The Sweet Sting of Rejection

I love chocolate-covered pretzels for their salty-sweet deliciousness. Rejection has similar contrasting qualities for me. At first it feels like salt in an open wound, then it almost always turns into something sweet later down the line. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t love getting rejected, but I don’t hate it either. In fact, part of me kind of likes it.

If I get rejected, I know I tried. I put myself out there. I know I can stand tall and later say, “their loss!” (you know…the classic heartbreak recovery line).

“All great innovations are built on rejections.”
−Louis Ferdinand Celine

A Few of My Favorite (hah – I only say that now) Rejections

The examples below are three of my most memorable rejections. Badges of honor. In one sense I am still baffled by them, but in another I know that they helped me get to know myself better and make other plans, proud that at least I put myself out there. (My friend Srinivas Rao wrote a post recently called “8 Failures that Have Led Me to Where I’m at Today” – a great read along similar lines)

  • Colleges – My senior year of high school, after I won the California Journalist of the Year award (and made it as a national finalist), I got rejected from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. I also got rejected from every East Coast school I applied to. So much for my dream of being a journalist and/or moving across the country. I absolutely loved UCLA (it led to the start-up that led to this blog), but a part of me still feels incomplete never having lived outside of California.
  • My bookit got turned down by 27 different publishers before I got an offer. They all had their reasons, but the most popular were: my topic was too generic and had no “hook,” my platform wasn’t big enough, my audience doesn’t buy books, it won’t sell past graduation season, and the “after college” market is too competitive. Each rejection stung a little bit, and the compound effect of hearing about rejection after rejection was discouraging, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I kept the faith because I knew that it would just take one offer. And I couldn’t be happier with the one that I got.

My dad has a dating theory that men should get rejected once per day – it means they are doing their due diligence of putting themselves out there. Just like the saying “do something each day that scares you,” maybe we should all risk rejection in some way at least once per day.

Stings So Sweet: The Bite and the Aftermath

In the first few moments (or more), rejection stings. It sucks. My stomach drops. I feel overcome by disappointment. Sometimes I feel embarrassed, or I question my abilities and my worth. I wonder if I was crazy to think whatever I was going for had a chance of success. I wonder if I should have even tried in the first place. A mini-dream is deflated.

But then things turn around. I start to chalk it up to eliminating one more bad fit. I might even smile a little bit. I am one step closer to finding the right path, the one I am meant to be on. I get another “I tried” badge, and I have more stories to tell. Maybe the rejecting party knows something I don’t about why it wouldn’t have worked out. Or maybe they screwed up and couldn’t recognize a good thing when they had the chance. “How could this happen?” turns into “YOU want to reject ME?” which leads to “I’ll show you…” — and it gives me even more motivation to succeed.

The Bottom Line:

How boring would life be if we got everything we wanted all of the time? Look how well that worked out for Veruca Salt.

So lift a glass (or a cupcake) and let’s celebrate. To any rejections you’ve racked up – past or present – CHEERS!


P.S. Congrats to Hayley who won the Suze Orman Road to Wealth book giveaway!

  • Mark

    Awesome post!!! I like your dad's philosophy about getting rejected once per day lol. I think if we do one thing that is difficult or makes us squirm each day life is just so much better. Rejection or not, it leads to success and at least a life that isn't boring or staid.

  • jennyblake

    Thanks Mark!! I'll have to let me dad know you like his approach to rejection too :D I'm with you – doing something each day to make ourselves squirm (great way of putting it) ensures we are getting out of our comfort zones and leading an exciting life. Love it! Hope you're having a great weekend :D

  • Donna Dunning

    Hi Jenny,

    Your blog is refreshing and honest. I wish more people would talk about how vulnerable it feels to take risks and put themselves out in the world. I think you will succeed because you are open to and willing to learn from experience. Thanks for sharing.

  • Theycallmequinner

    super post Jenny, being reading your blogs all day.Well impressed!!!

  • Jardley

    I read this after getting a rejection email twice this week from submitting artworks. I stumbled upon this site and I gotta say I won’t forget it. Thanks a lot. You’re a great writer.

    • jennyblake

      Thanks so much Jardley! Hang in there – and let those rejections just be motivation to keep on going. Have a fantastic week ahead! I think it’s amazing that you are doing your art in the first place.

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  • Georgemichael123

    grad school rejection…and I’m okay now after reading your article…nice motivation!! Nice!!

    • jennyblake

      Thanks George! Happy this post was helpful :) Thanks for stopping by!

  • Jeremiah Stanghini

    Rejection has a way of redirecting us in the direction we were “meant to go.” We try option Y and get “redirected” (by the universe) to option N. While rejection can, as you say, sting, as soon as I get past that initial pang of anger/disappointment, I immediately look for the silver lining, which most times, means: where/what is it that I’m supposed to be doing instead?

    With Love and Gratitude,


    • jennyblake

      Jeremiah — I love that question: “What is it that I’m supposed to be doing
      instead?” Such a great way to re-frame rejection. I’m totally with you —
      rejection is the flashing sign-post that tells us to take a different
      approach or to move on — and usually pays great unexpected dividends.
      Thanks for your comments! Have a great week :)

  • Bee Veranga

    Thank you for this post. I needed it, badly.

    • jennyblake

      Thanks Bee! I’m so happy it was just what you needed yesterday :)

  • Aloro peter

    Wonderful. Beautiful and lovely piece of the heart. Jenny I appreciate your lovely thoughts and wish to get your attention with a lot of different ways rejection play

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