How to be Fearless in the Face of Rejection

Congratulations! You’re reading a blog post on rejection! That must mean that you’re up to something, a launch, a risk, a goal, a contest or something new that could possibly fail.

Plenty of people spend their lives avoiding rejection and end up avoiding growth. That’s why I say, Congratulations! Let’s talk about rejection.

It’s been said a million times that successful people aren’t afraid of rejection, or at least they know how to deal with it. Does this mean they have a really high tolerance for pain? Not necessarily. They may just have a perspective on rejection that makes it a lot less painful.

I know that was my experience.

I remember when I first started submitting my short stories to literary magazines in my early thirties, I’d been working on my craft for years. There was one particular magazine that I was dying to get into called Glimmer Train. I admired them immensely. Plus they were actually one of the kinder magazines because they posted a list of 20 finalists whenever they published anybody.


The first time I ever looked up the results, I was so disappointed As I searched for my name in the list of finalists, the text blurred as I realized I didn’t even make it in the top 20. Then a certain numbness came over me and I stopped working for weeks.

That first experience hung over me like a heavy fog, until I started to investigate the arena I was stepping into. Over a thousand stories were submitted to all of these magazines every single month. That meant that I had less than a 0.1% chance of being published and a 2% chance of making the top 20.

Instead of being intimidated by those odds, I let them give me the courage to laugh at rejection. Did I really expect to walk into a room of over a thousand people and be immediately chosen and exulted? That attitude was laughable. Thus my ability to laugh at rejection was born. AMEN!

I kept submitting to magazines, and as the rejections piled up, they really weren’t that painful anymore. Just stepping stones along the path. In fact I submitted to Glimmer Train twice after that first attempt (along with many other magazines) and never made the top twenty.

However, when I received my first acceptance from a magazine of equal stature, something ironic happened. My eyes blurred as I read the word, “Congratulations…” and I thought, that’s kind of a sarcastic opening for a rejection letter.

It took a minute before I realized, this was not a rejection letter.

After all that time and effort, I truly understood what an honor it was to be published in a literary magazine, something that would have washed right over me if I would have been immediately successful. I’d paid my dues, done the work, and had a palpable lived experience of what it was like to be one in a thousand.

Sometimes people believe they get an easy out of the rejection lottery by choosing self-publishing. Not true. I love working with self-published authors because it’s actually a better way to achieve a variety of goals. However you have to understand that every time you set up a goal, you also set up the possibility of failure. And the higher the goal the more failure you might have to learn from, which is great!

One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Jeffrey Allen once explained that sometimes we receive a lot of rejection because our guides are on the other side of that door holding it shut with their backs and shoulders trying to get us to go down a different path.

In the case of writing, I would say our guides hold their backs against the door until we’re worthy and understand the significance of success. This may not be true for everybody, but in my case, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s nothing more fulfilling than working to accomplish something difficult.