Rejection sucks—just ask anyone who’s been there. Wait, that’s everyone! And the truth is, there’s more where that came from. Whether it’s social rejection or professional, it hurts, and if we’re not careful it can make us feel…less than.
Fortunately there are ways to overcome rejection and the profound sense of loss that comes with it. How do I know? It’s not from reading psychology books or conducting interviews. I speak from experience.
Lots and lots of experience.
My examples of rejection could fill a book and just might make you feel better about your own situation, but for the sake of brevity I’ll limit it to a few:
Socially: I’ve been excluded and maligned by people I thought were friends.
Professionally: I’ve had the door slammed in my face (literally) when I went door-to-door while trying to build a clientele in the financial services industry. Also, I’ve had numerous manuscript rejections.
Un-categorically weird: I offered a homeless man a bottle of water, and while he initially thanked me and took it, he left it on the curb and walked away. My rejection complex flared at that one!
Before I launch into my personal strategies for overcoming rejection—strategies that keep me from rocking back and forth in the corner, crying—let’s clarify something. The vast majority of the time, rejection is not about you. It’s about the other person/company/publisher/etc. and their needs which cannot be met by you at that time. Take a moment and internalize that truth.
- The other person isn’t in a place to accept friendship because they’ve just been burned.
- The job you’re applying for requires a different skill set than what you currently possess.
- The publisher just acquired a manuscript too similar to yours to make it a wise move for them.
There are myriad reasons why you might have been rejected, but it’s likely not personal. What you have to offer doesn’t meet the other person’s criteria at that moment. Period.
I’m not a psychologist and I don’t play one on TV, but here are my 3 strategies for overcoming rejection, developed through years of unwanted practice:
Take time to step back from the situation and think about what your offer is missing that the other person required. Is it something you have control over? Can you “fix” whatever it is about what you have to offer to fit their needs? Is it worth it to try?
Depending on the situation, it may or may not be worth it to spend more time and energy (emotional and physical) realigning your offering to their needs. It’s important in this step to override your feelings and be logical, which is harder to do for a social rejection than a professional one but the point is still the same. Sometimes you can’t avoid the social situation (workplace, church, family, etc.) so you must find a way to process the rejection in order to move forward.
This is where you come up with action steps if you’ve decided that you want to continue pursuing whoever rejected you. (A-hem…not advocating stalking! If it’s romantic rejection, move on and don’t be creepy!) How will you “fix” your current offering?
As a salesperson, you might need to practice and perfect your pitch. As a writer, you might need to improve your craft or learn how to write proposals. As a prospective employee, you might need to learn how to use a new computer program. In an unavoidable social situation, you might need to learn how to approach a person, either with more tact or by being more direct.
Perhaps it’s time to move on. Example, if you ask someone to dance and they say no, keep going down the line until someone says yes. Look for other opportunities where you can shine. Your gifts are unique to you and someone, somewhere will appreciate you for what you have to offer.
There are more jobs to apply for, more people to befriend, more publishers to pitch to. The world is wide open—make the most of it! You were born here and now for a reason. Find your niche!
If all else fails, there’s ice cream!
I’m not advocating using food to comfort you, necessarily, but find a little go-to treat. I’m all about positive thinking, but there are times when you can anticipate that a situation might not go the way you hope because either the numbers aren’t in your favor or simply because that’s life!
A while back when I was waiting with hopeful expectation but knowing the odds, I decided that if XYZ didn’t happen for me, I was going to buy new knitting needles. If knitting isn’t your thing, consider a special treat like ice cream, or going to the movies, taking time to read that book you’ve been meaning to get to, spending the day at the zoo. The possibilities are endless!
The point is to stop associating rejection with self-loathing and what-ifs but instead to take the sting out until you can REFLECT, REFOCUS and REDIRECT. After you’ve been through it a time or two or a hundred, you probably won’t even need this step.
Nowadays I don’t have a standard go-to treat to help me power through rejection. Ideally, I can focus on the fact that I’m made in the image of God, Creator of the Universe. When I take time to really chew on that truth, I realize it is enough.
What do you do to overcome rejection?