Are you resistant or resilient in the face of rejection?

Ecologists in general are familiar with the concepts of resistance and resilience. Communities that are resistant are minimally impacted by a disturbance, whereas those that are resilient recover quickly after a disturbance.

When thinking about my response to the rejections we receive all-too-frequently in academia, I often think in terms of resistance and resilience. I find that I am not very resistant – getting a rejection hurts, and I often can’t read reviews carefully right when I receive them. I just can’t process them properly right away. However, I think I’m pretty resilient. I get over the hurt feelings pretty quickly and move on.

So, I thought it would be interesting to do a poll of our readers. Are you resistant when it comes to academic rejections? Resilient? Neither?

I’m guessing most people will choose resilient, but maybe I just view that as the typical reaction because that is how I react. Hopefully “neither” won’t be the modal response! A high degree of resistance or resilience is probably necessary for survival in academia.

While I say that I am more resilient than resistant, I would also say my resistance has increased through time. My impression is that this is a pretty typical change*, and I think it makes sense: early in your career, a lot of your science identity is tied up in each individual paper or proposal.  As your career progresses, there will still be papers or proposals that you care particularly about, but less of your science identity hinges on any one thing. In other words, old growth communities are more resistant to disturbance. 😉

*While I was searching for the Female Science Professor post on this topic, I found this video, which I’d seen before but forgotten about. It’s always reviewer 3, isn’t it?

12 thoughts on “Are you resistant or resilient in the face of rejection?

  1. When a manuscript of mine is rejected, first I get frustrated or angry, depending on the reasons for rejection and the tone of the reviewers. I leave the manuscript alone and prepare a new version only weeks or months after, in order to cool down and see things more objectively, and also because of lack of time.

  2. I put “resistant”, because these days rejections don’t usually bother me too much. Though really, it depends on how highly I thought of the paper, and whether I think the reviews are reasonable. Usually, I find myself thinking “Ok, fair enough, I can see your point” even if I don’t entirely agree.

    Rejections definitely bother me less than they used to. And acceptances are less thrilling than they used to be. When I got my first paper accepted, I literally jumped in the air and shouted “YES!” 🙂

    What bugs me more is rejection without review. I don’t ever “reach” with my submissions, I always send them to journals that I think are a good fit, and so it really annoys me to be told that an ms isn’t even in the ballpark (which is the message that rejection without review sends). For me, the motivation for proposing PubCreds was basically “I’m sick of rejection without review and I want to create a world where that’s never necessary”.

  3. The amount of time I spend upset about rejections has decreased a bit. I suppose it’s because of more practice with the gather yourself, read the reviews and make the paper better, routine. Also each paper seems like less of a big deal now. When I was a grad student one paper seemed like everything! Now rejection is just part of the process.

  4. I’m finding the opposite to most of the commenters here – each rejection is hitting my confidence harder and harder. It’s death by a thousand cuts and is one of the things that makes me think academic science isn’t for me. (I’m a post-doc at the mo).

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