweet for the next five hours after his rejection about the injustices surrounding his artwork rejection. In one such tweet he noted  “In the 70s album covers had actual nudity…It’s so funny that people forget that…Everything has been so commercialized now.”  Do we need to administer a personality test or can we straight up label him as a narcissistic unable to handle rejection? I am not too sure rejection inspires him to greatness, but it sure enough can serve as inspiration for his twitter stream.  Or is that accurate?  Let me rethink this last statement. If we follow album sales, Kanye did go on to post some record number figures. Point taken, Kanye.  The moral of history is that one should try no matter what and when you fail don’t take it lying down but instead scream as loudly as you can.

Speaking of lying down, unlike Kanye and his ability to overcome and actually utilize rejection, here are 25 “celebrities” that were rejected by Playboy. One of those interested was Kelly Osborne. She was realistic, however, in expressing her interests.  She noted she might need some photo shopping (notably airbrushing). Not very nicely or gentlemanly, Hugh Heffner rejected her by stating that “I can’t see it happening somehow; we don’t airbrush to that extent.”  At least she tried. And guess what. She did manage to lose a lot of weight that year after. Inspiration by rejection?

Now, if you can handle rejection go for it. Does it matter if you get nervous or sweaty? What about the old adage “never let them see you sweat”?  New psychological research notes that you may actually perform better if you are sweaty and nervous.  Here is the kicker (well besides the research taking place on a treadmill and being somewhat unrealistic in that sense), you can sweat if you psychologically get off on the anxiety of the moment. For example, if you like to negotiate, it is ok to let them see you sweat. You can turn it into an advantage. If you do not like to negotiate, don’t let them see you sweat. Got it?!

Now, let me return to my original thoughts regarding my lack of rejection. First off, as for those that have rejected me, Frank Sinatra noted, “The best revenge is massive success.”  That is my guiding principle mixed in with bits of daydream confrontations. Stephen King received dozens of rejections for his first novel, Carrie. Do you know what he did with those rejection letters? He supposedly kept them together nailed to a spike under a timber in his bedroom. I wouldn’t be surprised if that timber was imbued with special magical retribution powers a la Carrie. So take that; sad mistaken rejecting fools.

Second, my lack of rejection is not due to me not trying. I do; I do try. But I am very calculated in how I try. Just recently, I was on a cruise ship where I decided to take part in their trivia contests. I did not do very well on TV theme shows despite my love of television. I couldn’t believe I had let myself down that way. There were three more contests to go: ‘80s music, famous faces, and sports. I was not going home without their plastic trophy.  I was going to try again and again. I tied with three other people for the 80s trivia. Thus, I technically won and did receive a trophy as a result. But that taste didn’t taste all that sweet. I needed my own win. When the contest started for the famous faces, I told all around me that “I got this. This is mine.”  Sure enough, I ended up being the only winner.  Then came time for the sports trivia contest.  At that point, I left for the bar.

As Kenny Rogers note, you have to know when to roll them and when to fold them.  That, my friends, is the sweet taste of success. There is a time to pursue rejection and then there is a time to regroup. Self-reflect on whether accepting rejection is in your repertoire of acceptable life situations.  There is no shame in fighting (going for rejection) on one day, while running away the next day in order to live and fight another day. There is a time to let them see you sweat and there is a time to be as dry as a bar on a Sunday afternoon in the deep south.

So go ahead and find your inspiration–whether it is to be found and cultivated in sweat, rejection, or calculated online rants.



11 replies »

  1. I’m almost cool then? If it were a little more socially acceptable, I’d let everyone in on my little cult of failure. In an entirely healthy way (I think), I celebrate my failures as lessons personalized to me, as over reaches (so I better know what’s possible), and proof of trying. Failure helps define my boundaries of possibility. That comforts me.


      • Never worry about crediting me; I am a deceitful sort of writer; i don’t mind taking what i like; maybe in some larger sense I am an appropriation writer; maybe we all are.
        I find it funny when I see bloggers making a stew about about copy writing their stuff; maybe I am too much under the influence of Marcel Duchamp.
        Your writing bespoke my lines; so actually they are part yours; i just midwifed them.
        But thank you


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