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Let’s face it: Getting rejected sucks.
Whether you get turned down for a job or promotion you wanted, or you’re not accepted by a college you applied for, or someone you care about ends a relationship with you … it feels terrible, every time.
Getting rejected can awaken your most critical inner voice — the voice that tells you that you’re dumb, silly, naïve, ugly, boring, obnoxious, or generally not good enough.
And the worst kind of rejection is utter silence. When you never hear back about the job or you get ghosted by the person you’ve been going out with, it feels like you got rejected twice — not only did they not want you, but they didn’t even respect you enough to tell you they’re not interested.
We’ve all been there. And it hurts.
I don’t know a single person who doesn’t fear rejection on some level. We’re social creatures, and wanting to belong is in our very human DNA. Rejection is the complete opposite of belonging — it can make you feel isolated, dejected, judged, vengeful, misunderstood, and shameful.
It makes perfect sense that most of us would try to avoid rejection at all costs.
Except, no matter what you do or how hard you try, there’s no escaping rejection. If you’re a human who interacts with other humans, you will be rejected. Guaranteed. No way around it.
So if rejection is inevitable, we all need better ways of dealing with it when it happens. And we also need a new mindset around rejection so that our fear of it doesn’t keep us trapped and small and paralyzed.
HOW MOST PEOPLE RESPOND TO REJECTION
Because rejection is so painful, we have built-in default coping mechanisms to try to counteract it. Here are the 3 most popular strategies for dealing with rejection:
The Shut-it-Down Strategy: The strategy here is to immediately quit trying if you get rejected. Or, if your fear of rejection is strong, you may never try in the first place. (This is especially true if it’s something you really want that will feel devastating if it doesn’t work out.) Seems effective enough, right? If you never try, there’s no chance of getting rejected! Bam, problem solved.
The People-Pleaser Strategy: Your logical brain will tell you that if you change who you are — edit, alter, and contort yourself based on what you think will make you “fit it” — you’ll automatically be accepted. This approach will convince you to say the right things, wear the right clothes, and hide parts of yourself in order to avoid rejection. (This is a popular strategy for interviews and first dates!)
The Mean Girl Strategy: You know how in the movie Mean Girls, the “popular girls” are pretty much always at each others’ throats? A running theme for that movie could be, “You hurt me, I’ll hurt you worse.” The strategy here is the same. It’s the equivalent of saying, “I never really liked you that much anyway” to someone who’s breaking up with you, or “This company’s not so great, after all” when you get turned down for a job. Hating on the one who’s doing the rejecting can make the rejection sting less.
Each of these strategies is a knee-jerk reaction to the painful sting of rejection. They don’t actually help you heal and move on; they just temporarily dull the pain.
These reactions also, ironically, force you to reject a part of yourself.
The Shut-it-Down Strategy causes you to reject your dreams by convincing you to stop going after the things you want.
The People-Pleaser Strategy convinces you to put on a mask and reject the real you — or at least parts of yourself — in order to be liked.
The Mean Girl Strategy forces you to reject your humanity and vulnerability by shutting down your emotions and pretending that you’re not hurt.
Getting rejected stings; rejecting yourself is torture.
REJECTION DOESN’T HAVE TO FEEL SO HEAVY
We all assume that rejection is so personal.
We think it means that someone has identified a fatal flaw in us that from now on we have to hide, change, or defend.
But what if rejection isn’t really about you … or the other person, for that matter?
Rejection doesn’t mean that there’s something “wrong” with you or “right” about the other person. Rejection simply means: We’re not a match.
Not every job, person, or opportunity is going to be a good fit for you. And that’s perfectly OK! Realizing that something isn’t quite right for you doesn’t make it bad … it just means it’s not a match.
No judgment, criticism, or hard feelings necessary.
Rejection simply means that the other person recognized that it wasn’t the right match before you did. But you can trust that, with a little more time and information, you would’ve come to the same conclusion.
You could get angry at that person for recognizing the truth before you did, OR you could choose to be grateful that they saved you from investing time and energy into something that wasn’t right for you in the first place.
More often than not, rejection is a blessing in disguise, protecting you from something/someone that wouldn’t have been good for you.
I’M NOT ASKING YOU TO NOT FEEL DISAPPOINTED
Look, it’s normal and perfectly OK to be disappointed when something doesn’t work out.
If you need some time to grieve what could have been, by all means, take it. Cry it out, vent to a friend, journal about your disappointment, go for a long run to clear your head. Do whatever would help you release the pent-up emotions that you’re naturally going to feel after getting rejected.
Just don’t make the rejection mean anything about YOU.
You’re just as worthy, smart, likeable, talented, and deserving as you were before the rejection. You simply weren’t a perfect match with that person or opportunity.
Think of yourself like a magnet. Magnets are built to attract the right things to them that, and repel things that aren’t a match. You’re just the same.
As long as you’re being yourself, you can’t help but magnetize things to you that are a perfect complement to you. If, on the other hand, you’re being yourself and you get rejected, that thing was never going to be right for you anyway.
I happen to believe that, not only does rejection mean that something simply wasn’t the right match for you … it means that something even better is coming down the line.
If that person, group, or company hadn’t rejected you, then you wouldn’t be available for a much better opportunity that’s coming your way.
So next time you get rejected, say out loud: “Thanks, Universe, for steering me clear of what was never meant for me to begin with and for keeping me available for something even better.”
I’d love to hear from you now: Can you relate to any of this? How do you normally respond to rejection? How does this reframe help? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!
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Kristen (& Rachel)
Love Love Love. Thank you for this blog post. Timely as always.
“…keeping me available for something even better.”
^^^So hard to accept, but completely reassuring.
Glad this topic was perfect timing for you, Rachel! 🙂
And yes, it’s definitely hard for me to accept sometimes too, even though I know it’s true. It helps (for me, at least!) to remember past experiences where you didn’t get what you *thought* you wanted, but it ended up turning out better than you imagined! I try to remind myself that, if it happened then, why not expect it to happen again?
Yes! I’m in camp A: The Shut-it-Down Strategy. Would love for you to go into more depth with how to overcome this one.
That’s my default strategy too! (Well, with a touch of people-pleasing, as well.) So I know how tough it is to push past the fear. What helps me is to redefine what rejection means to me. Instead of assuming all rejection is bad, I tell myself that being rejected from people/opportunities/organizations that aren’t aligned with me is actually a really GOOD thing — it’s a sign that I’m being genuine and on the right track. It makes the fear of rejection a lot less scary, and I’m less likely to shut down when I think of it that way.
Also, since the fear of rejection and the fear of failure are so closely intertwined, this might help, too: How to get over your fear of failure.
I just got rejected from a company that would have let me teach English overseas – a huge adventure and opportunity! I was pretty devastated, and this past week since that rejection has been basically me frantically trying to look up alternatives, and then having THEM all fall through one after another (either I wouldn’t qualify, or the company has bad reviews, or turns out I’m pretty sure I’d actually hate the work, etc, etc). I’m definitely in Camp Shut-It-Down, and have been my whole life (it’s just easier to daydream about cool stuff and never risk trying anything, right??), but I also tend to “sour grapes” things. Which then turns into a big spiral! “Eh, maybe I wouldn’t like that company after all. Maybe I’d hate putting up with the bad parts. Hey look, I’d probably hate this job too. And this one, and this one… you know what, let’s get out of this whole rat race and go live in a log cabin in the wilderness. Oh wait, you still need money for that…” It’s a mess! I’m trying to figure out a way through this jungle of tangled emotions and messy and confused desires, but it’s tough going! I could use that win, and I’m impatient and kind of want it right NOW! 😉
Wow, nice article! I just love it.
I got rejected many times when I bid on projects, as I’m a freelancer. I keep learning the cause for every rejection and try to improve myself …. Now, I’m getting more & more projects frequently.
I believe, working on our approach, could also overcome rejection for the next times!
I must thankyou for the thought direction you have provided.it was really needed.May I ask you that can we analyze every situation and thus provide a way to ourselves atleast from the thoughts that are really sensitive to us?