Rejection, Rejection Everywhere – Part 2 of 4: Resiliency in Rejection

Recap and Setting the Scene

We all experience rejection in academia. It comes in many forms, be it actual rejection (desk rejection of journal articles) or self-perceived rejection (like that horrible feeling you get when you see all the red comments from someone on a piece of your work). Rejection hurts. But, there are some things we can do to become resilient in this. This is a short reflection on my own journey tackling the rejection beast.

Cognitive Restructuring

Of course, the guy with the psych degree talks psychology. But, this is a good technique. Cognitive restructuring involves changing how you think about a situation and challenging negative views. For example, would that person have gone to all the effort to cover your document in red if they actually hated it? Why not a simple single lined ‘this sucks’? Usually, more comments means that the reader actually really likes the idea and wants the paper to be the best that it could be. Changing that one view on feedback can take you from going “they hate me” to “they actually really care and it was nice of them to put the effort in”.

Smiley Faces

So this is something for ambiguous messages that might make you feel rejected. For example the ever-dreaded “I don’t understand” or “this doesn’t make sense”. Imagining a smiley face after this comment helps to remove the ambiguity and add a slightly more positive spin on it. “I don’t understand this :)” is an invitation to explain the idea further rather than a criticism of your writing skills. At least, that is what I found.

Give Yourself Time

Whenever I receive anything that elicits those negative emotions and feelings of rejection I create space between it and myself. Yes, I have read it, but now I am going to step away for 48 hours and let the emotions settle down. Then I will revisit the issue. Usually, by the 48 hour mark, the emotions have settled and the rational mind takes over and I ultimately end up agreeing with what was said and am in a better place to manage it.

Self-Care and Self-Compassion

Self-care: Celebrate the victories and mourn the losses, but do so in ways that are self-enriching or a little decadent. Self-compassion: Acknowledge that everyone goes through this and that is ok. Whenever I receive feedback on something I celebrate with a nice dinner out (or I get food delivered and cuddle up in front of the TV). If I receive bad feedback I do the same thing. Why? Because I enjoy that. So this little luxury becomes a way for me to acknowledge my emotions and mark a point of moving forward. 

What about you? How do you manage feelings of rejection in academia? What are your strategies?

~ Chris Kilby

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