Reframing Rejection: Don't Take It Personally
by Cassendre Xavier
I recently had a job as a canvasser. This entailed going either in the streets or residentially door-to-door to enlist folks in whatever cause I was being paid to promote at the time. In addition to my training as an actress and as a salespersun, I can now add this experience to how I’ve learned the most about rejection, and acquired skills I had begun to take for granted.
Acting is one of the only professions I know of that educates its students on the art of handling rejection. This is the only place I’ve known of so far where so much focus is on how to get yourself back up from a fall – to brush yourself off and keep going. This is because there is such a high level of rejection in acting. You audition many times and rarely get the “yes.” In sales, also, we are trained to let rejection bounce off of us, to let folks speak and respond according to our training and belief in what we’re selling.
I had taken for granted that I’ve become a persun who is usually unfazed by rejection. I didn’t notice how fortunate I was until I started getting pity-filled comments from sitters- and standers-by who were watching me for long periods of times, watching many individuals pass me by with a rejection of my spiel. I was there for 5 hours (with short breaks in between) and 70-90% of the time I would endure folks rejecting me in one form or another. Either they would ignore me altogether, or they would say no in a variety of polite to rude ways.
I learned that I’m lucky and strong. I’m lucky and strong because it mostly didn’t bother me. I’m used to being rejected. In addition to being an actress and a salespersun, I’m also a published multi-genre author. I’ve had countless rejection slips and you know what? Each one brought me closer to being published. I often tell my writer friends that “if you’re not collecting a lot of rejections, you’re not putting your work out enough.” Rejection can be a badge of honor. It affirms that you’re putting yourself out there. Whether it’s canvassing, auditioning, or submitting your work, or even flirting, you’re showing confidence, and believing that you are worth the effort it takes to get to yes.
I learned not to take it personally when people say no to me or ignore me. This isn’t always easy to do. As a singer (yes, I do that, too, but I don’t drive, cook, or have a good sense of direction!), I recently performed a gig where I was treated so well and promised a slot to return. Almost 10 efforts to book a return date went completely ignored. I had begun to think it was me. I contacted a peer who had also tried to get a booking with them, and was told he was ignored, too. So I knew it wasn’t personal. It so rarely is.
Rejection is almost always about the one doing the rejecting, not the one being rejected. I learned that when while making a cheerful statement to a passerby while canvassing (non-fundraising, by the way, which means I was not asking for money), a pretty young blond woman flipped me the bird! “Wow!” I said, “Really? Okay, have a great day!” I knew that woman had problems and that had nothing to do with me. I said a little prayer for and sent angels her way, and gave thanks that I could have that response. After all, it wasn’t personal.
5 Tips for Handling Rejection
1) Be logical. Remember it’s almost never personal. We are mirrors of one another. If someone is rejecting something about you, they are rejecting something about themselves.
2) Be self-compassionate. Even if their reason is valid, don’t make a negative judgment about yourself. You are where and how you are in life right now, you are doing the best you can, and you are all ways changing and growing.
3) Be neutral. They could be tired, grumpy, not practically able to meet your request, or just plain uninterested. Either way, no one has to be the bad guy.
4) Be confident. Remember, every rejection is a notch on your confidence belt. It shows you tried. The suitor doesn’t get the choice mates without taking some blows to the ego, and many times publically. Take a risk. It’ll make you a stronger persun.
5) Be willing. Getting better at handling rejection will teach you new lessons and skills you can take into every area of your life, as well as make you a more compassionate persun.
Good luck and get out there!
Cassendre Xavier is an award-winning multi-media healing artist and community organizer. A first generation American born citizen of Haitian and Chinese heritage, she coined the term "renaissance negresse" in 2002 to describe her work as a musician, author, visual artist, and actress. Cassendre sometimes works under the names Amethyste Rah and Amrita Waterfalls, also identifies as a lightworker-in-training, and has been involved as a producer of books, audio and video recordings, as well as a peer support group facilitator in the personal growth, spirituality, and recovery movements since 1991. She is the founder and executive director of Philadelphia's 8th Annual Black Women's Arts Festival as well as the Women’s Writing & Spoken Word Series. For more information, please visit http://cassendrexavier.com.
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