Jamie Kern Lima is a pro at rejection—getting rejected, that is. Each time an investor or potential business partner said no, it felt like proof that her dreams were not worth it. But at her lowest moment, she realized that she could choose to celebrate those rejections instead.
With her company on the brink of bankruptcy, Ms. Kern Lima began doing research on successful entrepreneurs. “Every person I admired most, who’s built great businesses or changed the world or impacted humanity, … every single one of them has gone through so many rejections. They’re just the brave ones, willing to keep going forward anyways. And I decided to create this new definition of rejection,” she said. “I trained myself to celebrate … and go, ‘Oh, this is a reminder, I’m one of the brave ones willing to go for it. I’m not sitting on the sidelines of life, living in regret.’”
Today, she teaches others how to transcend their setbacks, drawing from her own experiences of building her cosmetics brand IT Cosmetics, which eventually got sold to L’Oreal for $1.2 billion in 2016, the French beauty behemoth’s largest acquisition at the time. Her forthcoming book to be released in February, “Worthy: How to Believe You Are Enough and Transform Your Life,” teaches concrete steps to build strong self-worth: something she believes can give people the ultimate sense of fulfillment. She wants to pass on these lessons so that people don’t miss out on valuable experiences.
“What has self-doubt already cost you in your life? And go by category: in your career, in your relationships, in your joy of simply looking in the mirror? … We are worthy of love and belonging exactly as we are—not as we achieve, not as how much of the world’s definition of success we have, but exactly as we are,” she said.
What Is Self-Worth?
She illustrates the point with an anecdote. Years ago, after her company had already become successful, she had the opportunity to meet media personality Oprah Winfrey. After having lunch together, Oprah left her phone number and said to Ms. Kern Lima that she could call her anytime. But it took Ms. Kern Lima more than four years to get the courage to reach out to Oprah.
“I would tell myself stories like, once I think of the right thing to say, then I’m going to call her, or everyone probably just wants something from her, I’m going to prove I don’t need anything.” Then one day, she realized the real reason she hadn’t called her. “Deep down inside at my core, … I didn’t think I was worthy of being her friend. And so I sabotaged the opportunity,” she reflected. This was the moment she began digging deeper into the topic of self-worth.
Don’t Let Mistakes Define You
Ms. Kern Lima outlines ways to reframe one’s thinking. Many people struggle with letting their past mistakes define them. “They’ve gone through past failures and rejections, and they’ve assigned a meaning to them that is so painful, they just stay stuck.” She urges people to remove that emotional association and instead look at each situation rationally. “What is the meaning we told it? What is the story we told ourselves about it? What’s actually the truth about it?” She suggests then finding a new definition to the meaning of rejection: something you must believe to be true. For Ms. Kern Lima, it was her belief that each rejection was just God’s way of protecting her from something that was not part of her destiny.