How to deal with rejection
As much as rejection in some way, shape or form is inevitable for all of us, it doesn’t make it sting any less. In fact, there have been several times in my life that to say rejection stung would be an understatement, the truth being that the rejection really, really hurt.
Through a combination of my personal development journey and the work I do as a career confidence coach for women, I’ve found a strategy to deal with rejection, and I’m going to walk you through it in today’s blog post, let’s get into it.
First things first, what even is rejection?
We feel rejected when we’re not included, accepted, or approved of. Rejection involves the loss of something we had or wanted. And rejection, like abandonment, leaves us feeling unwanted and not good enough.
Why does rejection feel so bad?
Rejection can cause us to feel a whole host of emotions, ranging from confusion to sadness to rage. Often, people don’t understand exactly why they’ve been rejected, which can lead to a downward spiral of negative introspection and an overall sense of not feeling worthy.
In evolutionary terms, human beings have a fundamental need to belong to a group for survival. In a hunter-gatherer society, being ostracized effectively meant death, so we developed an ‘early warning system’ to warn us when this was about to happen: rejection.
And that’s not all. To ensure that we took this threat seriously, rejection began to piggyback on physical pain pathways in the brain. fMRI studies show that rejection activates the same parts of the brain as when we experience physical pain so there’s no wonder it hurts.
How can we positively react to rejection?
Here is my four-step strategy:
Step 1: Lean into the rejection.
Trying to suppress or bury our feelings never serves us, and neither does denying we're in pain or relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms to numb our pain like alcohol or drugs. All our feelings are valid, it’s important to feel those feelings but at the same time remind ourselves that feelings and emotions come in waves and that as tough as things feel right now, they won't always hurt so much. Sitting with those feelings, journalling, reaching out and gaining support from those we trust, can all really help us move through this period.
Step 2: Swap self-criticism for self-compassion.
Sometimes what we make the rejection mean, can feel worse than the rejection itself. It’s key at this point to keep an ear out for that inner critical voice that might try to tell you that the situation is worse than it is. Be aware and be ready to challenge that voice. Will you be unemployed forever because you're useless, like that inner critic is trying to make you believe? Or is it more reasonable that you’ve been unsuccessful in this job application, and there is every possibility that you might be successful in future applications, for example? So next time things don’t go your way, instead of using that last little bit of energy you've got left to kick yourself whilst you're down, how about using it on some self-compassion and pulling yourself back up instead?
Step 3: Understand the ways you can influence rejection.
Rejection feels hard as it’s out of our control, but we can influence the outcome to some extent, either positively or negatively.
Negatively- By protecting ourselves from rejection happening at all and keeping ourselves small and not putting ourselves forward for things or taking risks. This will ultimately mean we miss out on opportunities and experiences, however, so is a dangerous strategy.
Positively- By using our energy constructively and doing things that will mean that we have more chance of the outcome we want. For example, taking actions that will serve in achieving a favourable outcome such as researching the company we are applying for a job at, managing our state before the job interview, speaking to ourselves with kindness etc and regularly recognising what we are great at.
Step 4: Take back control.
Whilst we can’t control rejection, what we do have complete control over is how we respond to that rejection. Our next steps after a rejection are key and can help us strengthen our resilience. Things like having an open mind, avoiding all-or-nothing thinking, being willing to explore other options, and being solution focussed all help here. There is always rich learning in the things that don’t go as planned in life. For example, if you get turned down for a job you’ve applied for, there is an opportunity to gain helpful feedback about your application or interview performance. It’s up to you what you then choose to do with that feedback, but at least by having that insight, you can make an informed decision on how you want to proceed moving forwards.
So, there you have it, my 4-step strategy for dealing with rejection.
I hope this was helpful for you and that this strategy will serve to support you navigate any future rejections more easily.
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I hope we speak soon,