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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  1. Isaac Renteria

    From my experience; I think accepting rejection is part of the artists’ grown and how your future goals become more ambicious. I remember when I first started doing toy photography, my main goal was a toy brand to hire me to do their product photography then it changed and I wanted a gallery to ask me for showing my work and I was contacted by some galleries and eventually my work was exposed I remember how fragile I was about the critics, and how stressed i was about creating something that people would like.
    I beared the stress for maybe 2 years and then I quit and started doing what i like and enjoy.
    Now I sell my photos by myself, I don’t care much if people will like it or not, now the only critic I have to bear it’s mi inner critic that sometimes is more cruel haha.
    In resume; As you grown as an artis, you will change your path and will learn to whom you may listen.

  2. Jennifer I think rejection is just another part of the process of being an artist. Yes it hurts, there is no doubt about it. But there is an equal and opposite aspects putting yourself out there that more than makes up for it: when you connect with a viewer. Whenever I have ever connected with someone over my art, be it toys or needs, I often feel like Ive made a new friend. That experience more than makes up for any rejection I may encounter along the way. I have also learned that I can minimize the rejection by making sure I present my work to appropriate venues. I can keep beating my head against the wall with certain galleries or I can go to coffee shops where they are so enthusiastic about showing the work, its hard not to smile. Either way, the sales are about the same. So while rejection and criticism are part of the game, it is easily balanced by positive experiences. At least those are the emotions I remember when I look back on my own experiences. Thanks for taking on a topic that has been at the back of my own brain, but Ive not known how to tackle it. Shelly

  3. Excellent post, Jennifer! Thank you for writing it. I’ve definitely learned that negative criticism and rejection are simply part of the process, but you’re right that it does still sting. I have a people-pleasing personality, so that certainly adds fuel to the fire too haha.

    As Shelly and Isaac said, it’s all about taking the good with the bad, and ultimately doing what’s right for you and what makes you happy. Luckily it seems that we’ve all learned that lesson (or are continuing to learn it, at least) so that certainly helps 🙂

  4. brett_wilson

    “The first cut is the deepest.” Rejection hurts, but over time, that hurt becomes less. Rejection is an inevitable aspect of what we do.
    I’ve had photos hang on a gallery wall that I was incredibly proud of, only to see them come down from the walls after the exhibition without any interest shown. It all comes down to time and perception.
    If we knew what people liked, we wouldn’t be here writing comments, we’d be living in our gold castles sipping champagne our of diamond flutes! But we’re not.
    The challenges that rejection throws our way spurs us on!

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