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What to Remember When You Struggle With Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria in High Rejection Rate Industries

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So, you have rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD) and you decided to work in a high rejection rate job.

I’m not judging. In fact, I’m that person with RSD who works in not one, but two to three high rejection rate industries. I’m a writer and performer by trade, meaning I’ve heard no more than I’ve heard my own name. In the beginning, I was a bit naive and thought I’d be an exception to the rule, and then I wasn’t. I was rejected left and right by publications, literary agents, editors, casting directors, casting teams, and people whose names I have never even heard. It’s not because I’m not talented or gifted. I’m incredibly skilled at the things that I do, but in these industries, it’s not about talent. It’s about luck. Sure you have to have the talent to back it, but talent only gets you so far and that’s the hardest thing to accept. 

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The tough part about rejection-sensitive dysphoria is that any amount of rejection, whether it’s actualized, perceived, or otherwise can send someone into a debilitating spiral. RSD can be a true hindrance in life that stops us from pursuing new opportunities and hobbies, people, and even situations. Failure and rejection for me are synonymous at times, so my choice to work in the fields I do could be considered ill-advised. 

That being said, even with all the no’s, roadblocks, and doors slammed in my face, I’m thriving. 

Maybe it’s just due to how often it happens, or that I expect a “no,” while hoping for a “yes,” but either way I’m able to exist and grow in industries that my brain shouldn’t really play well with. 

How? Operating by these four key principles:

1. It takes 99 no’s to get one yes.

This is advice my mother once gave me, and it’s what I credit to my being able to keep pushing on even when things aren’t technically going my way. I force myself to think of rejection and denials as a countdown, versus a true roadblock. This slight mindset shift helps me not see every no as the end, but rather just as a part of the journal. 

2. A delay is not a denial.

One of my mentors loves to say this, and boy has this saved my ass. 

If you’re in an industry where you’re just waiting for the “yes” to change your life, but you keep getting “no,” then it’s easy to feel like a delay is a denial when it’s not. A delay is just that, a delay. What you want is still coming, and it’s going to be perfect for you because it’s going to be for you. This is another mindset shift that really helps me deal with the countless forms of rejection that I get a week. 

3. You’re in control the entire time, not the other way around.

I know this doesn’t seem accurate because you need their “yes,” but hear me out.

Let’s look at the acting industry. 

Movies need what to make a movie (generally speaking)? Actors. Without actors, it’s really hard to make a movie. Casting directors would have no one to cast and crafty no one to feed. Ultimately, they need you, you don’t need them. These industries rely on people being passionate enough to continually pursue something where their chance of failure is inherently greater than their chance of success, but that puts a lot of power in our hands, because if we decide to say no and enough is enough, everything stops. 

4. Everything, and I mean everything is subjective.

Even things that aren’t subjective are! It’s so maddening only because you could be perfect on paper (whatever that means) and still not be the perfect fit. As enraging as that is, what we have to keep in mind is that even our tastes are subjective, and subjective opinions are very different from objective facts. 

Someone having an opinion that you aren’t talented or worthy doesn’t mean that you aren’t. Someone disliking your project doesn’t mean it’s not good. It just means it’s not right for them. This could be due to personal taste or bias, but it doesn’t stand up to your actual value or worth, no matter how you may feel.

Rejection is hard, but these four principles, affirmations, whatever you want to call them, are what keep me going and in the game. There have been so many times I wanted to give up and quit, but then I remember that I’m only on my 46th “no,” and so I have 54 to go before I can really make any decision on whether or not my project, or myself, is viable. You’re in control. You have power, even if you don’t actually feel that way.

Getty image by tommaso79

Originally published: July 21, 2022
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