How To Survive Being Rejected

It's going to happen so let's prepare.

Written by Clare

It’s nearly Christmas. Lights are twinkling, wine is mulling and eggs are nogging. The still, quiet point in the year is almost here. Time for peace, pleasure and love. And to eat your body weight in Toffifees.

So what’s with all the rejection talk, Clare?

Why am I locking you outside in the snow when Downton Abbey is about to start?

Way to kill your festive buzz, right? Sorry. But here’s my point.

Next year you and your business are going to do great things. You’re going to create beautiful products, snag new stockists and delight more customers. You’re going to see real, measurable improvements.

Oh, and you’re going to make more money with your wholesale business than you ever have before.

To make this happen you’ll have to work hard. Maybe harder than you are right now. And you’ll have to take risks. Sometimes you won’t be sure that things are going to work out the way you want. Sometimes you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Sometimes you’ll feel like throwing it all in the bin and taking that job at Spud-U-Like that your Mum helpfully circled in the newspaper.

Don’t do that.

Getting rejected hurts but it doesn’t have to completely derail you. Here’s how to do it like a pro:

[Read: What makes retailers say yes?]

1. Breathe.

Knocks to your ego hurt more when you’re braced for impact. Loosen up. Let it sting while you breathe into it – like when you stub your toe.

Yes, waiting for the pain to arrive is awful. Feeling the pain arrive is awful too. But it’s happening, so get out of the way and let it.

2. Give yourself permission to be distressed. Or angry.

This one is hard.  Allowing yourself to experience a unpleasant feeling without trying to bury it or make it go away is seriously difficult. If “Being Human” was taught at universities, this would be PHD-level.

It works, though. If you can say “I accept this is how I feel right now and I’m allowing it to happen,” you give those bad feelings nowhere to go. They burn out and vanish instead of becoming a constant low-level ache.

3. Work out what you and your rejector have in common.

Obviously I join you in fervently wishing that the person who rejected you wakes up tomorrow morning with antlers.

But let’s see if we can move on from inflicting a lifetime of really big hats and a fear of narrow doorways on everyone who thwarts you.

When we get rejected we often enter a unhappy little cycle that goes like this:

“Oh god, I suck! I am dirt. Everything about me and my business is horribly wrong. It’s all my fault.”


“How dare that jumped-up jerk say no to me? I shall feed his liver to a vulture!”

The first part is simply you being mean to yourself. One rejection, however major, does not call everything about you and your business into question. When you’re ready, you’ll be able to see that.

The second part is your rage circuit.

Have you ever tried to help a wounded animal, only for it to lash out at you?

Becoming super-aggressive when you’re injured is a pretty good survival instinct. It might mean that whoever hurt you can’t come back to finish the job.

But what works on the endless plains of the Serengeti isn’t necessarily going to work for your creative business. One of the best ways to break the cycle is to ask what you and your rejector have in common.

If it’s a potential stockist, for example, you both run creative businesses. You’re both self-employed. You’re both trying to surprise and delight your customer. You’re both trying to make money. And saying “no” to someone isn’t a particularly fun experience.

So see if you can feel even a tiny bit of compassion for the person who just kicked you in the teeth.

4. Ask for feedback, then ask yourself if they have a point.

Deep down you know where you need to improve. In every business, especially new ones, there are holes that need patching up.

You know where those places are but perhaps you haven’t got round to fixing them yet. If the reason you were rejected is that your product isn’t retail-ready, your wholesale prices are off, you don’t know who your target customer is or something else along those lines – you know what you have to do.

But if you find it’s simply a case of you not being a good fit for this particular stockist or trade show, that’s fair enough. Regardless of how horrendously wrong you think they are, it’s time to move on.

5. Say thank you.

Simple. Elegant. Good for your soul.

Saying “thanks for your time,” especially when you’ve been dissed, makes you look like a rock star of maturity and self-possession. Here’s the secret bit, though. You need to thank yourself too.

You took a risk. It didn’t work out and that hurts, but YOU STILL TOOK THE RISK. That’s big stuff. That’s how thriving, spectacular businesses are built. And you did it.

Take yourself out for pizza. Buy yourself a book. Put some sugar in your tea. Every act of kindness to yourself is a little thank you.

[Read: Advice for the stressed and overwhelmed]

Okay. I’m going to let you get back to….whatever it is you’re doing to that turkey now.

Over the holidays I hope you’ll rest, recharge and plan something amazing for the next year of your business. You don’t have to let the fear of rejection shape those plans or prevent you from going full throttle for what you want. You’re smart and you’re tough.

Go get ’em.

Clare Yuille Bio Picture

Hello, I'm Clare Holliday. I'm a shopkeeper who's helped thousands of creative people sell their work to stores, galleries and regular customers all over the world. Now it's your turn.

Worry less. Sell more.