You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. – Ray Bradbury. Ole Ray was a smart dude. (Although he’d probably evicerate me if he heard himself described as a dude.) If you don’t know him, he’s one of the founding fathers of modern science fiction, as well as the person who invented the communications satellite. All in all, as I said, a smart dude. I think he’s got some good stuff to say about rejection. And I should know.
See, when I found out that I was not going to be a shrink (long story), I decided to put all those science credits to work lining the garbage cans in my house. I switched over to journalism. Now, in journalism, you get told you’re an idiot — in so many words — at least 10 times a day. Either you’re getting yelled at by a source or your editor tells you that your story makes no sense.
You’ve heard of thick skin? A resistance to injury from harsh words, yeah? Well, a career in journalism gives you thick skin, thick organs and thick heads. If only it gave you thick hair as well, but you can’t get everything. Now, after years of getting my work rejected, I can stand there and listen to someone tear down my work (on those rare occasions when I’m not immediately hailed as a conquering god, come to set straight those mortals living in error) without getting the least bit mad. Oh, I might get a little disappointed that they can’t see genius when it’s dangling under their nose like a runny booger, but that’s about it.
And that’s a good thing. But it’s also something that a lot of little dudes are going without as they go through their lives. Schools are looking to cushion any rejection by smothering it with so many nice words it’d choke a horse. Little dudes and dudettes need to understand that, as they go through their lives, they are going to get rejected. They will lose that all-important competition and if they don’t know how to deal with it, how to pick themselves back up off the canvas. . . Well, they’re going to be in for some long nights and a lot of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as compensation.
While there will be bosses or supervisors who are out to get you, most of the time you’re going to be going up against someone who wants to get the job done, but doesn’t like the way you tried to do it. If you start taking it personally, you’re going to be in for a world of hurt.
That’s why I love that expression like water off a duck’s back. Let it roll off you. Take what you need from rejection and use it to make sure you don’t get rejected again.