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How I Cope With Rejection

It’s easy to wallow in self-pity when you get rejected.

I caught myself doing it this week. So to ground myself, I took a trip down memory lane to 2017. Back then, the publication I wanted most deeply, truly, madly to write for was (Harvard Business Review’s website).

I was a voracious HBR reader for years. Every morning, I refreshed the homepage, hungrily reading the latest stories. I followed the editors on Twitter, tweeting quips back, trying to build a rapport. I asked around if anyone could make an introduction–but the few folks I knew who were connected were (understandably) reluctant. These relationships are hard-won!

I pitched many times on the generic website form, but no one ever responded.

Then, after nearly a year of trying to connect (and overcoming years of me telling myself I shouldn’t bother trying), their executive editor followed me back on Twitter. I tried to collect myself as I slid into her DMs (um, my cooler friends tell me this turn of phrase can be misinterpreted but it was strictly professional). She proceeded to say she was open to being pitched by me!

When I sent a story idea, she said she’d be happy to read a draft. You can imagine how excited I was! I threw everything at it. But after several weeks of bated breath, she declined.

I was absolutely crushed. So close and yet so far!

After months of back and forth, another pitch and draft were finally accepted. The first article I wrote for went live in April 2018! Fast forward three years and I’m proud to be a regular contributor and have great, trusting relationships with my editors there.

I write this to reflect, celebrate and express gratitude. It’s easy to take for granted the doors we walk through that we once would have done anything to open for us. And sometimes, in a culture of always moving forward, of FOMO as we see others succeeding, of trying to work through yet another rejection (I’ve had several this year), it can be helpful to take stock of how far we’ve come.

Why does this matter for inclusive leaders? Because the work we do can be hard, painful and lonely. Solve one “problem” and up spring another 100. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion work is like that. So many obstacles, so many rejections.

I’m using the HBR example as one that hopefully we can all identify with…detailing a tangible goal I once had (write for HBR!), striving with all my heart and soul for it until I achieved it. But then sometimes I take that accomplishment for granted because I’m too busy looking ahead and licking my wounds from new rejections.

Nothing wrong with looking ahead and acknowledging that rejection hurts. But on the days you feel dejected, frustrated or even just exhausted, remember to look back, too.

What are the doors you now breeze past that you once wished would open?

Can you take a few minutes today to reflect on how far you’ve come, to build rocket fuel for the journey ahead?


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