From Sarah – on rejection (as an artist….)

All artists and in fact, all people suffer rejection at some point.

Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo, Norway
Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo

Do you take it personally, or can you brush it off philosophically?

This is such an important matter that I felt I should share here,  some hints

for coping with rejection in one’s artistic life.

However there is no reason why this can’t apply to one’s personal life.

It certainly has applied to  mine, at certain moments.


When you can “tell” that someone doesn’t like something you’ve created,

it can feel like that person is rejecting your essence.

And the reason this can feel so awful is that it is triggering your sorrow about the countless losses,

shaming moments and various rejections you’ve experienced throughout your entire life.

It’s the rare person who reaches adulthood who accepts and loves themselves completely.

Feeling “not okay” or “not enough” or “unworthy” –on whatever level–is practically the universal human experience.

And because your artwork is a direct expression of who you are, the usual bevy of self-protection mechanisms that effectively shield you from having to experience these feelings aren’t in place.

It’s like being on a fast track to accessing your unhealed pain. Ugh.

What To Do

Well, first, have compassion.

Forgive yourself for judging yourself so harshly through the eyes of another.

(Actually saying to yourself, “I forgive myself for that thought” can be quite powerful–try it.)

The second is to simply “notice” to the best of your ability. This can be hard in the throes of hurt, but to whatever degree you can, ask yourself:

  • “What am I feeling right now?” (Try to give it a word so it’s not a nameless, overwhelming blob.)
  • Where in your body are you feeling it? Does it have a shape and color? (A shape is finite and finite is good–again, much easier to tackle than a nameless, overwhelming blob.)
  • What old memories is it conjuring up? Who or what from your past is popping into your mind?

The third is to consider the idea that however true it might feel, it’s not. It’s a merciless story you’re telling yourself.

And even though it might be hard not to indulge that story, all efforts to interrupt it are powerful. Even thinking the thought, “Sarah said this is a merciless story and not the truth” is an interruption and an important first step.

The Big Pay-Off

What I actually love about this whole challenging experience for myself is that it elevates my artistic journey into a spiritual one.

Because creating is who I am, it’s the path through which I can explore the sacred and heal my wounds–and not just in the “making” part of my art, but through the entire experience–the showing and sharing, the applying and hoping, the acceptance and rejection, the selling and not selling, the praise and the silence.

It’s the place I do so much of my hard growing.

And an unexpected gift from this process is that it creates an increased...intimacy somehow between me and my art

work. It’s like they become private symbols of my healing process and growth (in addition to be artwork about this or that.)

How about you? Do you face these challenges too?

What do you do when you feel exposed and vulnerable? Something to ponder about!

4 thoughts on “From Sarah – on rejection (as an artist….)”

  1. The most important point you mentioned? Interrupting the thought. What an absolutely CRUCIAL piece of advice for stopping any mental hamster wheel!

    When I first got sober (in 2006) my drug counselor gave me similar advice. She said I could allow myself 20min each morning and 20 mins each night to whole-hog worry/fret/obsess about whatever was getting to me. ” At the end of the 20mins I was to verbally interrupt my circular thoughts by yelling, “stop.” (rather than be a weirdo around my family I chose to set a timer instead of yell stop, but same idea!) Of course, my next question was “what if the crazy obsessing returns in an hour?” She said I should tell myself I can’t think about it now and re-schedule the worry for the 20min period later in the day.
    Over time this exercise has worked wonders for me. I suspect it would do the same for people whose creativity feels unjustly criticized too!


    1. OH Karen, thanks for sharing this here. This issue has much wider applications than just artistic rejections, as I alluded. You are so right. Interrupting that constant over thinking which can potentially lead to a distorted view of reality, is a really difficult thing for people who are self critical and sensitive. Stopping the destructive thoughts or distracting the mind is paramount to prevent the downhill slide into anxiety panic attacks and depression for those vulnerable. It is hard to do, but you are testament that practice and persistence pays off. Well done!


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