We’re often told that we need to respond to rejection gracefully, that it’s a natural part of life, so “don’t think about it,” brush it off, and move on. While this is true in some instances, the laissez-faire approach to rejection might also hold us back. While rejection is undoubtedly good for self-growth and is needed to advance in life, no matter how “needed” it may be, rejection hurts, and we don’t acknowledge that enough. But can we accept rejection without dwelling on it? While we can’t prevent facing rejection, we can learn how to embrace it so that maybe, it can hurt a little less.
Handling Rejection With a Healthy Mindset
Rejection is unavoidable in both our professional and personal lives; there’s no getting around that. While situations like not getting an interview or experiencing the end of a relationship are top of mind when we think of rejection, it can also be present in something seemingly “small,” like when we receive a different response than we expected in a conversation or navigating the end of a friendship. While everyone experiences rejection, not everyone handles it well. Here are a few tips that may help heal our bruised hearts when the inevitable happens.
- Take Care of Yourself
There’s a reason why almost every piece of “healthy” advice comes with the reminder to take care of your mental, emotional, and physical health. It matters! Keeping yourself healthy through exercise, eating balanced meals, and caring for your mental health will be helpful when things get off track.
- Acknowledge Your Emotions
Rejection hurts, no matter if it occurs in your professional or personal life. It can leave us feeling disappointed, discouraged, and sometimes embarrassed. That’s okay. Rather than trying to push these feelings aside, honor them as valid. A “plus” side to rejection is that everyone has an understanding of how you’re feeling as we’ve all been there.
To not let your emotions take over, dig deeper into whether or not this rejection was out of your control — perhaps you didn’t get an interview because your salary requirements are too high, or maybe you just didn’t fit the culture of the team or the organization. These are nuances you can’t be faulted for as you shouldn’t have to change yourself to appease others. Rejection can be hurtful to experience and you are valid in feeling that disappointment.
- Treat Yourself With Compassion
Oftentimes, the voice inside our head is a lot louder than the one handing out the rejection. We truly are our own biggest critics, but coming at our emotions with resentment, shame, or anger will only make the situation worse.
Instead of allowing your mind to wander into self-deprecation, speak to yourself as you’d speak to a friend. If a friend didn’t get a second interview, would you ask them to describe all the things that went wrong and belittle them? No. You’d boost their confidence, let them know that the situation stinks, and remind them of their worth. You deserve the very same. To build up your compassion muscles, try practicing gratitude by reminding yourself of your own worth. When times get tough, we can often forget our own value, so having a backlog of praise for ourselves can be a powerful tool.
- Don’t Let It Define You
In our relationships, we tend to remember the good times, and often find ways to blame ourselves for things ending. As Guy Winch, psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts, shared: “We tend to incorrectly interpret the hurt we feel, viewing rejection as an indication of our self-worth, leading us to feel even worse.” When you’re hit with rejection, from a breakup to a missed opportunity, keep things in perspective by reminding yourself that this rejection doesn’t affect your worth as a person.
Undoubtedly, this can be one of the hardest obstacles to face as we so often tie our worth to our productivity or achievements. But, our experiences are so much more than just our own thoughts and actions. I encourage you to try to view the situation from a “third-party” perspective. In other words, remove yourself from the situation to objectively see it at face value. Let’s say you’re facing a breakup — take your emotions or expectations out of the situation for a moment. Two powerful questions to ask yourself: How have each of you changed since this started? And Do you like the traits this relationship brought out of you? This positioning will help you decenter yourself. It will also remind you that the relationship was made of more than just you, and the others’ actions have shaped your experience as well.
- Learn From It
This last piece of advice is anything but revolutionary, but what does “learning” from rejection really even mean? Listening to and accepting feedback is a great way to really understand what has happened. Too often, we blame others as a means of self-preservation — you get into an argument because the other person is so stubborn, or, “they already had their mind made up.” Only when we’re in the mindset of compassionate acceptance can we analyze ourselves from a positive position.
Whether it’s not getting a promotion or losing a friend, even though it’s hard to imagine at the moment, things do have a way of working out. Remind yourself that you can still get to where you’re going, it just might be a different path than you intended.
Facing Rejection in a Post-COVID Job Market
The topic of rejection has taken on an entirely new meaning of late — not only was this past year difficult as thousands of us lost loved ones as a result of COVID-19 but millions more were also furloughed or lost their jobs. We’re learning more lasting impacts such as:
- According to McKinsey, up to 25% more workers than previously estimated potentially need to switch occupations post-COVID.
- Chicago Tribune reported that at least 30% of the U.S. jobs lost to the pandemic aren’t expected to come back, while Nick Bloom of Stanford University and Steven Davis of the University of Chicago concluded that 32% to 42% of COVID-induced layoffs will be permanent.
With vaccines creating a return to some “normalcy,” people are reigniting their career searches. With so many people in the flooded job market, especially those who are experienced in their careers, some are struggling to get noticed. Competition is higher than ever before with people trying to get back into their industry or dive into entirely new careers thanks to a movement being referred to as #TheBigShift, which you can read about here.
With all of this in mind, job searching advice usually tells you that you should apply, apply, apply, taking rejection with a grain of salt. The truth is, job searching is exhausting enough, but constantly getting rejected can do more harm than we think. My best advice for those heading into the job search: take some time to do a self-analysis and ask for feedback from others along the way. Prior to blindly applying, set standards and expectations by asking yourself things like, “What are my strengths?”, “What are non-negotiables for me?”, or “What skills are within my means to enhance?” Write out your strengths, goals, and current experiences, then widen your perspective— making sure you’re applying to jobs that go hand in hand with these strengths and experiences while also aligning with your expectations.
Rejection is inevitable, but that doesn’t make the experience any more pleasant. By shifting our mindset to acknowledge rejection for what it is — an uncomfortable but valid experience — we can collectively take a sigh of relief and move forward, rather than just moving on.