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Ouch, rejection hurts, doesn’t it? Like physical pain that we can attempt to mitigate with a helmet or a seatbelt, the pain of rejection is difficult to avoid. At some point in your life, Stargazer, you’ll experience rejection. Whether personal or related to your business, this inevitability has the power to stop you in your tracks, delay your dreams, or cause you to give up altogether.
You can’t read the future. You can’t duck or dodge rejection. But you can be prepared for it. And you can even harness it to help you grow, change, and emerge better than before. To do that, you’ll need to gather some strategies to reframe rejection and use it as a motivation or learning tool.
From the moment you have the idea for a business, you’re relying on the acceptance of others to help you make it happen.
For entrepreneurs, the effects of rejection can throw a big wrench into startup plans. From the moment you have the idea for a business, you’re relying on the acceptance of others to help you make it happen: investors, customers, wholesale clients, press, social audiences. Guess what? In the end, you’re still the boss.
In this month’s instalment, we’ll discuss how to make rejection work for you and your business, as well as coping strategies picked for your unique personality type. Buckle up, Stargazers, we’re tackling the haters head on.
Don’t know your Founder Sign? Take the personality test below and sign up to join the Founder’s Zodiac community. All set? Skip ahead.
Why rejection is actually good for you
There’s great news here (stick with us), but we’ll start with the not-so-great. Why does being rejected hurt so much? Studies show that the human brain responds to social rejection in the same way it responds to physical pain. Rejection doesn’t just feel bad, though. It’s a slippery slope that can lead to feelings of anger and temporarily affect self-worth and decision making.
Rejection reminds us that we have room to grow, engages the competitive spirit, and, when harnessed, can provide motivation to persist.
OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s bask in some positive vibes. Rejection can actually have positive outcomes, if you’re willing to see the silver lining:
- It reaffirms your goals. Are you still as passionate about your idea after repeated rejections from investors? Are you pushing forward with building your business, even though you’ve yet to make a sale? Your answer will help you decide if you should stay on track or switch gears. Tip: Don’t let someone else make that decision for you.
- It lets you appreciate the wins (no matter how small). Author Stephen King explains that before publishing his breakout novel, Carrie, his manuscripts were the victims of rejection after rejection, while his family was toeing the poverty line. Small wins―short stories fetching a few dollars from magazines—had a big impact in comparison and encouraged him to keep writing. (And we all know how that story ends.)
- It keeps you sharp. Rejection reminds us that we have room to grow, engages the competitive spirit, and, when harnessed, can provide motivation to persist.
- It’s a great filter. Going through a low patch has the advantage of sifting the people in your life into two buckets: the real friends and supporters of your goals and those who don’t contribute positively to your journey.
How to deal with rejection
Whether you’ve experienced rejection at work or have had your heart broken, it’s easy to retreat and lose the motivation to try again. There are coping strategies, though, that can help bust those negative thoughts. Below are six ways to rethink rejection and harness the power of it to help you grow.
1. Overcome your fear of rejection 🗡
The first thing to address is how to overcome the fear of failure and rejection. Before it even happens, you’re ready for it—maybe even expecting it. You can let this fear prevent you from shooting your shot or you can use it to be better prepared. What questions should you anticipate? Do you have prepared answers? Balance confidence in your business with a realistic understanding of the potential outcomes to handle rejection like a pro.
2. Reframe the rejection 🖼
It’s easy to get stuck in your head, overthinking every “no” or telling yourself it means you’re not good enough. You might be tempted to just avoid rejection. Don’t do this. Read every rejection letter, every negative customer email or review, and find the constructive criticism within them. Use the experience to ask questions: “What prompted your decision?” and “What could I improve for next time?” Now the rejection becomes a learning experience—you’ve just received advice and feedback to help you improve your approach.
3. Invest in your mental health 🧘🏻
Because rejection can trigger more serious emotional responses, self-care is incredibly important. There are a number of strategies that can help you avoid or curtail the negative impacts of rejection. Gain perspective by sharing with friends, family, and peers who’ve been through the same, or with mental health professionals. Studies also show that exercise, fresh air, and mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and have a positive impact on your emotional wellbeing.
The people who believe in you will be the ones to remind you why it’s a good idea to get back out there and try again.
4. Don’t throw salt in your own wounds 🧂
This advice seems obvious, but it's a very common human reaction. If you twisted your ankle, you wouldn’t go jumping on a trampoline, but often we do the psychological equivalent. Adrienne Butikofer, founder of OKOKAY, understands this pattern all too well. “You get into a slump of a few days with no sales,” she says, “and you're like, Oh my God, what am I doing with my life?” Take time after a period of rejection to tend to your wounds.
5. Focus on the “yes” 👍
So, someone told you “no.” It’s one person. Surround yourself with the people who’ve been rooting for you the whole time. Maybe it’s your dad or your best friend or a college professor. The people who believe in you will be the ones to remind you why it’s a good idea to get back out there and try again.
6. Bounce back more quickly 🏀
For entrepreneurs, rejection is a natural part of the process at every phase. Once you realize that each rejection isn’t the end of your business and rather just a bump in the road, you’ll worry less about it and forge on. Practice makes perfect here. Hampton’s Glow founder Rachel Thompson held a door-to-door sales job before starting her business, sometimes facing a full day of rejections. “Having had that experience made me pretty fearless about cold calling current sales accounts and bouncing right back to the next one after a rejection,” she says.
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Rejection coping strategies for every sign
What’s the best way to handle rejection? Simply, it’s the way that works best for you. Depending on your personality type, you may be naturally better at avoiding the negative effects of rejection. Your Founder’s Zodiac Sign could unlock the secrets to dealing with rejection like a boss.
👟 Skip to your sign:
Feature sign: The Mountaineer
You’re our feature sign this month, Mountaineer, because you’re probably the most immune to the effects of rejection. That’s because your stubbornness, though sometimes problematic, actually acts as a shield in this case—you hear what you want to hear. If someone tells you “no,” your natural inclination is to translate it to “not now.” Your laser focus on your big goal won’t be distracted by one measly little rejection. Great! But ignoring it altogether could hurt you in the end.
How to deal with rejection as a Mountaineer
Reframing rejection is easily the best strategy for you, Mountaineer. It’s more fuel for that fire burning in your belly, more incentive to push toward that big prize. You’re too determined to take no for an answer, which is a good thing ultimately. But don’t miss a learning opportunity. Pause for a moment and think about what’s behind that no. If you brush it off too quickly, you could be passing up a valuable lesson.
Pause for a moment and think about what’s behind that no. If you brush it off too quickly, you could be passing up a valuable lesson.
Persistence is a great tactic for you too. Because you’re equipped to let rejection roll right off your back, you can quickly return to make your pitch again and again. That’s how STIL founder Marissa Groots handled repeated rejection from a desired wholesale client. “They rejected me I think eight or nine times,” she says. “And then the 10th time, somebody was like, ‘OK. Well, send us a sample, and then we'll see what happens.’” A few weeks later, the company ordered 200 units and sold out in three days.
Listen on the Shopify Masters podcast: Marissa’s inspirational story of rejection—and success
Your confidence is a blessing in life and business, Firestarter—it’s what makes you a natural salesperson. People have a hard time saying no to you. You’re charming, intelligent, and convincing. But overconfidence can be your enemy. If you’re too confident on an idea, you could have blindspots, letting rejection take you by surprise.
How to deal with rejection as a Firestarter
This is where you start to develop that thick skin, Firestarter. Get familiar with the idea of rejection and hone your coping skills in the way that you have done for every skill in your toolbox. You’re a quick learner and you love a challenge—find a way to anticipate the questions and hesitations and have those answers in your pocket.
In entrepreneurship, you don’t have to have a 4.0 GPA. Hard work and grit outpaces any genius mind.Chase Fisher, founder, Blenders Eyewear
Chase Fisher struggled in school and it was a blow to his self-esteem. But he realized that his other skills—a natural sales ability and an innate entrepreneurial drive—helped him cope with that rejection and keep pressing on. He built his brand, Blenders Eyewear, from selling sunglasses out of a backpack to a massive business with dozens of employees. “In entrepreneurship, you don’t have to have a 4.0 GPA,” says Chase. “Hard work and grit outpaces any genius mind.”
Read more: Chase’s story of combating rejection and building an empire
You might ask yourself, “Why do I have trouble handling rejection?” Don’t beat yourself up, Cartographer. The reason that rejection hurts you more than other signs is also the reason you’re so good at what you do: you care. Like, a lot. You care about your craft and you’re passionate about bringing ideas to life. You care about the details. That’s why rejection takes you by surprise. Hadn’t you thought of everything? How could you miss that small detail? Rest assured that sometimes rejection is out of your control.
How to deal with rejection as a Cartographer
Mindset is huge for you, Cartographer. You’re a sensitive and solitary soul and it’s very easy for you to get stuck in your own head replaying the rejection over and over. It may cause you to fear rejection and therefore stop trying. First, invest in some self-care—it’s OK to have feelings about being turned down. Then pick yourself up and examine where you went wrong. Your analytical side will help you spot your missteps and plan your next move.
You have to sit with that feeling for a while, let it sink in, and normalize it so it doesn’t scare you as much.Roxelle Cho, founder, Fused Hawaii
When Roxelle Cho was building her brand, Fused Hawaii, she faced rejection everywhere she turned—customers not liking her product, peers teasing her for selling at craft fairs rather than having a “real job.” She feared rejection, and when it happened, it stung. But in the end, she thinks the exposure to rejection was a good thing. “That’s what it takes to be a seven-figure brand,” she says. “You have to sit with that feeling for a while, let it sink in, and normalize it so it doesn’t scare you as much.”
Listen on the Shopify Masters podcast: Roxelle’s story of overcoming a fear of rejection and building a 7-figure swimwear brand
Rejection is tough for you, Trailblazer, because what you do is so personal. The lines between work and play blur for you because you live and breathe your craft. When you face rejection in business, it feels the same as someone insulting your personality or haircut. Here’s the thing: when you’re carving new paths and introducing change (as you do so well), not everyone’s going to love it. People fear change, they reject it. But you only need one yes to keep forging ahead. Start with saying yes to yourself.
How to deal with rejection as a Trailblazer
Being a pioneer in any field can be lonely. Others want to quash your ideas simply because it’s never been done before. But your passion is contagious and eventually it will catch on. Be your own biggest cheerleader and keep your supporters close. Focus on your wins (even the tiny ones) to keep your motivation high.
Being a pioneer in any field can be lonely. Others want to quash your ideas simply because it’s never been done before.
For Roz Campbell, a newcomer in the feminine care space, rejection was woven into every step of building Tsuno. “I was very naive,” says Roz, who made no profit in her first year. She was also turned down by the press, who told her over and over that their audience didn’t want “period stories.” She was not deterred. And when conversations about women’s health began to dominate the news, those same reporters chased her down. Now her social impact brand sells to customers all over the world, donating profits to support the education of thousands of girls in poor communities.
Read more: Roz’s story of building Tsuno by not taking no for an answer
As an Outsider, you either have a ton of experience with rejection or not much at all. Let me explain. If you are the way you are, you may be born this way or it’s a product of your experiences. Perhaps you’ve experienced a ton of rejection in your working life and it has shaped your Outsider personality—you’d rather be in charge of your own destiny than allow others to define it. Or maybe you were born a lone wolf, perfectly happy to grow at your own pace and make (and learn from) your mistakes without any outside input. Either way, rejection is a nuisance to you and you’re likely to avoid any situation where it might be a reality.
How to deal with rejection as an Outsider
As a solo artist, you can avoid rejection by never exposing yourself to the possibility of it. That might have worked for you so far—you are after all an expert at your craft. You perform all of the functions in your business and you like it that way. No one to question your motives or processes. But you’re not totally sheltered. Rejection can creep in through the tiniest cracks: a negative customer review, self-rejection manifesting as doubt, or even tanking sales because you refused to adapt to trends.
For you, practice makes perfect, Outsider. Work out your resilience muscle by inviting feedback every once in a while. That way, when rejection happens, you’re strong enough to handle it.
Danyelle Templeton was a full-time working mom when she launched her business, Hair of Nature. She did it solo, out of her home, but needed a little startup funding to get it off the ground. Though she was a model customer, her own bank tuned her down for a loan. “They made it seem like it was my fault,” Danyelle says. “I had been with this bank for 10 years.” The experience was rough but it thickened her skin, and she launched her business with the help of Shopify Capital.
Read more: Danyelle’s story of facing bias at the hands of the financial industry—then turning rejection into motivation
If you’ve yet to determine your Founder Sign, take our quiz, then sign up for our newsletter. The Founder’s Zodiac runs every month and offers up advice and relevant content curated just for your type.
Illustrations by by Alice Mollon