Reframe Rejection and Find the Positive

by Carolyn Edlund

Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you. Instead of looking at what you have to lose, consider what you have to gain.


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As a working artist, you put yourself out there for the purpose of meeting a goal or achieving something you consider valuable. You might approach a gallery, enter a competition, or propose a solo show of your work to an art center or museum. But when you don’t get accepted, your pitch is turned down or a prospect has no interest in what you do, it can be demoralizing. You might even believe you’ve failed.

Instead, consider taking a look at the big picture. You’ve taken a chance and risked the deep water rather than the safe harbor. That takes courage and the willingness to try to reach beyond. True failure stems from playing it safe, and never taking risks at all.

We all face small rejections every day. Visitors to your website don’t make a purchase. Emails are sent out and get no response. People don’t sign up for an event you are hosting. Followers unsubscribe from your list. These events rarely provoke an emotional response, because they are simply part of doing business.

With bigger risks, the stakes are higher and the reward is greater. Not receiving that acceptance or invitation can hurt. But you must take a chance in order to get closer to what you want. What is out there for you? What is possible? When you’ve reached the goal you set, all the rejections melt away and become part of your story of fighting and winning. You’re stronger than you think. What you are doing matters.

What you learn from rejection is what works and what doesn’t. This information is valuable in helping you tailor your future actions and channel them towards what does work. When you don’t succeed, it gives you insight into how your presentations are received, what might be improved, and maybe even whether certain markets are correct for your art.

Move towards what works, sharpen your strategies, and let go of the rest. This frees up space in your mind and your schedule to find the right track, and stay on it.

Every successful artist has also experienced a lot of rejection. Each one has “war stories” and most will tell you the lessons learned from not succeeding are the ones they most vividly remember, and that made the most impact.

Rejection isn’t failure, but rather an opportunity to become more resilient and more focused. A series of No’s gets you closer to a Yes. Don’t give in to the impulse to not to take a chance, because the next risk you take may deliver extraordinary results.



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  1. Really nice article, Carolyn, thank you for all you do.

  2. Rejection isn’t failure, but rather an opportunity to become more resilient and more focused- LOVE this. The whole article really resonated with me, as I’m sure it has with others. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for this article! It’s nice to be reminded that rejection equals opportunity. Very important! I love your website. Thanks so much for your ongoing work helping artists.

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