Handling Rejection with the Right Perspective


As you make strides to advance your professional status, rejection will tap on your door periodically as a test of your convictions. The higher you set the bar, the harder the fall. Rejection may cause you excruciating pain and remorse. It may even temporarily cause creative paralysis. The fears of criticism and rejection discourage many artists from stretching themselves and testing new grounds in the artistic, financial and career areas of their lives. They may set only a few minor goals or none at all. They may turn their fears into defensive and aggressive behavior and attack others with criticism and rejection.

Criticism and rejection can serve as sources of powerful transformation. Examine your reactions to rejection and you’ll find the tools to expand your education, personal growth and humility. To shield yourself from emotional destruction, build a fortress constructed with a positive attitude, confidence, passion and persistence.

A few years ago I was coaching an artist from a small town whom I shall refer to as Len. He had artistic skill and tremendous talent but he lacked motivation and confidence. As his confidence grew through our sessions, he grew to become more proactive. I recommended that he start submitting his materials to a few New York galleries. Although we both agreed that his work was appropriate for one gallery in particular, to his dismay, the owner returned his submission with a polite rejection letter. However, she suggested that he notify her of any future exhibitions. I reassured Len this was a good sign and not to feel discouraged.

Len continued to move forward and followed a strong art marketing plan that included applying to galleries and juried competitions. A few months later he received a letter of acceptance into a competition judged by a museum curator. To our delight he was awarded a group exhibition in New York City.

This time, without having any expectations, we decided to mail an invitation to the dealer who had rejected his work to attend his opening reception. We enclosed a personalized letter and a CD that contained several images of his artwork. Within two weeks, he received a call from her and an offer to be included in a future group exhibition at her gallery.

Did the dealer’s perception of Len’s work change after learning about the competition judged by the museum curator? Did the curator’s nod of approval influence her? Len may never learn the reason why the dealer changed her mind. But, he learned not to view rejection as a permanent condition and that persistence pays.

Renée Phillips launched a supportive group called Manhattan Arts International on LinkedIn. She is also the director of Manhattan Arts International (www.ManhattanArts.com) and curator of juried exhibitions. She offers advice to artists in private consultations and on her blog at http://reneephillips.blogspot.com and manages the Manhattan Arts International blog at http://Manhattan-Arts.blogspot.com. She invites you to follow her on Twitter @reneephillipsny, and join her on www.Facebook.com/ReneePhillipsArtCoach and www.linkedin.com/in/reneephillipsartcoach.