Dealing with Fears of Rejection

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” 

-Brene Brown

Our fears of rejection within the realm of photography vary by person – whether with putting an image on a social media platform and not getting any likes, or maybe getting negative comments, to submitting something to a publication or gallery and getting denied. As with any type of rejection or negativity it’s so important to not take these things too personally.

The internet for one is mean. Some people are just looking to get out their own insecurities and maybe you’re the unlucky one they’ve settled on today. Others may very well think they’re giving constructive criticism and therefore helping you – even when it’s uncalled for. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong, but in the end it’s all subjective.

On the other hand, if you get denied from a publication or gallery – maybe your work didn’t fit with what else was submitted, or with the feel of the publication as a whole, maybe the specific judge just doesn’t like toy photography or whatever other genre you sent in, maybe it was something more technical all together, but once again, it’s subjective. Another judge, another day, another gallery and you very well could be looking at an acceptance email.

Someone’s going to read the above and say ‘or maybe their work sucks.’ And they’re right, sort of. Maybe you’re not a very good judge of your own work and it’s legitimately questionable in skill level or content or a laundry list of other reasons. But seriously, go and look at the contemporary art world – you’re not going to deem everything out there as good, but it’s there.

My point is, sometimes you’ll post your work online or you’ll submit it to some art space and you will only get positive responses. Other times you’ll hear nothing or get a negative response or two. It is all part of making photos, of making art, of creating. If we as creators accept that, the path ahead gets so much less stressful.

I can’t say that I’ll ever actually get over my fear of rejection, and negative comments, especially public ones, still sting. As an ingrained part of my personality I take things personally. But with the art world side of things, I have learned to let rejection slide onto the wayside. I’ll drag and drop the ‘Sorry, but…’ emails into a folder in my inbox and there they’ll stay.

It can be great to consider negative feedback – to try and find a takeaway from that feedback in which to improve your photos. Consider it, but don’t meditate on it or let it burrow down deep. And as far as rejections from publications or gallery spaces – most denials don’t come with feedback – so there’s really no point in obsessing over the whys.

Overtime, you will hopefully get to where you want to be. Until then, do your best, continue to learn, and the growth that comes will propel you closer to your goals.

~Tourmaline . (previously Jennifer Nichole Wells)

How have you learned to counter your fears of rejection?


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