{Courage to Grow} Rejection: My Challenging and Beloved Friend

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are” –e.e. Cummings

Each week we share a piece of us on our photographic journey. We have titled this series, “Courage to Grow”. We hope that our own soul searching will inspire similar introspection in our readers and that together we can make our best art and live our best lives

Last week Cindy shared a bit about rejection. If you missed her fantastic piece, you can read it here. Her piece really made me think. You see, for quite a while, like fear, rejection has been another friend who is always by my side. As I’ve continued on my journey there have been more and more successes, but there is still always so much rejection. Rejection from shows, acceptance to shows but then not selling anything, rejection from magazines, blogs, clients…I get rejected all the time…at least I usually do. After reading Cindy’s post I had the stark realization that I hadn’t been rejected in a while and my first feeling was extreme unease and maybe even fear. I knew instantly that my lack of recent rejection was in no way a good thing or a sign I had somehow reached a higher level. It meant I wasn’t trying hard enough and it meant I wasn’t taking risks. In some level of my journey, I had stagnated.

I began to reflect on my recent happenings. I was doing well in most areas of my work. I had some really beautiful new photos, I had laid out a new Volume of the magazine, I was working well with all my photo agencies, I was in a show and I had a couple clients lined up. All in all, things were really good. But I still knew something was not right. You see, I know that I am at the beginning of my journey. I honestly don’t know when I’ll ever feel comfortable saying I’m in the middle, but I know I will never reach the end until I die.

Beginning stages are supposed to challenge us and in these challenges we learn more and rise above. In the art world, rejection is a huge piece of that challenge pie that makes us better.It means we’re trying and we see where we want to go next, even if we’re not quite there. When we work really hard to reach a goal and fail, we’ve gained so much, even if we didn’t quite reach the goal. If we’re challenging ourselves in our art and are rejected, what is the downside? We’ve still challenged ourselves in our art and are better for it.

The successes are only secondary to the journey and don’t facilitate growth the same way rejections and failures do. If we only are meeting with success, it’s very difficult to gauge what changes we need to make and also very easy to stay in the same place. I love feeling comfortable and successful, but my desire to grow and be better exceeds my love of comfort, especially now when I have much so more to learn than I already know. 

I want to be better. In the next year I want to have a formal portfolio review, offer a workshop and mentoring, see our magazine soar, I want to find a way to have more of my images speak of the authenticity that I strive for, I want to capture myself more honestly in my self portraits…simply put, I want to elevate my art and my career. In my periods of what seem like endless success (albeit very minor ones), I get lost in the wave of opportunity and forget to push through to my goals, but I am back. I lost the road for a little bit, getting caught up in the “yes!” and forgetting to push down roads that would probably lead to, “Darnit”, but I am once again on it.

After trying my hardest and failing or being rejected I will be disappointed, but also joyful as I know that rejection means I’m trying to improve. I will happily say, “I was rejected 5 times this month!” because I know that at some point, one of those crazy leaps to what I’m sure is beyond my grasp, won’t elude me and I will be successful. I will have pushed myself to a level beyond belief with a great deal of thanks to the countless rejections and failures along the way that helped me move forward instead of staying in the same place.

Amanda Voelker is a fine art and documentary photographer, focusing on capturing the fleeting moments of childhood. She is currently located in the Seattle, Washington area. With her children and light as her inspiration, Amanda finds beauty in the everyday and is constantly amazed by all the wonder in her life. She strives to capture the subtleties of human emotion and connection in a beautiful way that showcases both the moment and a piece of herself. Amanda is also the co-Editor in Chief of"The Long Way Home" magazine and co-founder of 30 Minutes in the Life. Aside from photography and family, Amanda is passionate about the ocean, seeing the world, diet coke, reading, and chocolate. You can find more of her work on her website and facebook