Rejection is something we have to deal with on a routine basis. It’s unpleasant, uncomfortable, and at times, downright miserable. But the truth is, rejection is a part of our human experience and at some point or another, we have to learn how to deal with rejection.
When we’re children, rejection might take the form of being excluded from a game of tag on the playground. When we’re teenagers, rejection might be getting dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend. When we’re adults, rejection could be being fired from our jobs.
Rejection can take a myriad of forms and can scale from an offhanded remark from a co-worker to an uprooting life event so profound it stonewalls us.
So, how can we begin to rise above rejection? And how can we turn rejection into a tool for our own success?
How to Define Rejection On Your Own Terms
Rejection doesn’t really happen to you, it’s how you choose to feel.—Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley
A massive part of dealing with rejection and failure is learning how to define it on your own terms. There are a lot of unpleasant emotions that often accompany rejection, such as:
This arsenal of challenging emotional experiences arise as a result of our perceived rejection.
He criticized my outfit. Do I really look that bad?
They laid me off at work. Maybe I wasn’t doing a good enough job.
My friend won’t answer my phone calls. I must have made them angry.
A lot of the time, the uncomfortable emotions we feel bombarded by after rejection are heavily tied to our perceptions of the event. If you look at the examples above, you’ll see a pattern.
Event A) has happened, and therefore, conclusion B) must be true.
But what we have to remind ourselves of in moments like these is that we can alter our perception of what’s going on around us to lessen the blow that rejection attempts to impart.
Maybe there’s a good reason your friend hasn’t gotten back to you yet. Perhaps you were laid off for budgetary reasons. Maybe your coworker made a comment about your outfit that you interpreted as an insult.
We often take things personally, when in reality, the circumstances and events that affect our lives really don’t have anything to do with us — or at least don’t have anything to do with who we are as human beings.
When we learn to define rejection on our own terms, in our own way, we can begin to dismantle the difficult emotions that so often arise when we feel rejected.
4 Famous Icons That Were Rejected Before Making It Big
There’s a huge misconception that surrounds rejection, and it revolves around the following premise:
Successful people don’t get rejected.
The most successful people in the world have faced a multitude of rejections. More than they care to count, and you know what? They triumphed in spite of it all.
Here are just a few of the most notorious iconic figures that faced multiple rejections:
1. J.K. Rowling
Here’s one that you’ve likely heard of. J.K Rowling was rejected by a whopping twelve different publishers before her book pitch was finally picked up by Bloomsbury. And that book? It’s now the multi-million dollar empire we know today as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Oh, and did you know that Rowling was fired from her job at the London office of Amnesty International because she spent all her time writing stories on her work computer?
2. Oprah Winfrey
When Oprah was twenty-two years old, she was the co-anchor of the evening newscast on Baltimore’s WJZ-TV. She was later fired by the producer because she couldn’t detach her emotions from the stories she reported. And, well — you know where Oprah is today.
3. Steven Spielberg
Spielberg was rejected from the Theatre, Film and Television program at the University of Southern California not once, not twice, but three times. Eventually, he was taken on by another school, of which he later dropped out of to pursue directing.
4. Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep, at age twenty-seven, was rejected from an audition for King Kong because she was told she was ‘too ugly.’ Today, she has over 18 Academy Awards. Go, Meryl!
How to Deal With Rejection
Even after we’ve taught ourselves to reset our perceptions and define rejection on our own terms, rejection is still going to be a part of our lives.
Whether we like it or not, we will face people, life events, and circumstances that make us feel excluded, dismissed, alienated, and less than.
So, how to deal with rejection?
Marisa Peer, world-renowned speaker, therapist, and author of Ultimate Confidence, suggests the following 5 strategies for how to deal with rejection:
1. “Thank you for sharing that.”
When someone sends something your way that sounds an awful lot like criticism or insult, the first thing you should reply with is: “Thank you for sharing that.”
This acknowledges what’s been said but doesn’t let the rejection in. You aren’t voicing your agreement. You’re not issuing an apology. You’re simply acknowledging what the other person has said.
2. “I missed that, would you say it again?”
This reply will more often than not stop your would-be criticizer in their tracks. When you ask someone to repeat something mean or critical that they’ve said, usually, they won’t. The more likely reaction will be a doubling back on their words as they backpedal to amend their criticism.
3. “Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself?”
Here’s where we get straight down to the nitty-gritty of it.
So many of our perceived rejections don’t need to be taken personally. Granted, some rejections are slanted as personal attacks, but not nearly so many as we assume.
If you call someone out on their attack and ask, “Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself?” you’ll likely be surprised to find that much of the time, the answer is: no.
4. “You can think what you want, I’m not going to let that in.”
If you’ve asked someone if they’re intentionally trying to hurt your feelings, and they respond with a yes, then this is the next step.
Simply tell that individual: think about what you want. I’m not going to let that in.
Meaning to say, you acknowledge that they have their own opinion, but you aren’t going to let what they think to change the way you feel.
Easier said than done? Of course. But the more you practice this mantra, the better it will feel.
5. “Did you know that critical people have the most criticism reserved for themselves?”
If someone really won’t leave you alone, this is the final step you can take toward moving past rejection and criticism.
Let the person that’s bothering you know that you understand they’re being critical, but that many times, the most critical people reserve their harshest criticisms for themselves.
You can remind this person that they don’t have to be mean or harsh — most especially not with themselves. Everyone is just trying to do the best they can. And we can support each other along the way much more effectively by offering constructive guidance, as opposed to harsh criticism.