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Rejection and Self-Esteem – How Phenomenal Do You Believe You Are?

Early on in my modeling career, I worked with a photographer who, after shooting with me, called my agency to say that he wanted me to lose a few pounds if I wanted to work with him again. This devastated me at the time. The very next week, a catalog client I had worked with told my agency that I would need to gain weight in order for me to work with them again. At that time in my life (late teens), my self-worth depended upon how other people viewed me. Physically, in particular. So, imagine my confusion and inner turmoil when I had gotten such contrasting feedback within one week. I was lost and miserable. Rejected because my looks weren’t up to par for a few people. I was very busy working every single week, however, with many different clients who did accept me, so why didn't I focus on the positives of my career rather than my perceived negatives?

Rejection happens all the time in the modeling business. How will you handle this?

How you handle rejection is directly related to the quality of your self-esteem.

It’s not that it’s wrong to be upset and feel bad when rejection happens. What’s important is how you carry on while you are upset and feeling bad.

One of my favorite wise women is Caroline Myss, Ph.D. For decades, she has researched and spoken about topics ranging from religion to the chakra system, and has said that self-esteem is the greatest power we can have. Yes, the greatest power we can have. Why? Because our lives are shaped by it. She has said, “Your identity, self-esteem, and awareness of your ego lay the groundwork for your life. Whether you have the strength to make your way without needing to ask for another’s permission depends on how well you will succeed at the many challenges that awaken your need to take charge of who you are.”

You might be wondering, then: How do you build your self-esteem?

The answer is: You become willing and receptive to doing so. And you do that by agreeing to commit to making your inner strength your priority for the rest of your life. That’s right, the rest of your life. There are not “5 steps to self-esteem”, and there isn’t one particular book to read, or one guru whose seminar you can attend. Like exercising, for example, we can’t just work out hard for one week of our lives and expect that one week of hard work will keep us in shape forever. Building self-esteem is a commitment you make to yourself. To your heart and soul first. When you agree to find ways to do this, the ways show up for you in your life.

So, who is in charge of who you are? Who gets to tell you what you’re worth? Agents, bookers, photographers, and clients?

Or is it YOU? The model matters. When YOU believe this, everyone else who matters will, too. And then, little by little, this business will change for the better.

(Not that we can’t heed advice from these individuals, if the advice and feedback is constructive. When your self-esteem is intact, you’ll know whose advice and feedback is positive, and whose is damaging.)

It’s your choice, really, who gets to be in charge of who you are and what your true worth is. And that choice will determine whether you're miserable or powerful.

The following poem was written by another one of my favorite wise women, Maya Angelou, in 1978. If you take the time to really take these words in, you can imagine how your life would change if you lived them. Imagine how your stature would change, and how you would feel when you headed to sleep at night. If these words resonate with you at all – even the slightest bit - know that they have made a positive difference in the quality of your self-esteem.

"Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

’Cause I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

•I'm willing to believe that I am this phenomenal. Are you? XOXOXO

***attached art: 'The Divine Feminine' by artist Christina Carmel (@artistchristinacarmel on IG)

***Photo below: the artist at work:

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