Failure, Rejection, and Living Your Life

By Chase Bailey

Recently I watched a speech given by Elizabeth Gilbert, which you can watch here. Some of you may know her as the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Her talk, entitled “Success, failure, and the drive to keep creating,” brought something to my attention that I’ve been struggling with lately: the idea of rejection, and all that comes with it.

There are a lot of things that can be said about a person who’s experienced rejection, and I don’t think that any of those things have to be negative. I want to talk about failure and rejection, and how the two are not at all the same.

This semester has been trying, most likely for everybody. It’s only November and I’ve already seen my fair share of rejection. Pieces that I’ve written have been rejected more than once from a magazine on campus, a guy I asked out (drunkenly, but with good intent) silently rejected me (twice). A hookup in the middle of the night stood me up. And some guy called me a faggot on the street one night, giving me a general feeling of an open rejection of some part of my identity. And that’s only just the start of it.

But this isn’t me shouting out for help, for empty compliments to make me feel better. This isn’t me asking for someone to fill me back up with confidence because, frankly, I never lost it.

I think a lot of time there’s a general agreement that rejection and failure is the same thing. A guy you like says no to grabbing a coffee so you failed to get his interest. Or something you submit for publication gets denied so you’ve failed as a writer. I see the existence of the idea that if you don’t get what you want then you have ultimately failed.

And I think that we’re going about viewing rejection all wrong, because I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of.

I’ve come to realize that, for me, rejection is the result of trying for something. As little or as big as that something is, it’s still the aftermath of you leaving some part of yourself open and vulnerable.

Failure, however, is the result of you not taking a chance, of sewing your lips together, of wearing your heart of your sleeve with a pocket over it. It’s a stunt of your growth as a human, a self-placed obstacle on your spiritual journey through life.

Rejection is in its own way a type of success. It’s a scar that shows that you refused to back down and apologize for what you want. It shows that you got punched in the face, spit out a tooth or two, and kept doing you. Rejection is something to be proud of, because it shows that you’ve done something not many people do: it shows that you tried.

I bundle up all of the rejections I receive and then I pat myself on the back, because I did something. I proved my existence as a human being.

But probably the most important question that comes from all this is: Where do I go after being rejected?

There’s no easy answer but I like what Gilbert says in her speech, which comes to out as a call to continue to do what you love. Which is what I sum up to come out as: you just go. You keep doing you, you keep creating your story, and you never ever sign off your subscription to living your life.

So go out there and get your ego stretched. Grow and try, and if it doesn’t work out then scream and cry afterwards if you have to, but recognize at that point in time you experienced pure and beautiful courage. Life is about getting your hands dirty. It’s more fun to play in the mud than to stand alone in a perfect white dress.

Maybe this is all a matter of perspective, or maybe you’ve heard all of what I’ve said before. But maybe this will be the one thing that kicks you in the ass to start living your life wholly and freely.

I’ll leave you with this: Never apologize for doing what your spirit tells you. A play at life can never end in failure.

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