Instagram can be hard. Has anyone ever noticed that?
A few weeks ago, I took part in what I have to say was a killer giveaway. I feel a teensy bit bad saying that because I was the one who organized it. But I got to team up with an amazing group of women (women I sincerely admire) and over 1,500 people entered to win. Not only that, but the prize was amazing too. A 1,000 dollar gift card to Southwest? Yes PLEASE!
The week was electrifying. Every time I’d open my Instagram app, I’d have hundreds of new followers.
New faces popped up every few seconds. It felt like a blogger’s version of standing in front of a broken ATM, money spitting out at you faster than you can grab to shove in your purse.
People say that if you want to be successful you have to take the stairs (in other words, one step at a time and a whole lotta work), but that week felt like hopping in the Willie Wonka elevator and blasting straight through the roof.
But then once the giveaway was over, something sad happened. I knew it would, I was warned, I was prepared, or at least I thought I was. But I wasn’t actually prepared. Not really.
After the giveaway was over, there was a mass exodus of followers from my Instagram.
It always happens this way. People follow you just to enter the contest, but then they leave once they found out they weren’t the big winner. I knew this would happen.
But I secretly hoped I could do enough to keep them around. Like maybe if I was funny or charming enough, or posted the perfect photo, they’d say, “Hey! This girl is amazing! I want to stick around forever, and read her book, and be her best friend.” Yes, that’s what I thought.
But as I’m sure you can imagine, it didn’t work that way, and people still left. No matter how funny I was, or charming I was, and no matter how perfect my photos were, they still left and I have to admit, it’s made my heart hurt terribly.
If opening your Instagram every hour or so to find out a whole slew of people has decided to follow you feels like winning the lottery, then posting a photo and watching a dozen people decide they don’t like you anymore just feels like crap.
It really does. It feels like plain old rejection. It feels like a slap in the face every time.
It doesn’t feel gentle, or like they just prefer a different brand of bagel. It feels intensely personal. And that’s hard.
I was home in Denver this last week, and had a cozy, PJ-clad evening with a group of girlfriends sitting around my living room.
One of my friends had applied for a job she was really hoping to get. She put her heart and soul into the application, and was devastated when she got a “Thanks, but no thanks,” in response.
As we curled up together on the couch, she sighed and said almost wistfully, “I feel like you guys have never been rejected from anything.”
She didn’t really think that, necessarily. But it’s how she felt. She felt like everyone else around her was sailing through life, like coming down the escalator at the airport and having a guy in tux there holding your name before he drives you into your future.
She felt isolated in her rejection. I think we’ve all felt that way.
We could have tried to talk her out of it, tell her how she shouldn’t take it personally, or that she should just try again. But instead we took a different approach. We started to tell her about our rejections.
We talked about the jobs we’d been rejected from, or the chances we taken only to be met with epic failure.
I got rejected from TONS of internships in college before I finally found ones that were willing to give me a chance. I've sent tons of magazines and blogs my articles only to be met with a polite no, or total silence.
We heaped stories on her like dirty laundry in an overflowing basket. We laughed all the way through them, seeing in hindsight how small the rejection was in comparison to the successes that followed.
And the longer we talked, the more she brightened. As she found out she wasn’t alone—that rejection is a normal thing and not the final word on your success in life—you could see the weight lifting off her shoulders. You could see that she might be willing to give it another go.
I tell you how I’m feeling about my Instagram following because I think it helps.
It helps to know we’re not the only ones who feel rejected at times. Sometimes the things are big like a job, or a relationship. Sometimes they’re small like a tiny number on our Instagram profiles. Either way, rejection hurts, but it’s a natural part of trying anything new.
Rejection isn't the final word on your worth, or your future success, or whether or not you'll make it. It's a normal thing, an obstacle to overcome, something that will make you stronger, smarter, and make your story better when you look back at the path you took along the way.
So if you've been rejected recently, this is what I want you to do, in fact, we'll do this together. I want us to take a deep breath, dust ourselves off, and keep going.
P.S. Here's a podcast episode I did with my friend Carrie Grace all about how to stop fearing rejection.