Reclaiming rejection from the shadows of silence and shame

It is almost three years since I posted a picture of my Rejection Wall on Twitter. That started a whole series of events, blogs, and videos. I thought it might be time to revisit and reflect. Importantly, this update post includes heaps of links to what others have been doing in to reclaim rejection from the shadows of silence and shame.

Rejection walls

Since then more than 285,000 people have seen it. Seems like the thing I’m best known for is being rejected.

The response has been overwhelming! Lots of people are saying the feel encouraged, heartened, perhaps when facing rejection themselves.

There’s a list of links to interviews and blog posts relating to the rejection wall below (right at the bottom of this post!). Including a video explaining why I did it and why I think it matters.

People are joining in the ‘reclaim rejection’ movement by ‘confessing’ their own rejection histories.

@RoseGWhite: I’m sure I could cover a whole corridor like this!

@JRobinHighley: I would start my own display, but not sure I have a wall big enough

Similar comments from @Liam_Wagner @SimmsMelanie @TrevorABranch @naynerz @mathewjowens @SJC_fishy @RobHarcourt

@AlexaDelbosc posted a picture of her own rejection wall on twitter

People are advancing the ‘reclaim rejection’ movement through crazy, wonderful ideas

Max Mueller has told us about a rejection garden – not just reclaiming rejection, but doing some good for the environment and greening spaces we inhabit and work in as we go!

Caitlin Kirby attended her PhD Viva exam in a dress made from the rejections she’d had along the way. What a fabulous way to reclaim – to embody the reality of rejection!

@roomforwriting told us about a #wallofcourage in a writing workshop in Brazil, inspired by the rejection wall. I love the framing of reclaiming rejection around courage.

Reclaiming rejection: In the style of Mean Tweets

After the rejection wall I was asked by UTS if I would join a group of academics reading out their rejections on video. Kind of like the way some celebrities do with #meantweets

How cool is it that I work for an institution that values and celebrates rejection in this way, and that I have colleagues who are ready to shake off the shame and go public!

Reclaiming rejection through Shadow CVs

I love the idea of Shadow CVs. I just updated mine (May 2020)with extra-special new additions – more grants not awarded, more journals rejection my papers, and some juicy new sections bringing other failings and failures out into the light. A rejection extravaganza!

I also wrote a post about all the ‘non-academic’ jobs I’ve had along the way (troubling the idea of an ‘academic’ career).

The Shadow CV is a growing genre and an important thread in the move to reclaim rejection. Other examples I’ve come across include

Devoney Looser asks: What would my vita look like if it recorded not just the successes of my professional life, but also the many, many rejections?

Jeremy Fox 2012Bradley Voytek 2013 | Princeton Professor @JHausfoher 2016

Reclaiming rejection through reflecting on our experiences and responses

I’ve tried to address the issue of rejection from different angles. Sometimes it is about the overt story that it happens. Sometimes it is more about how we feel and respond when it does. Some posts you might enjoy include:

Follow-ups to the rejection wall

The rejection wall triggered quite a bit of activity – people asking for interviews, other blog posts. They share a common, core, message.

The lovely people at UTS also came to my office and helped make this video


Reclaim rejection from the shadows of silence and shame!

I would love to hear from you about things you or others are doing to help reclaim rejection! How are people normalising rejection? Responding to rejection?

Please get in touch – comment below or send me an email!


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