“It’s not you; it’s me,” she coos. You grimace, swallowing the bitter words.
From romance to career advancement, rejection is a cold, cruel mistress. It pierces our identity, plunging us into a well of despair. We question our value, lamenting life’s unfairness. Even cruelty. Some people internalize its pain while others lash out on an unsuspecting family member or significant other.
The common denominator: You were wronged. And it hurts.
But instead of sulking or scowling, here are strategies to compartmentalize rejection for what it is: a temporary setback.
Honor the feelings. Rejection stings; it deflates our self-worth. We feel inadequate or incompetent or unlovable. However painful, your feelings are legitimate. But instead of passively accepting those suffocating feelings, talk and act back.
My life balm: Act the way you want to feel. During a trying job search or difficult break-up, my default response is to isolate myself. Cocooned in my cramped apartment, the thoughts batter me into submission. My apartment’s once-friendly confines constrict, exacerbating those poisonous feelings of estrangement.
When Seattle’s hovering clouds spit out rain, that is my cue: engage. Even more so when rejection threatens my mental equilibrium. As my girlfriend can attest, I may grumble about shedding those oh so comfy Carolina basketball shorts. But my self-imposed banishment is rejuvenating–even if I don’t fully realize it at the time.
View rejection as a temporary setback. Admittedly, this is difficult when you are spoon deep in your third Ben & Jerry’s carton. But you will find gainful employment, a compatible spouse, and, yes, happiness. It just might not be today — or next week. But it will come.
“Matt, you sound so confident. But I am now on my fourth Ben & Jerry’s pint. And my boyfriend continues to ignore my text messages,” you moan.
I understand–and would personally recommend Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough for those dreary weekends following a tough split. But before you rush to the ice cream section, let’s challenge those negative self-assessments. This relationship — admittedly — flopped. So what? Do you think every potential Prince Charming will turn out to be more clueless than captivating? And for the cynical lovebirds among us, you are deserving of relationship happiness. Have trouble believing that? Write down your favorite characteristics about yourself. Remember that afternoon you spent mahjongging with your lonely grandmother? That tops your list.
View rejection as motivation. “Matt, maybe you aren’t cut out for law school,” a grim-faced professor smirked at me. Admittedly self-conscious about my law school performance, I slinked out of his office — defeated and demoralized. I shuffled over to a trusted advisor’s office; she immediately pounced on my deflation. With her encouraging words — not to mention my late mother’s pep talk, I reframed the professor’s haughtiness into a challenge. Show him, like this smirking professor, that you can do it. Try this paradox on for size: Rejection as inspiration. It fits.
Lastly, view rejection compassionately. You are more than a romantic partner, a grade, or a job promotion. Look at the support system you have. Look at the contributions you have made. And, finally, look at rejection for what it is: an opportunity.