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How not to take rejection personally

In the second week of January 2021, my three independent clients let me go. Almost overnight, my monthly income dropped from $5,000 to zero. It seemed like an insulting coincidence, how all three chipped away at once. Let’s not wrap it up, it felt like a rejection.

Whether it’s a minor inconvenience or a major incident, the emotional wound of rejection runs deep. We will pursue a flourishing opportunity to meet the thorns of denial. And the resulting sting is heartbreaking.

Yet rejection is not inherently negative. It’s our interpretation of it that determines whether it becomes an opportunity or an obstacle. And in my case, with careful reframing, losing those three clients was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Why rejection hurts and how we internalize it

It’s impossible to minimize the agonizing shame and embarrassment that rejection can bring. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI studies) showed that feelings of rejection overlap with the same neural pathways that drive physical pain. In reality, a study even found that taking Tylenol can reduce the emotional pain evoked by rejection. So maybe pop a couple if you receive that dreaded “we need to talk” text. (Joke.)

Scientific research aside, our mainstream culture sees failure and rejection as two sides of the same coin. If you’re passed over for a promotion, you’ll tell coworkers how your boss “rejected” you or how you “failed” to be considered.

We’ll start to believe it’s because we miss Something. This is why we are obsessed with rejection – it gives our ego a reason to compulsively think about itself. Was I not smart enough? Why did she get the promotion instead of me?

Taking rejection personally keeps us from growing

Rejection can be an opportunity for reflection, a sign of growth, or a marker of success. But our instinctive interpretation of rejection shrouds it in negativity.

For example, when we say that . . .

  • Rejection is to be avoided → We pre-reject ourselves. We’re dodging a bullet, aren’t we? But that means pre-rejecting yourself — avoiding applying for jobs, not coming up with new initiatives at work, or asking someone out — before they even have a chance to say no.

  • Rejection happens for us → The world wants to have us. When we feel the rejection is unfair, we will feel like victims. But in reality, life is not there to hurt us deliberately, it is completely indifferent. This neutral mentality is essential to help us continue to take bold risks.

  • The rejection is final → We stop trying. When we tell ourselves that rejection is eternal, we close ourselves off from similar future opportunities. But just because you’ve been turned down from a specific opportunity — a role in your dream job, for example — doesn’t mean your chances are lost forever. Cara Lam is a shining example.

Why rejection has “very” little to do with you

It’s hard not to take rejection personally. The key is to master our emotions through the application of reason. Here are three reasons why rejection is usually not as bad as it seems.

1. It’s a method of communication

If we look beyond the emotional pain, rejection communicates a message. Blogger Amy Tang explains what this message contains: “This is simply information regarding the compatibility between you and what you were rejected from.”

What do you do with this information? Well, that’s up to you. But at first glance, the rejection is only information regarding compatibility. To take MIT Announcement Why they’re reinstituting the SAT/ACT requirement after a short hiatus: Research has shown them that standardized tests accurately predict student academic success at MIT.

Here’s what they said about the change:

“When we talk about assessing academic preparation at MIT, it does not mean that we are measuring your academic potential or your intrinsic worth as a human being. It only means that we are confident that you, at this particular point in your educational trajectory, can do well on the kind of demanding math and science tests of our unusual upbringing.

If you’re rejected by MIT because of SAT/ACT scores, it communicates a simple message: your quantitative skills don’t match MIT. No more no less.

2. Our internal narrative is not the truth

In our minds, the world revolves around us. We filter every interaction through our personal perspective. If someone rejects you, they must think badly of you. But news flash: we have no idea what other people are thinking.

Brianna Wiest, author of 101 essays that will change the way you think, Explain, “We assume people think like us because our internal narrative and process of the world is all we know.” In fact, there are a million things that happen that we won’t see.

We’ll see rejection of work. But we won’t see how the company had an internal recruit she had been working with for weeks. We’ll see the “Read at 8:52 p.m.” notification. But we won’t see how the other person is driving and can’t respond right away.

3. Rejection is only part of our identity

Rejection can cause us to re-evaluate all of our self-worth. But rejection is only a small part of who we are. Let’s say you come up with a new initiative at work and your boss passes it on. It was your idea that has been measured and evaluated, not all of your intrinsic value as a human being.

How to reframe rejection as an opportunity, not an obstacle

With careful reframing, rejection can be one of the most constructive things you can experience. Even though you may have lost three customers in a week (like yours really).

See rejection as a sign of growth

Have you recently been rejected? Surprising! It is a sign that you are moving forward in life. Because if you don’t experience the occasional rejection, you avoid change and remain stagnant.

Consider how rejection signals that you are looking for opportunities. The world won’t give you opportunities – you have to go out there and ask for them.

When all three of my clients dropped out, it had to do with me going for agency deals. As a freelancer, I was eager to find a sustainable income, and installments were a fantastic solution. Of course, it didn’t work. But it was a sign that I was experimenting with something new that might better suit me and my business needs.

Not to mention that rejection is a sign of healthy resistance. For example, if people reject your prices for your services, this could be an indicator that your prices are perfect. You don’t have to please everyone.

View rejection as a learning opportunity

You may not notice it right away, but rejection is a rich learning opportunity.

You can use it to collect data about a specific situation. Let’s say you’re in the middle of a job search and send your resume to 20 companies, only to hear from one.

What would happen if instead of deploring your unreturned calls, you changed your resume? Would the result change? Treat the rejection as a data point, make any necessary adjustments, and then continue running your experiment.

Rejection is also an opportunity to improve. It all starts with the question “Why not?” No, it doesn’t mean being determined to change someone’s mind. Instead, it’s about understanding the reasoning behind a decision, so you can use it to improve it in the future.

Rejection worked for me

After my three clients let me down, I took a step back to analyze the situation.

At the time, I was on the edge of the abyss run out. I was logging 10-hour workdays and that (understandably) strained my interpersonal relationships. After the shame of rejection, another feeling materialized: relief.

I took a few weeks off to recuperate and recuperate. Once I had, I asked my clients what happened. As it turned out, none of it was personal: one had a shrinking budget, another a spectacular brand pivot, and the third a new in-house hire. (And even if it had been personal – say, negative comments about my writing – it still would have been a learning opportunity to improve my craft.)

My ex-clients were not indicative of my intrinsic value. But this rejection gave me the opportunity to update my Boarding process, cold new customersand take a well deserved break.

Moreover, good or bad, everything is material. Evidence: Rejection prompted this article.

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