Filling Up Your Tank of Rejection

In my last post, “Looking Under the Hood of Rejection,” I didn’t tell you the truth. I didn’t exactly lie or hedge either. It just took a few days for more truth to bubble up.

It also took a rather lengthy session with my coach (yup, I have a coach!) for me to walk around the rational, smart victim story I so cleverly painted in that last post, to the other side where I could see, with blinding clarity, a deeper truth patiently waiting for me. And, in the spirit of integral theory, this more recent truth does not cancel out my earlier truth; it enfolds it, and I get to move on.

I offer this next layer of truth to you, my merry band of artists, because I know that rejection is a key dynamic in many of your lives. And that some of you even bend your lives out of shape to avoid what seems, at first glance, to be a low blow, a terrible thing, a strike to your vulnerable artist heart.

But what if filling up your tank of rejection was the best thing that could happen to you?

A quick recap: my authentic movement group of 18 months, lovingly & kindly, told me to take a hike. My initial response – hurt, sadness, that kick-in-the-stomach of rejection ouch. As my coach pointed out, I moved through that stage a bit fast and into stage 2: rational analysis. Stage 2 quickly took over and I crafted a sensible, even truthful, story of how I didn’t fit into their stage of development, since I’d been doing this work so much longer.

Time, now, for Stage 3: reflecting on reflections – and what the heck this has to do with you.

No one enjoys feeling hurt, and our auto response is to make the hurt go away fast. That’s what I did, and because I had a credible rationale, it was easy to get away with it. (Except I have this coach, you see,  who makes it her business to catch my bs.)

Rejection Rule #1: Feel it First. Hold yourself tenderly and accept the feelings – for they hold your vulnerable heart, without which, any artist would be truly lost.

My “credible” rationale was to paint a victim story: “they kicked me out”–because it’s always easier (and buries the hurt fastest) to focus on”them” instead of me. They bad. Me good. Which is a very young response trying to wear the long pants of a rational, if slightly blind, adult.

Rejection Rule #2: Go for it, then turn it around. Yes, “they did x to me!” Then, as unreasonable as it might feel (and believe me, the hurt part of ourselves, i.e., the victim, will turn this next question into treason!) ask yourself: Specifically, how was I giving them permission to do X?

Which brings us to my untold truth in the last blog post: I had already left the group.

Oh, I was still there in body, mind, and spirit, but another part of me was working out if and how I should leave. Not because the group wasn’t working for me, but because my life has recently taken a few dramatic turns and prioritizing time was high on the agenda. At one level, all the group did was beat me to the punch. At another, they cut the cord and saved me from an agonizing decision.

Rejection Rule #3: There is always a silver lining, even if you steadfastly refuse to turn around and see it. Maybe that rejected-by-the-jury piece needs something you aren’t acknowledging. Maybe another, or better, opportunity is around the corner, and without this rejection, that better opp will never show up on your radar, much less be noticed by you.

I admit Rule #3 is a stretch. It is never easy to believe in what we can’t see. And an unrevealed opportunity – that might take weeks or months (years?) to show up – is no exception.

Which is why we need…

Rejection Rule #4: Trust the process. Funny how easy this is when you are in your studio. But outside the studio, where your artwork is visible and vulnerable, trust is tricker to come by. I’m not suggesting that anyone cultivate naïveté; I am suggesting you transfer that trust in your art process to your art life outside the studio, especially when something as challenging as rejection shows up.

Maybe it’s time to reframe rejection as the high octane fuel that cleans out the sludge our daily routine leaves behind. You don’t need it all the time, but once it a while it’s not a bad idea to burn a little hotter, so we can burn a little brighter.


P.S. I’d love to hear about a time when rejection was the best thing that happened to you.

9 Responses to “Filling Up Your Tank of Rejection”

  1. Lolly Owens says:

    I appreciate this posting. It helps me personally and when I am trying to help others with rejection.

  2. Thanks, Lolly – RU on Twitter? Would be great to let your followers know.

  3. Fiona Purdy says:

    Hi Arianne,

    I love this series of blog posts. I love that you are opening your life up to help others.

    I really like Rule #2! I truly believe that everything that happens to us, we have attracted to us because we needed to learn something.

    I look forward to your blog posts – I learn so much from them – thank you so much!

  4. Very timely. Just got a rejection for a showing that I was only half interested in. Then i re-read advice from a younger artist: Don’t stick around your home town and get buried. Go out and apply to the world. I will. Just as soon as… Just kidding! Now.

  5. Fiona,
    It’s wonderful to have you speak up and let me know this paradigm shift I’ve kicked off is resonating with you. yAhOO! Just keep letting me know and this journey will truly be ‘together.’

    Valorie – The home town path can be a godsend for starting up – getting your feet wet – if the home town has the right venues. If you are just starting up. If a gallery – it that’s your chosen path – can champion your work…. a lot of “ifs.” Without those ifs, or if you don’t use it as a stepping stone, yes, your home town might “bury you.” On the other hand, is there something deeper about this rejection that might be useful to look at, besides the ‘half’ interest that actually played out?

  6. Hi Ariane, I haven’t explored galleries fully enough in my home city. When I started exhibiting, galleries were closing in a mini recession in the 90’s. I did what many did and showed in restaurants and festivals and built a list . My first out of house studio was large and I held successful shows there. My current studio is too small for shows.
    Local exhibitions are dominated by realistic painters and I have always had difficulties getting past the jurors–always unnamed. The rejection came from an unamed jury with only one name associated with the exhibition. Thus my antannae of rejection was all ready alerted, but I need a venue to try to bring my list to. I have been ill for a couple of years so have not done local shows, but had some work in out of town galleries. However, not enough revenue to cover studio costs. My work has followers. Many collectors have multiple pieces, but a list unused is pretty dead so I need to decide which way to go. I have had success with giclees as well which local galleries are not happy about and the local art market is not large.
    I realize I have used this answer to talk to myself. Thank you for the opportunity.
    I should add that your SMARTIST was my first webinar and I found the information invaluable. I have used Facebook effectively , up to the point of sales! I need to work out how to move about 800 on my “fan” page into sales. A video on youtube has driven hundreds to my fan page and my web site. As yet, I don’t have the formula, and I don’t have the technical skills to alter my web site, that I will hire, but the catch 22 is to sell enough to hire and warrant the expenditure. I have been working on all of this while mastering oils to work even more abstractly. I now have a small body of work to present to galleries that I am proud of and continue to add to to.

  7. Ariane Goodwin, Ed.D. says:

    There are a number of factors at play here and it would take several coaching sessions to address them in the depth that would actually serve you.

    And, for starters, do you 1) have a compelling “here’s what I’ll give you” if you get on my email notification list? 2) Have an email follow-up strategy once someone does come onto your “list?” And 3) Have a blog?

  8. Sue says:

    I appreciate you sharing the piece of owning how you created what happened. It’s not always easy to see. When you posted your story on FB, it triggered places of outrage in me (having done authentic movement for over 10 years, i had a hard time seeing your being kicked out as authentic. and then when i went back and read your post again, i saw that i had reacted without getting the gist of your posting.
    i’ve been looking for my own silver lining for the past year. an event this past week triggered a whole bunch of fear in me that ended up in my taking another step towards clarifying what it is i want to do and not do. those steps between fear and clarity are so important and a bit exhausting. thanks for sharing your truth with us and for being a shining example ♥ Sue

  9. Hey Sue – another authentic movement traveler! So. We connect on several fronts.

    I’m so glad you revisited the post and saw all the permutations of what I went through. Sometimes the journey itself is instructional, even when we can’t see it for being smack in the middle of it! A post seems so “put together” compared to the messy process of putting it together.

    I like to think of fear as the contrast, showing us what we don’t want. And the exhaustion comes, I think, when we create what I call fear lasagna: fearing the fear, and then there are more layers to unwrap.

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