Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

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Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by kleenestar on Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:22 pm

I know this is something we talk about a lot on this site, mostly in the context of romance, but I thought it might help for me to share something painful that happened to me today. I just found out that I got rejected for a major grant I applied for, one that would have made a huge difference to the next two years of my life. My reviews were mixed, but there were enough serious and major criticisms in there that it really hurt to read. I'm in pain and feeling shitty, so I thought I would turn it to some positive use by sharing with you how I'm handling it. I'm open to suggestions, too!

First there's managing the pain of the rejection itself. I'm doing that by saying out loud that it hurts - I find acknowledging that I'm in pain really helpful. My husband listened to me cry for a few minutes. I also scheduled a phone call with my best friend for later tonight, so that I'm not putting the burden all on him. I'm also reminding myself that the immediate pain sucks a lot, but it also passes. It hurts, but that will change.

Next there's managing the practical consequences. This was serious money, and it would also have made it easier for me to stay in my dream job. (I have to bring in a certain amount of research funding before I go up for tenure.) I put a lot of work into the application, and it doesn't make sense for me to throw it away; I need to figure out what I did wrong so I can do it better next time. I also need to think about whether I want to resubmit the same project for this grant next year, or whether I want to submit this elsewhere and write something else for the next round of funding. I know that if I try to do practical things about this now, I'm going to send myself into a tailspin, so I set myself some reminders for next Monday. Hopefully I'll be feeling less bruised by then and can start thinking about how to respond pragmatically.

Finally, there's the hardest part - managing my jerkbrain. Right now my jerkbrain is telling me that there's no way I can succeed in academia given this humiliating failure. It's telling me that I did my very best on this grant proposal and it still wasn't good enough - clearly I am both stupid and lazy. It's telling me that I worked so hard on this without having the additional responsibility of a kid, and failed; now that I've got a kid to take care of, how can I possibly put in the enormous amount more work required to do this to a minimum level of adequacy? And it's telling me that the work I need to do will be miserable, painful, and unpleasant, so why should I even bother?

I don't have good strategies for dealing with my jerkbrain right now - I'm still in too much immediate pain - but it helps to name it as jerkbrain fears. So if anyone does have advice, this is probably the part where it will be most helpful.

I also hope it helps others to see how I manage rejection in my own life.
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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by Guest on Mon Feb 02, 2015 11:51 pm

I'm very sorry to hear that you didn't get that grant.

I wish I had more I could say, but I don't really deal with rejection well. I routinely fail at steps one and three.

But at least you received some critique (I assume in re-readable, written form) so you can work out what was considered good and what was not when it comes to the practical side of things. Leaving that until later is what I do too, where time allows. Breathing space is always good.

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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by Werel on Tue Feb 03, 2015 2:03 am

I'm sorry about the grant. You know, but I will remind you, that funding these days in every field is stupidly tight. Worthy and well-written proposals go unfunded all the time-- yours was probably one of 'em.

But this is all really good advice, and I'm going to keep it in mind for my own rejections. Especially the "try not to do practical things right after the rejection, because you'll drive yourself crazy" bit.

For jerkbrain management, does it ever help to look at the simple fact that you are in a tenure-track position (along with other external, objective measures of success), which is pretty much the equivalent of being a starting linebacker as far as "I can't believe I'm living my crazy dreams" goes? Your very employment speaks to the fact that you are exceptionally good at your field. Insanely good. Jerkbrain, do stupid, lazy people have PhDs and academic employment directly after graduation? No. No, they do not.

kleenestar wrote:And it's telling me that the work I need to do will be miserable, painful, and unpleasant, so why should I even bother?

Add "futile" to the list and I struggle with this same thought a lot-- the only good retort I've found is to imagine leaving my field forever, with no way back in. The horror of that idea usually outweighs the unpleasantness of whatever task lies ahead of me. Plus, it reminds me of how much I do love my area of study, and how there is a not-yet-extinguished passion still in there, which can be a powerful defiance-flavored balm for the sting of rejection. "I love this subfield, dammit! You're going to have to do more than reject a grant or two to get rid of me!!"

Hope you feel better soon.
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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by Guest on Tue Feb 03, 2015 3:46 am

eHugs for kleenestar.

The way I've dealt with jerkbrain before is to detach myself from said thoughts, usually by way of looking back at what I've done seeing where I am at the moment.

I've been rejected by a bunch of jobs before, because up until I got my first job, as far as I knew most people got their job through some sort of connection. I never did. I have NEVER gotten a job through connections but through being recommended to go to a certain place. For example, I was never referred to the production company where I interned, I had zero connections to anyone who worked there, I got the internship there through my short body of work and can-do attitude.

I have to remind myself that I didn't need to rely on ANYONE to get where I am. People can certainly help and give me tips, but most jobs I've had, I got through my own perseverance.

So, my advice to you is to reflect on what you've done in the past and remember that, "Hey, I did that. It's fine, I'll be fine, I'll find a way." Also, the fact you have a new baby and managed to apply for a research grant is amazing. To you, that may not mean a lot, but for a sillyhead like me, that's mindblowing. Razz

Rejected? Okay, but be proud of what you managed to get done!

ETA:
kleenestar wrote:
Finally, there's the hardest part - managing my jerkbrain. Right now my jerkbrain is telling me that there's no way I can succeed in academia given this humiliating failure. It's telling me that I did my very best on this grant proposal and it still wasn't good enough - clearly I am both stupid and lazy. It's telling me that I worked so hard on this without having the additional responsibility of a kid, and failed; now that I've got a kid to take care of, how can I possibly put in the enormous amount more work required to do this to a minimum level of adequacy? And it's telling me that the work I need to do will be miserable, painful, and unpleasant, so why should I even bother?
When you said this, it reminded me so much of one of my favorite movies, Rudy. It reminded me of what Fortune says to Rudy:

"In this life, you don't have to prove nothin' to nobody but yourself. And after what you've gone through, if you haven't done that by now, it ain't gonna never happen. Now go on back."

So, I'll say again, be proud of what you managed to accomplish and your stuff IS good enough. Prolly a lot better than anything I could propose to get a nice academic grant. Razz

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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by Autumnflame on Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:12 am

Besides the advice above, I've found distraction and sleep to be the most helpful thing for me when I'm feeling pain. I don't know if you're able to just disconnect when you're focused on something else, so it might not be as helpful for you, but painting something familiar that I don't have to think about too much is always soothing for me (I usually default to female faces). Maybe picking up a old favorite book that's a comfort to reread, then having a good meal and a good night's rest? I find after waking up that my worse feelings are usually muted on waking.
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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by reboot on Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:23 am

I remember when my first grant was rejected and yeah, right there with you. The stakes were not as high as for you, but it meant that my clients would not get vitally needed services. This advice will not help now, but think about it later:

1. No one is 100% successful in grant writing. Everyone gets rejected
2. There is always another grant, maybe not as much money, maybe not as good a fit, but there will always be another one
3. It is not a reflection of you. It has to do with who else applied, what the funder's unwritten vision of the project would be, how many awards were available, etc.. Great ideas and worthy projects go unfunded all the time.
4. When your head is clear, read the critique objectively, as if you were another reviewer, and learn from it. And remember, you can disagree with the reviewer.

Hugs if you want them.
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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by BasedBuzzed on Tue Feb 03, 2015 10:19 am

Collect stories from friends who went through the same things. Read about stories of people who scraped together funding after grants were cancelled, even if they had to sit on the research they wanted to do for a long time. Also throw in some rise-from-the-ashes tales from the world of business: this typically has larger amounts of debt and the like to put one's financial situation into perspective.

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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by kleenestar on Tue Feb 03, 2015 1:35 pm

Thanks, all, for the advice!

One thing that really helped me last night was "the pain can be proportional to the investment and the payoff." I spent three weeks working intensely on the application, and it would have been a major boost to my career, so it's okay for me to feel bad for a while. As long as I don't go into a jerkbrain spiral, I shouldn't worry about feeling some pain. It is normal and appropriate.

As far as stopping the jerkbrain spiral, there's lots of helpful things here - thank you all! I think trusting Future Kleenestar to handle the future is probably the most important thing for me to work on. I won't be the same person three months from now, and for all I know I'll be champing at the bit to get back to work. Certainly Werel's "imagine yourself leaving" helped me realize that I'd rather be doing this work than anything else.

You all are great. Smile
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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by Enail on Tue Feb 03, 2015 1:57 pm

Ah, Kleenestar, sorry about the rejection. Many cheers to Future Kleenestar, who I'm 100% confident can handle the future, and much comfort and relaxation to Current Kleenestar, who has definitely earned some time to be sad, to relax and rejuvenate until such time as she's ready to go merge with Future Kleenestar.
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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by Conreezy on Wed Feb 04, 2015 11:58 pm

Finally, there's the hardest part - managing my jerkbrain. Right now my jerkbrain is telling me that there's no way I can succeed in academia given this humiliating failure. It's telling me that I did my very best on this grant proposal and it still wasn't good enough - clearly I am both stupid and lazy. It's telling me that I worked so hard on this without having the additional responsibility of a kid, and failed; now that I've got a kid to take care of, how can I possibly put in the enormous amount more work required to do this to a minimum level of adequacy? And it's telling me that the work I need to do will be miserable, painful, and unpleasant, so why should I even bother?

I got a rejection letter from a PA school and went right to this stage of thinking.  I keep thinking that all my close-but-no-cigar moments were cute 10 years ago, when I was young, and that my great triumphs are in an otherwise useless skill set like athletics, so this failure means I'm not so worthwhile after all.  

Then I get to thinking about what would happen if I got rejected from them all (and those odds are good!)  I would feel humiliated personally, but I would still have a very viable nursing career ahead of me.  Since the motivation is to get out of being a pigeon-holed paramedic, that is a success, just not the #1 option.  I will have moved forward after all, and I can take solace in that.

Generally, I find that sort of attitude easy to adopt, but when it concerns professional matters, and especially as I age, I put way too much pressure on myself. I've got to stop doing that.

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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by trooper6 on Tue Feb 17, 2015 2:58 pm

I'm sorry to hear about the rejection kleenstar. But please don't take it personally. There may have been 1000 applications for only 2 slots and the people who chose did so while drunk, distracted, and while under pressure. So very often not getting the grant is not a reflection on you.

I was the chair of an award committee and I had stacks of books I had to read...and articles...and other things and we had to pick a winner for this award. But I also had class prep and teaching and research...so I did the best I could to read everything thoroughly...and then all the deliberations happened. And that was interesting. We picked a winner that we all could agree on. There were people I thought were better, that others didn't. They thought some other people were better that I didn't. There was one entry we all thought was really good..but that person had already won the award, and is a full professor and doesn't need the award in the same way that a younger scholar would need the award...and so...when trying to choose between that deserving entry and another deserving entry...we went with the other deserving entry. I tend to be a bit more friendly towards more experimental methodologies...my other panel members less so. So some of the experimental ones I liked didn't win. On the other hand, I protested against some entries that were just archival with no theory that my colleagues liked. I am happy with who won. But there were so many papers that could have won, that were really good. Those entries that didn't win, they didn't win because they weren't good. It was because we had to pick one and the committee process worked out the way it did. If I hadn't been on the selection committee (with my emphasis on innovation and theory), someone else would have won. If one of my colleagues hadn't been on the committee (with his emphasis on traditional archival work), someone else would have one. If my third committee colleague hadn't been on the committee (with her concern about need) someone else might have won.

This coming year I won't be on that committee. Who knows what the committee composition will mean for this coming year's winner?

So...you just do your best and know that it isn't personal. And then keep applying. Keep applying. Keep applying.

I have this really large article I wrote. I submitted it to our major journal (which I didn't want to do because they are quite conservative and my work...isn't)...and my feedback was brutal. I mean brutal. So brutal, that I just couldn't take the feedback personally. It was clear that the reviewers just didn't like where I got my PhD. Didn't like my advisor. Didn't like my intellectual tradition. Oh well. I sent it to a second journal that turned out to be similarly conservative. Brutal feedback...and personally insulting feedback. But I knew that article was good. So I tried sending it to one of the best British journals with almost no revisions. And they loved it and want almost no changes and will be publishing it in the Fall.

So...don't take it personal.

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Re: Managing Painful Feelings After Rejection

Post by kleenestar on Tue Feb 17, 2015 4:27 pm

I had a rough couple of days, but I'm feeling a lot better now.

As it turns out, the most helpful thing I did was get a trusted mentor to look at the application. I told her I wasnt ready for detailed feedback, but I wanted a sense of how it compared to funded proposals she's seen. That helped me silence the voices of fraud and failure that were screaming in the back of my head, which in turn gave me some room to heal.
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