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Every one of us at some point in our lives has experienced rejection. It may have been from a sweetheart or a lover, rejection from a parent, being passed over for a promotion, excluded from a social engagement, or being told ‘no thank you’ after pitching a proposal. And no matter how many times you go through it, it always has a bit of a sting.
Some rejections are more difficult to take than others, depending on your level of emotional involvement.
When we are highly invested, the rejection can be heartbreaking; a lower emotional investment may mean it’s little more than an annoyance.
Part of dealing with rejection is learning to reframe it and move forward. Was this really going to change your life? Have you truly lost anything that was good and valuable? Will there be other relationships, other jobs, other opportunities? Do you really want to be somewhere that you are not wanted, valued, or completely adored?
There’s no doubt about it, rejection can be wounding. Do what you need to take care of yourself, acknowledge your feelings, tend to your bruised ego, and then simply move on; I guarantee the path ahead is always brighter.
While it’s unpleasant, rejection is part of life. However, the way you choose to respond to rejection could determine the entire course of your future. While being turned down deters some people from trying again, others bounce back fairly quickly. Greg Daugherty, the editor of Money Magazine, says that if you haven’t been rejected lately, it may mean “you simply aren’t trying hard enough.”
Jack Canfield, the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” guy, loves to talk about rejecting rejection. “‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ was rejected by 144 publishers. If we had given up after 100 publishers, I likely would not be where I am now. If someone says no, just say NEXT!” “Chicken Soup for the Soul” went on to become one of the most widely published titles of all time, with 250 titles in the series and 500 million copies in print in over 40 languages.
I remember hearing Jack speak about rejection at a lecture I attended a
number of years ago. He just laughed and said, [paraphrasing] “if I’m not
doing anything tonight, and I ask someone out on a date, and they say no, I’m
still not doing anything. I haven’t lost anything!”
Rejection, when handled well, builds resilience.
While numerous studies have been done pointing to resilience as a key factor in success, Inc. Magazine puts it particularly well, “More than intelligence, skill, or work ethic, resilience is the number one predictor of success because the act of not giving up is the main factor that determines if you will accomplish your goals.” Yup! But rejection still doesn’t feel good.
Dealing with rejection and moving forward
There is no guaranteed, one-size-fits-all way for dealing with rejection. Every situation is extremely personal, tends to be highly emotionally charged, and can temporarily undermine your confidence. Being turned down may bring you tears, or it may not phase a person at all. Understand that both responses are equally viable – there is absolutely no right or wrong. So please be kind to yourself, and take the time to acknowledge your feelings. It can also be helpful to clearly label your feelings. i.e. “I feel lost, frustrated, abandoned, disapproved of, angry, annoyed, or hurt.”
Once your emotions are under control, you can then decide what the best next steps are.
Reframe the experience
It can also be helpful to reframe the experience and to understand that it’s not always all about you. Many times we never know the real reason for rejection. Maybe you were passed up for that new job because they hired someone else or they even phased out the position. A friend may have excluded you from a social event because she knew your ex would be there with their new sweetheart. Or maybe the other party just doesn’t see your brilliance! How do you think those 144 publishers are feeling now that turned down “Chicken Soup for the Soul” or the more than a dozen publishers that passed on “Harry Potter,” the phenomenon that made J.K. Rowling a household name?
Rejection and the fear of rejection
The examples above are extraordinary instances of overcoming and dealing with rejection. These are people who didn’t let rejection or someone else’s opinion define them. They held fast to their vision and found ways to keep moving forward. Yet, rejection and the fear of rejection are two of the biggest factors that keep so many people stuck, unhappy, and prevent them from pursuing their dreams.
At the very least, try to learn from the experience. If there is some personal responsibility here, own it. It may not feel good at first but you can never truly take credit for your successes if you can’t also own your failures or mistakes. Either you’re responsible for your life or you’re not, you get to decide. If you made a mistake, correct it and move on; there is no value in dwelling on it or retreating into victim mode.
A warning sign
Rejection can also be a warning sign that you are on the wrong path. Maybe it’s that proverbial wake-up call to change direction or simply to move forward with more compassion, empathy, and wisdom. Try following the tips below to navigate the choppy waters of rejection. Be good to yourself and know that it may not be quite as bad as you initially thought.
Feel your feelings and identify them
Trying to suppress, ignore, or deny your feelings tends to just make them stronger. When dealing with rejection, acknowledge what’s going on, whether it’s embarrassment, sadness, disappointment, or feeling discouraged. Naming it lessens the grip the emotions have on you and helps you to move on.
Be good to yourself
Whether you got blindsided by being abruptly fired or dumped by your long-time love, beating yourself up will only keep you depressed and down. When dealing with rejection, treat yourself with love and compassion; this is already bad enough and there are no brownie points for negative self-talk.
Count this as evidence of trying
Okay, you gave it your best shot! Expect to be rejected once in a while and know that it is proof that you are putting yourself out there, and are fully living life!
Learn from it
What did you learn from this? Were there warning signs in the relationship? Do you need to redo your resume or refine a proposal? Or was it time for that friendship to end? Be honest and critical, but not harsh or unkind. Life is all about improving. What can you do better next time, and how can you level up?
Don’t let it define you
Just because the relationship ended or you were turned down for a job doesn’t mean that you are unlovable or incompetent. Keep it in perspective and know that your self-worth is only dependent on one person’s opinion of you, your own.
It’s not all about you
There are so many factors that go into every decision, it’s hardly ever a single thing. Just as you get to decide what is right for you and your life, allow other people to decide what’s right for them and their life – even if it means that you’re not in it.
Focus on what is next
When life says no, just say “Next!” Heal your feelings, take what you’ve learned and look for something better. And who knows, it may actually produce different results.
Hunter has an M.A. in Psychology and is a Certified Professional Life Coach. For more than 10 years, she coached clients to find and follow their passion and live their best lives. Hunter has also done youth coaching work with Covenant House, realizing that this is such a challenging and important time in life. Full Bio | LinkedIn