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200 Bagels And Why We Shouldn’t Take Rejection Personally

The Bagel Theory: How a theory about bagels helped me better understand why we shouldn't take rejection personally.
I'm Stephanie May Wilson!

I'm an author and podcaster and my specialty is helping women navigate big decisions, life transitions — creating lives they love.

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My sweet friend Hanna wrote a blog yesterday that left me laughing and cheering out loud. (What would that be, “lol” + “col”?)

The blog was all about rejection, about how we’ll all face it and why we shouldn’t take it personally. I just had to share a bit with you.

“When I was in high school, a musical theater director of mine introduced me to his personal theory I like to call The Bagel Theory.

Hear me out.

All of us musical theater kids, we were all bagels. My friend Chloe was a chocolate chip bagel; My friend Anna was a sesame bagel; I was a blueberry bagel.  You get the idea.  We were all great bagels, but we were each a different kind of bagel.

When auditioning for a certain role, Chloe, Anna, and I could all be up for the same part.  We would all be uniquely great for the role, but at the end of the day, the casting director was looking for a certain type of bagel.  Chloe may get the gig because they were looking for a chocolate chip bagel.  It didn’t mean that Anna or I weren’t amazing bagels. We just weren’t the bagels they were looking for.

Suddenly, getting rejected for a part wasn’t a judgement of our talent or abilities, it was just a reflection of someone else’s preferences.

While I don’t audition for musical theater roles anymore, The Bagel Theory, has truly shaped how I look at every application, interview, or opportunity I seek.” (You can read the rest right here…Hanna’s brilliant, read everything she writes. I can't recommend her blog enough. 🙂 )

I love this insight because this is the way I look at rejection too, although I call mine The Rule of 200.

When I was in college, there was nothing in the world I wanted more than to be a broadcast journalist. I wanted to be on the Today Show, or Oprah, or Christian Amanpour, it depended on the day. Bottom line, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist and I had every step mapped out of how I was going to get there.

The problem with wanting to be a broadcast journalist is that it’s pretty darn competitive, which every guest speaker I heard throughout college took the time to remind us.

They told stories of being rejected for their hair color, or sent on their way because they just looked too young. “It’s a brutal world out there,” they’d tell us menacingly. But I didn’t care.

I knew I was preparing to walk a tough road and that I would face a ton of rejection, but I plunged ahead anyway because of a story one of our guest speakers shared with us.

She was one of Denver’s most beloved journalists, and I was fan-girling like crazy when she walked into our classroom. People loved her, and would never assume she had any path to the top other than one paved with gold. But that wasn’t the story she told us.

In fact, she told us she sent her resume tape to 200 TV stations before one finally hired her. 200.

Some of them wanted someone with more experience, or a man, or a blonde. Some of them already had someone in mind, or her resume got lost on some HR person’s desk. For whatever reason, she got passed up 200 times before she was finally given a shot. But that one shot was all she needed.

Those people didn’t reject her because she wasn’t a nice person, or because she wasn’t good at her job. She was and she was. They rejected her because that’s just how it goes sometimes, because she wasn’t everyone’s type of bagel.

Her story changed my perspective completely. She helped me see rejection as a natural part of trying something new—not a personal attack or a sign that I should quit.

She helped me understand that anything worth doing is worth fighting for, fighting through 200 rejections if that's what it takes. Rejection isn't fun, and it certainly isn't easy. But looking at it this way has helped me immeasurably.

When I start to feel discouraged I remind myself of all the things going on on the other end that I know nothing about. I don’t know how many submissions they’ve gotten, or what they’re needing, or what they’re looking for. I don’t know the preferences of the hiring manager, or how high the stack of resumes is on their desk. I remind myself that it’s rarely personal, it’s just a matter of preference, and whether or not I’m the bagel they’re looking for.

All we can do is become the best we can possibly be, and then show up. And we have to keep showing up, and showing up, and showing up until we finally find someone who is willing to give us a chance. That chance is all we need.

I don’t know what you’re dreaming of today, what you are considering applying for, or what shot you’re contemplating taking, but I hope you do it.

I hope you do it and I hope you do it fearlessly. Do it fearlessly and promise yourself that you’re not going to give up until you hit that 200 mark, and that you’re not going to be discouraged until then. Because you might just not be somebody’s type of bagel, and that’s okay. Because if you keep trying, and don’t give up, eventually you’ll find the person who was looking for exactly you.

What are you dreaming of doing today? Can you imagine what you could accomplish if you weren't afraid of rejection?

P.S. Here's a podcast episode I did with Carrie Grace all about how to stop being afraid of rejection: Girls Night #74: How to be Brave with Your Life (and Stop Being so Afraid of Rejection).

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Why we shouldn't take rejection personally!

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  1. Danielle says:

    This is seriously so good and such a great way to look at things. Not to mention the fact that I love me some bagels lol

  2. This is more helpful than I can say. Rejection hurts always. Especially when it comes in the form of words that stab deep. I don’t know what to do.

  3. […] doesn’t feel gentle, or like they just prefer a different brand of bagel. It feels intensely personal. And that’s […]

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