A virtual colleague recently posted about his work being rejected for an online art show by a huge arts education organization. If you would like to read Ted Edinger’s post, it’s available here.
He makes some excellent points about the fact that we don’t usually prepare students to face rejection. Any practicing artist, or really, anyone who takes risks in any endeavor, will at some point in their life experience rejection. It could be for participation in an art show, for a job application, for a certain program, just about anything. It feels personal and it hurts. It’s easy to say, “feel grateful for what you do have” when you’re feeling hurt. But emotions don’t work that way.
So how do teachers go about helping our students learn to handle rejections, especially when it’s difficult for us, too? Teach students these thoughts:
1. This isn’t about you as a person.
This doesn’t invalidate who you are and what you are. It’s a matter of whatever you did at this particular time, for this particular class or job or life event, wasn’t what was needed. From a religious standpoint, we can think, “this isn’t in Hashem’s plan for us right now.” Ultimately, Hashem watches over us and will give us what we need.
2. Rejection doesn’t mean never. It means not now.
I’m taking this directly from Ted’s post because I can’t think of a better way to rephrase it. And it’s an excellent point. Maybe you aren’t ready for whatever opportunity you wanted. Maybe you need to do a bit more work. I enjoy watching America’s Got Talent and I’ve heard the judges say so many times that someone has a good voice but they need to learn certain skills and inviting them to come back next year. So it’s an opportunity to reflect and learn what you need to do to get to the next step. But, boy, is this difficult when you first hear the rejection. Some people get so turned off that they think they’ll never take a risk again. But once you cool down, figure out what was really said and you can do something about it, if possible. And usually it’s possible.
3. It’s not always about you. Or maybe it is. So do something about it.
If you are applying for a spot in a prestigious program, an art show, a job, there are probably lots of entries or candidates. Some may, in fact, be better than you. What do they do or have that you don’t? Maybe that’s something to explore. Don’t compare yourself with the idea that you are better than someone and dwell on why you were rejected. Consider it a learning opportunity and ask yourself what is exceptional about the ones who did get selected. How can you bring that to your own work or skill set? Or maybe it’s the process – maybe you didn’t apply in the correct way? Maybe you entered your work into the wrong category? Maybe you applied for a job that clearly advertised required skills that you don’t have? (Ok, maybe that’s about you, because you didn’t read the ad. Always read the fine print, folks!) The bottom line is, this is a time for reflection and a call to action. Accept it!
Before I leave this post, I’d also like to share Clara Lieu’s video about rejection. Professor Lieu is the force behind Art Prof, an amazing online art site created for learning visual arts. Her video is at https://youtu.be/ppdV98Y2riI