How A Career Setback Helped Me Reconcile My American And Iranian Identity

How Rejection Helped Me

Reconcile My American And Iranian Identity

The rejections started out very deep, the source being the day/night difference between two countries, Iran and America. Having a love for both countries, but not being accepted in one, was extremely difficult. The rejection began by my being myself in Iran. I was rejected on a cultural, religious, and gendered level while living in Tehran, my whole identity and Western way of thinking as a Brooklyn teenager constantly questioned. I was fired from my Channel Six position as an anchor/reporter due to not following Islamic rules & regulations (e.g. wearing open-toed shoes, wearing perfume after a long Islamic HR interrogation process, etc.). The ultimate rejection of this kind was being escorted out of the building for simply being myself and leading a not-so-religious way of life.

"At 37, a sum of all the rejections, disapprovals, and failures have helped me understand who I am, open up, become vulnerable, and find the truth inside me" (Photo courtesy of shfarsi.com)

On top of the disapproval from my country and those around me, it even came from those I was most fond of: my parents. The complete disapproval from a cultural Iranian perspective for a girl to go out and explore was the hardest part. Eventually my parents accepted that I wanted to create something rather than just get a paycheck or pursue a medical profession—which was a family tradition and expectation. I was a complete black sheep with a strong mindset, blame it (or not) on growing up in Brooklyn, NY.

At this point, I was 22 and unsure of my identity, Iranian or American. Why had my parents brought me back to Iran when I was completely Brooklynized? Why did they think  less of me for being a girl and not being able to make it? Things have changed now. My parents have changed, they have grown alongside my own personal growth.

After we returned to the U.S., things changed, perspectives shifted and all the rejections/ disapprovals had transformed into assets for a much bigger journey that was ahead of me while also helping me to understand my strengths. When going on a journey of self realization, one finds that within rejection, you start to re-evaluate and see what it’s trying to convey.

After deciding to start my own company, especially perfume (one that I wasn’t allowed to wear to work while being an anchor and was eventually written up for), now entrepreneur-type rejections were set in front of me. Though not a stranger to rejection, it’s never easy. Whether it’s from someone you once fell in love with, your own family members, society, or within the workforce, it’s just as difficult. Yes, there are different circumstances that can affect us in different ways but needless to say, rejection is rejection and should be taken into account in its entirety.

At this point, I had suffered from so many previous rejections that I had learned how to deal with it—to an extent. That said, I also received several rejections while trying to publish my book and get a viable agent. Rejection and disapproval have a changed meaning in my book, no longer making me question my path or feel sad and anxious; it now empowers me.

"After deciding to start my own company, especially perfume (one that I wasn’t allowed to wear to work while being an anchor and was eventually written up for), now entrepreneur-type rejections were set in front of me" (Photo courtesy of desert35.com)

At 37, a sum of all the rejections, disapprovals, and failures have helped me understand who I am, open up, become vulnerable, and find the truth inside me. A piece of advice I’d like to pass along is that your truth, openness, and constant persistence is how you can succeed in the face of rejection toward whatever goal/dream you have. Everyone has a goal/talent—it’s up to you to find it. So hustle.

Rejection is a detour towards a better direction—it’s redirection (I have that printed and framed in front of my work desk in case I forget it). For every perfume production company that didn’t believe in the Desert35 idea, for every book agent that didn’t believe in the book, that was only redirection towards a better production company and agent. On top of that, I didn’t sacrifice who I was in the face of keeping my job and trying to shift my identity. Look at where I am now.

Just like a break up, every rejection gets progressively easier. The first of any type will always be the most difficult. However, the process of recovery helps you evolve, understand you, move forward and help other people move forward. This final note is the best feeling in the world and gives meaning to everything else.

Rejection is shared by many entrepreneurs, but I’ve learned to embrace it, understand it, and allow it to motivate me. Ultimately, this process has made me into a better person, friend, business partner, entrepreneur, and it fuels me to move forward towards my passion with compassion and positivity and the openness to grow in every way.

If you have found yourself in a phase of rejection, know that it is just a redirection for better.

Rejection was truly an asset, even for someone like me who was stuck in between two completely different worlds. Rejection is good—especially in business. It’s healthy. Listen to it. Rejection is simply delay not defeat, and the key is your response to it. It has clarified my path and has helped me understand who I am, uncovered what I can and can’t do, helped me understand humility and gratitude, and has given me tough elephant skin in a world of people always trying to tear through it. Rejection has made me create the thought process of “what if?” and to always follow my curiosity and the questions that pop in my head (most of the good ones are unexpected and out of nowhere in the most unlikely situations). If needed, I am willing to ask for help and re-evaluate if necessary. Lastly, have gratitude and find the perspective that allows you to see obstacles and rejection as tools for growth.

Sharon Farsijani

Sharon Farsijani is the Founder of Desert35 Fragrances as well as the author of "Shaming My Red Lips." She was born in Tehran and raised in Brooklyn, New York, NY being her current residence.

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