Have you met my friend rejection? I’m sure you have, rejection has a way of inserting itself into everyone’s life. To be honest, friend isn’t exactly the right word; rejection is more like a frenemy to me. I don’t seek it out, but I don’t work as hard as I once did in order to avoid it.
I can handle rejection when it inevitably comes my way, and while it’s not my most favorite thing in the world, over time, I’ve been able to see the value of it. Here’s the thing, no matter how confident I am, how sure that I’m on the right track, rejection is always going to strike—especially when I least expect it.
Since rejection comes at us from many different places—our relationships, our jobs/careers, or random strangers, it can sometimes be difficult to predict because rejection seems to love a sneak attack.
For most of my life, whenever I encountered rejection, it destroyed me. Like many people, I had dreams of being an actor, but I didn’t get that tough skin you’re supposed to develop. Every rejection I encountered felt personal and catastrophic. If I bombed an audition, I didn’t pick myself up and dust myself off, I stopped auditioning. I didn’t see rejection as a learning experience; I saw it as evidence that I was a failure and had no talent.
After having an existential crisis, I realized that the acting career probably wasn’t going to happen, but I still had the need to express myself, so I decided to focus on writing.
I was determined to be a writer, but you can’t be a writer without rejection, so I had to learn how to deal with it.
Something that put it into perspective for me was this quote from author and podcast host, David Barr Kirtley. He says, “Wanting to be a writer and not wanting to be rejected is like wanting to be a boxer and not wanting to get punched.”
Rejection is a major component of both writing and life. We have to take chances or we’ll just stagnate and never do anything. You can’t let rejection devastate you and make you afraid to put yourself out there. One of the most important life lessons we can learn is how to deal with rejection and persevere, aka keep going no matter what tries to stop you.
Perseverance is crucial to our growth and getting the things we want out of life. “Perseverance is just a way of being in the world,” says author/jazz musician Adam Cole. “It’s not so much an act as an agreement, a change in perspective. When you understand your relationship to rejection, and you continue on, you’re persevering, no matter the results and no matter how you feel.”
We cannot grow if we shrink from rejection and let it bully us into not pursuing our dreams and goals. Here is how to deal with rejection and not let it completely stink up your day.
How to Deal With Rejection
Because, while you may not become best friends with rejection, but knowing how to deal with rejection will remove its power and empower you in the process.
Identify Your Feelings
Rejection is multifaceted—not only can it come from many different sources, but it can also inspire a myriad of feelings such as anger, sadness, confusion, loneliness, anxiety, and fear.
The best thing to do is to go somewhere private where you can sit, be quiet, and really think about exactly what it is that you’re feeling. Once you’ve done that, then you can work on releasing them and start the healing process.
Recognize Rejection As A Learning Experience
That’s one of the silver-linings of rejection—there’s always a lesson to be learned from it—even if it’s not always apparent. “In order to help yourself persevere, look at each rejection and try to learn one constructive fact from it,” says Katie Leikam, LCSW, LISW. “Have you been rejected in a relationship? Then what can you learn about yourself to take to the next relationship to change and grow.”
By turning rejection into something as positive as a lesson to learn, you turn it from something that happened to you into something that you have control over. You change the narrative of the rejection.
Study Past Rejections
Hopefully, you don’t have a list a mile long of all the many rejections that you’ve experienced in your life, but I’m sure there are still some that you remember clearly. Take the time to look back on them and you’ll be able to understand that as devastating as they may have been, you’re still standing. You’re alive and the possibilities are unlimited.
Using your past rejection as a template, you can see what you did right, what you did wrong, and know what it is that you need to do now going forward. Co-founder of Supportiv, Helena Plater-Zyberk says, “My number one tip is to draw from your own past experience of when you’ve overcome a previously difficult situation. This grounds you, and reminds you that setbacks are not permanent obstacles, even though they may feel like it at the time.”
Change Your Perspective
Does rejection suck? Yes, it absolutely does, but good things can come from it. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression when “one door closes, a window opens” which means that maybe that rejection made way for something bigger and better that you wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t had that rejection. Over time, you may find that instead of feeling upset about rejection, you feel excited because now you have space for something amazing.
Figure Out Your Coping Mechanism
We all have ways of dealing with disappointment and if you know what helps you feel better, then do it. It could be working out, going for a hike, getting out of the house and spending time with friends, self-care, talking to your therapist, cooking, doing an art project, or even just relaxing at home with your fur-baby. Whatever you need to do to feel better, do it.
Don’t Take It Personally
This is a hard one for me because rejection feels so personal, so I try to remind myself that I don’t know all the circumstances surrounding the rejection. I did the best I could and I need to be happy with that. It’s my friend rejection that makes the yeses, approvals, and successes even sweeter.
Be Nice To Yourself
The bottom line is even if you know how to deal with rejection, it still stings. Now’s the time to show yourself some love and understanding. The more we love ourselves and treat ourselves kindly, the better we’re equipped to handle all the stresses and challenges of modern life.
Set Some Small Goals
Hey wait!! Isn’t learning how to deal with rejection enough, now I gotta set goals too? Creating some realistic goals that you can easily achieve will help you channel the negative energy you may be feeling into something positive and healthy. This will help you get your mojo back, build your self-esteem, and give you something to focus on.
Think about and picture in your head what your life will look like when you’ve achieved your goals. This will enable you to keep moving forward and not dwell too much in the past. “The best way to persevere is to hold your vision in your mind of what it will look like when you reach your goal, and then take each day and present moment at a time,” says Stacy Caprio, business coach. “Handle the day-by-day while keeping your goal at the forefront of your mind as inspiration but make sure you don’t get caught up in the future so you can focus on taking action in the present.”
Think About A Life-Strategy
What do you need to do and what do you need to put into place to not only achieve your small goals but your bigger long-range ones as well? Did the rejection highlight some points in your life that aren’t working and/or some things that were? What do you need to do more to get to the place you want to be in your life and what should you do less of or cut entirely? Think of the rejection as evidence that you may need to re-think some of your actions, ideas, and methods.
Reinforce Your Belief In Yourself
Remind yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to accomplish. This rejection was a stumbling block; it wasn’t an oversize boulder that you’ll never get past. Being rejected has only made you stronger and more determined.
See this rejection as evidence that you are putting yourself out there, taking calculated risks, and pushing your limits. Celebrate this victory! If you needed proof that you’re awesome, here it is. You didn’t let this rejection affect you as perhaps some did in the past—this one only reinforced the idea that you’re a badass and are killing it at life.
I try not to run scared from any chance of rejection and I’m better able to handle it when it happens, but I still have a lot of room for improvement. One day, I hope that the fear of rejection will hold no power over me and that when rejection does happen, I won’t allow it to be detrimental to my well-being.