Monday, February 25, 2013

On Rejection

A lot of times I write about the things that work out for me as I follow my dream to be a writer and surfer: becoming a new ambassador for Daphne's restaurant, getting Roxy clothes in the mail, being published in magazines. But following my dream isn't always comprised of these feel good moments born from success. Sometimes my work gets left out of magazines it was supposed to be in or I enter a contest to win a surf trip and ask everyone I know on the Internet to vote for me only to get left out of the second round. Other times, this time to be specific, I work on a film for almost two years and then submit it to a surf film festival I participated in last year only to be told it wasn't selected. 

This recent rejection led me to create a label for it on my blog to categorize all the posts I've written on the subject. This label is useful, not just to document the inevitable "downs" that go along with the pursuit of this dream, but because this will happen again. It's bound to, because I am destined to put myself out there again. It's part of who I am and this practice always comes with the appropriate amount of disappointment. 

And when it happens, I cry (I always cry). And then these setbacks stay in the front of my mind for weeks. Sometimes I'm mad when I think about them, sometimes I'm confused, and other times I feel like an outright failure. My mom told me after this most recent rejection that "The only real failure isn't trying". And when she told me that, I said, "That's just what losers say" with real sincerity, even though I know she's right. 

After this brooding phase passes, the defeat moves to the back of my mind where it remains for a year or two or more until I'm done using it as fuel to propel me. Fuel, because I certainly don't keep it there so I can dwell on disappointment or feel sorry for myself (only occasionally). I know life isn't long enough for that kind of melancholia. This is the path I've chosen and I have to be strong enough to deal with the inevitable obstacles it leads me to.

I use these setbacks to help provoke my next move, whatever that may be; another article, better and more refined than the last, a different movie, with a more imaginative plot than before. Because what else do you do? Give up? I'm not going to do that. Nothing, in pursuit of this dream, could be more depressing than giving up.

What are your experiences with defeat? How do you deal with it? How do you move on?


  1. I love this post! You're right, it's definitely better to use rejection as fuel to do better than to dwell on it. I wish you the best as you work towards your goals! If we didn't fail, we'd have no initiative to do better.


  2. Great post. I have always felt that those who dream biggest both get rewarded big and also fall big. Defeat is a hard thing, but I think it makes you work harder towards your end goal (even if that sometimes changes.) Mostly I focus on just doing things for myself that I love, that way if I lose out on something big- at least I know I enjoyed the process.

  3. I lost power writing a comment so if this comes through twice, sorry!

    I got my first taste of rejection when I was 9. I had auditioned for a dance role in the Nutcracker and didn't get it. My mom took me to our favorite restaurant after because I was so bummed especially since my sister got a role. We told the waiter what happened and he told me that rejection can prepare us for better things down the road if we let it. He died shortly after and I just wish I was old enough to understand how important those words would come to be for me. Right after I graduated from college, I had such a hard time finding a job but because of his words, the optimism of my parents and the encouragement of my husband I found 2 jobs that I have come to love. Dance has also put me in rejection many times but it has made me better. You don't give up on the things you love just because they disappoint you sometimes.
    Sorry for the long comment! The worth of rejection is a topic I'm passionate about and it makes me chatty :)

  4. "...because this will happen again. It's bound to, because I am destined to put myself out there again. It's part of who I am and this practice always comes with the appropriate amount of disappointment."

    Ugh, this is where I've gotten stuck. I've stopped trying, stopped putting myself out there, and that's worse than getting rejected - thank you for the reminder I needed today!

  5. I know that losing feels awful at the time, but you have so many wins that balance it out. Everyone has to lose sometimes - of course that sounds ridiculous, but if you always won, would it feel as good? Probably not.
    Good luck with whatever you do in the future!
    <3 Kiersten

  6. I'm muddling through similar feelings right now, so this was a breath of fresh air. You're right. We'll experience failure again, because we'll continue to put ourselves out there. After all, we'll never know which opportunities were meant to be ours if we never go after them in the first place. :)

  7. If you ever feel defeated or rejected, just remember that you are beautiful. That should help you feel at least a little better! And seriously, you know that when one door closes, another door opens. Its so good that you are getting your name out. The right things will fall into place at the right time. =)

  8. Thanks for sharing this ;) you are a strong woman I can tell and it's good to let in on all aspects of our lives I think. It's not all awesome all the time, if it were, we wouldn't appreciate the good things and the triumphs and achievements we have ;)

  9. Yet another great post! Some days, I'm sad to admit it, but I end the day feeling defeated. Feeling like nothing got accomplished, or that here I am still trying to figure it all out instead of having it all figured out like so many people around me. But, at the end of the day, rejection shapes us. I know it does. If we keep trying, if we keep putting ourselves out there, not only does that prove how much we love it and want it, but doesn't it make our efforts even better the next time or two around?

    I'd like to think so :) You go girl! You inspire me :)

  10. I've gotten rejected from so many jobs I seriously can't even count them any more. Jobs where I got interviews, jobs where I didn't even get to step up to the plate.

    I wallow in it for a while, and then take a deep breath and move forward.

  11. You should read "The Growth Mindset" by Carol Dweck. She's done a lot of studies about exactly what you're talking you handle it when things don't go the way you want. Listening to her book on the way to teach my 5th grade crazies everyday has put so many things into perspective.
    You're awesome! :)

  12. This is such a great post Devon. I truly believe that the greatest failure is not trying and not taking risks - not necessarily always but at times. And most importantly, it's about what you do afterwards that matters the most, right? I love that you use setbacks and disappointments as fuel - such a great way to describe it. Thanks for this. Totally needed to hear this as I'm trying to figure out how to move my dreams forward.

  13. It is a real exercise in courage and determination to even admit this- sometimes there are failures (but my very own email folder is labeled "delays" which is what I tend to [try] to think of them as)but I'm also a dreamer and a believer and if a,b,c doesn't work out it's because the universe is just asking me for patience because x,y,z is right around the corner.

    Best wishes in all your endeavors and yeah, you're mom is right...tee hee. those moms.

  14. Thanks for sharing this, Devon. Rejection is so hard, but it does make the accomplishments that much sweeter. I did a few craft shows the past few years, just to say that I had tried. My sister and I had always joked about doing one. It was devastating when someone would walk by, pick up one of my wares, and then give a little smirk showing that they didn't think too much of it. But then when that one person came by and got excited and said they loved what I had, it was the best feeling. That somehow made it all worth it--the good and the bad. The hardest thing for me to come to terms with is that not everyone is going to like me, like what I make, like how I dress, act, etc. I have to just be me and hope that there are people out there who will appreciate me for who I am. Easy to say, but hard to do, right? Anyhoo, you are awesome, and I think it is amazing you've had articles published, get to do what you love, and make such an impact on those around you:)

  15. uhhhggg so sorry ... good for you though that you let the rejection propel you. i think i have a very bad habit of holding me back in the future.

  16. Such a great post. Everyone falls, fails, or gets rejected at some point or more than several times in their lives. In the "business" I'm in, we get punched in the gut a lot. It helps us develop thick skin, I think, if we keep taking the punches and if we keep going. It also makes you question how much you want to put up with and where you want to focus your energy in improving. If there is one thing I did learn from all the punches, it's to never change, even if people are telling you you need to. And I'm not really talking about constructive criticism; I'm talking about heart and the core of your personality. I think you got that one down pat though. ;) -Jessica L

  17. It really is just so easy to tell someone who has experienced rejection that "it's ok", "life goes on", and "at least you tried". In grad school, I hated when journals rejected my articles, or a scholarship didn't want to give me $$. It's hard not to take it personal because it's your hard work. For you, it's probably even more so. Not just work, but your life and passion. Once I submitted a photo of my son for critique and it was ripped to shreds. Luckily I wasn't present, otherwise I would have cried and then beat-up all those naysayers ;). My son is my life even if my photography isn't up to par. Anyways, what I'm trying to say is everyone goes through rejection and you just have to pick yourself up and try again. I would agree with your mom that the greatest rejection is not trying at all. Glad you realize this already and ready to move on!! I bet the most successful people in the world were the ones who got rejected the most. Make success that much sweeter!

  18. Ugh, I just know that feeling! I get so easily down and dwell on the bad feelings, even I know it's not the way to handle things.

    We all get punched straight to the stomach sometimes, it makes you fall,cry and breathless but you will get up more stronger.

    Don't give up now, of course not! You are in the right path of making your dream come true :)

  19. When I was very young and just starting to write and submit my writing my mom told me probably the most important piece of advice she gave me: "Everybody writes, but not everyone gets over the fear of rejection to submit their writing. By submitting yours, you're that much more ahead of the game." That's stuck with me anytime I set out to write for something. Just know how much farther ahead of the game you are than people who don't even have the courage to do what you're doing.
    xo, B |

  20. "Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    I have to say that I have had the opportunity to experience some of life's most amazing things through education, career, marriage and motherhood. I have seen the highest of highs with grand achievements and the lowest of lows in the pit of failure. But through each high or low it's sharpened my character in ways that have shaped me for the next path before me...each moment a lesson for the next!

    These highs and lows have helped me endure some of life's greatest challenges, as well as life altering tragedies that most would likely crumble under had there not been the opportunity to learn from those moments! Right now, i am going through one of the toughest time of my life and sitting in the deepest low as I was diagnosed with cancer and my blood disease. But even at a moment where i feel like throwing in the towel to my broken body, I never give up because i know each moment of my life is something chalked up to my whole person and my purpose.

    I use the analogy that we are each like a "Diamond in the Rough"...the journey that this earthly rock has to take to brilliance is not over takes time for refinement to showcase its true beauty! That rock starts out as an ugly black rock which endures much stress on its path in the earth. It then has to wait hiding deep in the earth until it is discovered. From there it goes through an excessive process to reveal its true brilliance underneath that original form. It take hours upon hours for the gemologist of cutting, sharpening, and buffing to get the end result of a beautiful diamond in all it's brilliant glory!

    Our lives are so like this!!! They are filled with ups and downs that are refining us, shaping us, sharpening and helping us reveal our true brilliance. Each of our lives and our journeys are comprised of multiple facets and its each of these cuts that showcase our true character and beauty! So embrace the good with the bad - learn from it and allow yourself to shine brilliantly!

  21. Hang tough! I for one love reading your blog - it inspires me to get out there & surf and write & live the life I have dreamed of for years and years. take care!

  22. What a great outlook to have even though rejection sucks! Like you I use rejection to drive me forward and propel me to bigger things. Hang in there!

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  24. This is one of the many things I love about your blog, Devon: you are so incredibly honest about what the road to following your dreams looks like. So many bloggers glamourize their lives by only showing the bright spots, but this isn't realistic. Those blogs are great and serve as solid motivation, but it is good to remember that EVERYONE suffers setbacks. You have done, and will continue to do, amazing things and setbacks are stepping stones to future success.


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