The publishing journey isn’t easy. I’ve had 20+ years of rejections and not-good-enoughs and you’ll-never-be-enoughs. Folders with “not quite” on business letterheads and saved voicemails of “not this time.” “Not you,” says the agent, the editor, the reporter. Not now.
I’ve had publishers tell me that my writing is wonderful, but my social media followers aren’t high enough. My concept is original, but my platform needs development. My platform is great, but my concept is tired. That I can’t write about faith because I’m not Christian enough or that I’m too faith-based and should delete all mentions of (whisper) Jesus.
I don’t dance on TikTok or get paid to put on face cream or crop-top sweaters. I’m not an influencer; I’m a social worker, mother, and scribe. And an imperfect, 40-something to boot. In today’s world of fast marketing and consumption and attention deficit and eye lash extensions, it is true: I don’t cut it.
It’s not just with my profession of writing that I experience rejection.
In middle and high school, I was bullied by other girls. Girls with blue eye shadow, puffy Starter jackets, and easily bruised egos who liked to leave tampons on my desk for laughs. When the older boys started noticing me, those girls started noticing too—all of the things about me that they didn’t like. And there were more than a few.
Having the experiences I did of being bullied in middle and high school led me to be untrusting of women. And let’s face it, women can be tough to like. We are open and caring and want the good for others.
But we can also be jealous and cold and suspicious. We have our snuggly moments of being there as a friend—”whatever you need”—and moments of squinting distrust. Especially when that other woman has something we want, whether that’s the guy or the job or the thighs that don’t rub together or the porcelain-smooth forehead or the fluffy hair with the perfect shadow root.
Being rejected by the women you want to love and care about you hurts. It feels lonely. It leads us (me) to feel like a kid again: dizzying cafeteria remarks, flushes of embarrassment, quiet tears in the bathroom stall. It is tough not to internalize and let others’ words and actions (or non-actions) impact how we feel about ourselves. Women, as lovely as we can be, can also be cruel.
The Beauty of Rejection
The truth is I’ll never be able to make you like me.
There I said it.
Just like for the girls back in school, I can’t fit into the mold you’d like me to exist in. The one that keeps you safe, comfortable, and non-threatened. The mold that is everything to everyone. It is exhausting. And ladies, let me say, when I lived this way (when I live this way), I stay stuck in a cycle of active addiction, untreated mental health conditions, and sloppily-selfish relationships.
Today, I must see rejection not as a tragedy, but as a gift. I need to look to my creator for my worth. Not you.
I can also look on those who carry the weight of rejection not with anger, but with love. After all, we all come from our own broken places. Maybe yours broke in such a way as to cast a shadow on my broken place. I’ve heard it said that we are mirrors for each other. Perhaps another way to say this is that we aren’t always mirrors, we can be shadows that hover over the truth that is waiting to be reflected.
Perhaps God can use your rejection of me for my good.
The Naysayers Don’t Dictate Your Worth
This gift of the no, not you is one of victory. You see, I have come to understand that the gatekeepers of publishing don’t have to dictate my words—or worth. Getting that message from that woman saying how much she needed to read the chapter of my book right then and that it moved her to continue in her addiction recovery makes it all worth it. I know that God has a plan when I lean into his calling on my life no matter what anyone else says or does or doesn’t say.
I also know that my past traumas and hurts can influence the way I see things even today. It can lead me to continue to be untrusting, unloving or even resentful. But when I trust in the One who gives me my true worth, all that matters is that I show up and love even if. Rejection can be a gift.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49: 15-16).
For more on moving past rejection and realizing the true scope of your worth, listen to this podcast episode: Get Ready to Break Free of Self-Doubt and Shame – 220