Rejection, Rejection Everywhere – Part 1 of 4: Rejection hurts everyone

Rejection hurts, but it happens to everyone

The scene: You submit a year’s worth of work as an article to a journal. You wait anxiously for a few weeks or months. Then the decision letter comes in. The adrenaline is high, the anticipation almost unbearable. You open the letter and… “We regret to inform you” is about as far as you get before the sense of dread and lack of self-worth kicks in. This happens with scholarships, grants, and job applications. Rejection hurts, and it hurts everyone.

But it isn’t just the out-right rejection that hurts. Receiving feedback on a piece of work that has almost anything written on it other than “fantastic” or “great” can hurt just as much as being outrightly rejected, or maybe, feedback can hurt even more because you are forced to now deal with the feedback multiple times whereas a rejection letter can be deleted and forgotten about.

The Curriculum Defectum

I was at a conference recently at a mentoring lunch with two major international speakers in my field. The moment they finished talking about their successes I asked “and what about your failures?” to which they started to tell of major emotional hits they had taken from being rejected. It was comforting to know that rejection is something that even major academics experience as well. At the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference in 2019 there was a talk on destigmatising academia and they mentioned the idea of a ‘Curriculum Defectum’ – a list of all the rejections they had received. This wasn’t a document of their failures but a document of their willingness to try new things. Those that had them spoke about them with pride. 

You are worth it, but everyone is worth it

Rejection does not mean that you are a terrible researcher or student or anything like that. The mere fact that you are at this point in your education or career has far ruled that out of the question. However, everyone applying for these applications are also at a similar point in their life. On the one hand, this is comforting. The mere fact that you can submit means that you are already worth receiving the article or scholarship, or grant, or job. But so too are all the other applicants. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that rejection still hurts!

Resiliency might be key

Resiliency, the idea of bouncing back from adversity or maintaining normalcy through adversity, might be a key way of managing those negative feelings of rejection. In my next post I will talk about strategies I have used to manage my own feelings with rejection, along with suggestions I have heard from others.

~ Chris Kilby

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