The hardest thing when dealing with a rejection of any kind is to wrap your head around that you are not good enough, not talented enough, or pretty, thin, sexy, young educated enough — all in all, not enough-enough.
It doesn’t matter how confident and strong and self-sufficient you are — if you care about something, any rejection related to it will hurt.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal or professional rejection if it is petty and mean or comes from all the right places, it doesn’t matter what lesson you need to learn, even if it’s there to make you grow, rejection hurts.
There are studies proving that rejection activates the same areas of the brain as physical pain, so when we say it “hurt” it actually really did. It doesn’t matter how many arguments you can back it up with, it doesn’t matter if for the rest of the world it’s a tiny thing — if it hurts you, it hurts. It makes your brain feel the same thing as if someone punched you in the stomach or shut the door on your fingers.
Rejection is not pretty.
For example, I was avoiding online dating for a very long time — not granting the power to anyone to reject me was a good way not to get hurt. If I don’t get out there, if I don’t create the opportunities, if I close myself in my safe little world — then no one can hurt me, no one can break my heart.
The same fear stopped me from asking for a promotion when I was still employed. This is what stops me from starting public speaking — which is my dream. This is what stops me from living a life I am supposed to live — rejection.
I have mustered up the courage only recently to start to pitch to publications. I was living in my little bubble and I was happy with all the acknowledgement I received as a self-publishing new writer. See, starting to write was already a huge step for me, opening myself up for possible hurt, making myself vulnerable for criticism. I did it — and it treated me well. I had ups and downs, but as was instinctively avoiding rejection, I didn’t really suffer from it. I never made it possible for anyone to reject me or criticise me — I was telling myself that my creative soul and heart wouldn’t be able to take it. It’s a lie — my creative soul and heart are fine, thanks so much. It is my ego that didn’t want to face any criticism.
And just as with no pitches no rejection ever befell me, without online dating no rejection ever happened, with no pushing for promotion no one ever said no to me — I never got any pitches, I never met anyone online, I never got my promotion.
I should have been happy: no rejection ever came.
But I felt stuck.
The thing is that rejection is very ambivalent — it’s definitely not positive, but it’s not entirely negative either.
I realised that in order my fragile ego could survive writing, pitching, online dating and just life in general, I need to reframe the whole experience into something more tolerable. I need to create a mindset where rejection is not the end of the world, not judgment day, not the worst that could ever happen — but something else that is a natural part of life.
1 Expect the unexpected
Rejection doesn’t hurt that much if you expect it. If you calculate with rejection; if you consider it to be part of the process — not the end of the road but maybe a bend on the road it comes easier to deal with it. There is a saying, nothing is worse than being afraid of fear. If you can let go of one variable, and the possible negative outcome is also on the table, it will never take you off-guard. Calculate with rejection as the baseline, and acceptance as the bonus. I don’t tell you to be pessimistic but try without expecting to succeed. Don’t build on it, don’t make it a condition to anything further, take it out of the process until you cracked it. Count with success only when you reached it.
2 Rejection is not a “no”, it’s a “not yet”
You can hear a lot about reframing your stories. We do this all the time, to survive, to heal, to shine a better light on a past happening, to resolve internal conflict. We do it in hindsight, we change our past, telling us a slightly different story. We can do this looking forward too. Reframing doesn’t only work backwards, we can reframe our expectations, so they don’t crush us.
The trouble with rejection is that we usually take it as a no.
How about taking it as a “not yet”?
How about considering it as a push forward, that shows the way to correct our shortcomings, to avoid a person who is not good for us, to learn and grow and to become a better version. Until then, it’s a “not yet” — because you deserve a better partner, you can do better, you are better.
3 No praise can ever push you as much as criticism
If you are an overachiever like me then praise and compliments will not reach you. You don’t do it for the compliments, you do it because you have to. Achieving your goals is natural, it’s the bare minimum, you don’t deserve a pat on the back for it — this is how you do it, there is a goal, you achieve it, and then move onto the next one. No praise is needed, no compliment expected. You don’t believe in positive reinforcement, because you don’t believe positive reinforcement. In your mind often times praise is empty flattery, it’s a lie, it’s dishonest, it was not really meant. But if there is a negative comment, a criticism, a troll, a drop in your stats — now we have your attention, don’t we? Criticism pushes you forward as praise would never. Take rejection as a good sign. There is room for improvement, finally honest feedback, you need to get better — and you will. I know you, you will.
4 Growth comes from difficulties
I used to hate this notion, that you need difficulties to grow. But it proved to be very true. maybe to make sense of the difficulties — to convince yourself that it has a hidden meaning, or maybe to comfort yourself with the fact that it’ not futile to endure difficult situations. The truth is, you need some incentive to grow. Us humans are very lazy, we are comfort-seeking, conflict avoiding creatures with the only evolutionary objective of survival. We value the lazy, pleasurable things more than anything. If it was up to our instincts only, we wouldn’t do anything just eat, sleep and orgasm. We need external obstacles to make up move, to make us evolve, to make us grow. Every obstacle, difficulty and hardship are an opportunity to become something more. Rejection is the best thing that can happen to you.
5 It is not always about you
Have you ever thought about good timing and bad timing? That you need to be somewhere at the right place? If you miss it, it just won’t happen. What if I told you that good timing is pure luck and it has absolutely nothing to do with you? It has nothing to do with your grit and experience and enthusiasm? It has nothing to do with your skills, abilities and attitudes. You can’t do anything to manufacture luck. Good timing is a bonus, luck is a bonus. So, if it happens, and it happens at the right time it is not luck — it is you, and you deserved it. Remember this and let go of trying to overdo the timing of your actions. Just do what you would anyway, aim for the best timing, cross fingers and let go. Timing and luck have nothing to do with you. It’s frustrating, but it’s liberating AF.
6 Sometimes not getting what you want is the biggest gift ever
Do you know the great philosopher who told us all, in a very convincing way, the biggest lesson of all time? You can’t always get what you want… You gotta love Mick for this, and for a couple of other things too. But the wisdom here is really that we are so very limited in our thinking that we think that we need what we want.
Sometimes not getting what you want is the biggest gift of all. The push you can get from a rejection might be just what you need to work on your craft a bit more, to go that extra mile, to reconsider, to try again. Even if it doesn’t feel like winning, what if you are winning when you feel like you are losing?
7 Trust the process
It might sound a little bit too intangible for you if you are a rational one, but it worked out for me more than I would care to admit. I believe that we don’t see the process of our own lives, we think that we are controlling it, but there are so many external circumstances at play that can make or break your success, that it really questions whether we are in charge at all.
Trust the process. Be aware and sure of the fact that you have a very limited vision of the happenings in your life. You don’t see the big picture, sometimes you don’t even see the little picture either. Your view is limited, your perspective is distorted. There is a lot more than you can see. Trust that in a bigger scheme of things your small actions and the consequences of them dissolve into the bigger, more complex tapestry of life.
Trust that the rejection of today will lead you to something even better tomorrow. Tell yourself that it’s part of the process, that it guides you towards your goal with much clearer signals than any positive feedback would. It’s merely a “not yet”. And that promises something brilliant coming your way.