An honest take on life and parenthood

Jellylegs: Fear of Rejection

on January 7, 2016

Rejection. No one likes it. I will be the first to put my hand up and admit it.

When I started this blog a few years ago, I started it because I wanted to write and not be rejected.

My professional writer friends are probably rolling their eyes and laughing out loud right now, but there it is.

Every artist knows that rejection is part of the creative life, whether you are a writer, painter, actor, sculptor, film maker, or scores of other things.

I’m not sure why rejection is/was my Kryptonite (I’d have to do some deep psychological digging for that), but  I do know that I did not have the coping skills, self-esteem, or courage to face it, so I conveniently avoided it.

Instead, I wove a cocoon around myself.

I took the easy way out, creating my own blog, which allowed me to write and publish what I pleased, when I pleased.

It was a start, but it was safe and self-indulgent.

Did I want to see my name out there in a real publication? Of course! I dreamed of it, but talked myself out of submitting a thousand times over, always telling myself that my work was not good enough.

Other than a few submissions (and I can count those on one hand), all of which were rejected, I made zero progress. We’re talking about a time frame of 10-12 years.

It was easier to maintain the fantasy of writing than actually going out there and getting rejected regularly, as every professional writer does.

Now, for the second piece of the puzzle: my fear of rejection is also hampered by my perfectionism.

I tell myself that my work has to be absolutely perfect before I can send it to anyone.


Credit: Google images

Here’s the thing: any creative knows that a piece of work is rarely perfect, nor is it ever really done. You just have to call it at some point. You could work on it forever, and you always see the flaws or places where it needs to be shored up. Perfectionism is the perfect companion to a fear of rejection.

This dynamic duo will keep you safe, but it will also keep you small.

Over the course of the last twenty-plus years as I have struggled with feeling and anticipating the horrible emotional tsunami that is rejection, I have done a lot of other work to build my self confidence and self esteem. I have also slowly taught myself coping skills around the situations that cause me anxiety, stress, and self-doubt. (Translation: I have spent countless hours and moola on therapists and self-help books.)

I’m not sure when the tide changed for me, but at the end of 2015, I decided that I had enough.

No more whimpering in the corner. No more hand-wringing. No more excuses.

I resolved that I would no longer build castles in the air. Even if I built a hut on the ground when I actually wanted Versailles or Buckingham Palace, the hut made of sticks with a thatch roof was going to be a start, because it would be real.

So, my friends, 2016 is the year that I resolve to break out of my fear of rejection.

My work will never be perfect, but it will be as good as I can make it. If it is rejected, then so be it. It’s not personal. I know that now (finally!) at some essential level, and it is reassuring.

Shortly after verbalizing and writing down this desire to subject myself to rejection, I sent off my very first query to a children’s book agent on January 5. I put my best foot forward, followed all of the directions, and sent my strongest work.

The lead up and immediate aftermath to the query were tough. My head was pounding and my stomach felt queasy. But after an hour, those feelings wore off.

A dose of Advil helped, too.

I wrote about the experience and posted it to Facebook.

The outpouring of support and love from my people was nothing short of INCREDIBLE.

Turns out they have more faith in me than I ever realized or knew. The messages of support were like a giant, virtual hug and round of applause from around the country and around the world.

Who knew?!

So if for nothing else, I have to try. I have to believe in myself as much as everyone else does.

By the way, the agent rejected my query and manuscript in less than 24 hours.

You know what astonished me the most? For the first time ever, the rejection didn’t bother me. Not one bit.

So here is to the coming year: to creativity, to vulnerability, to doing your best work, and to putting yourself out there, even when you’re scared witless.

If I can do it, so can you. Now go get’em.

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