“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” ~Walt Disney
Among the most vivid memories stored in my brain’s what-doesn’t-kill-us-makes-us-stronger area is that day on the school bus in 7th grade. New to the neighborhood and school, I wanted friends more than air to breathe! I listened to the “cool” girls sitting behind me, laughing and chatting about their plans at the mall that afternoon. How I longed to be one of them… Gathering all my nerve until just seconds before my stop, I turned around, smiled, and asked if I could join them. Silence. They all stared at me frozenly. The leader of the group – at least in this instance, since her mother was going to be driving – looked uncomfortable as she quickly replied, “Sorry, there’s no room in the car.” Mind you, this was back when seatbelts were regarded as optional, and people crammed as many bodies into their cars as would fit.
I turned back around and willed myself not to cry, but the floodgate broke instantly once the bus pulled away from my stop. It took another hour of sobbing in my bedroom before I could think semi-rationally again. My self-esteem had taken a blow, and I was battered…but fortunately not beaten. The next day, I showed up with my head held high. I would not let those girls define me.
Like all painful experiences, rejection can either devastate us or be an invaluable opportunity for growth. It’s the way we handle it that makes the difference. When I’m rejected, professionally or personally, I strive to remember that rejection is actually healthy evidence of my taking risks. And as we know, it’s only by taking risks – knowing failure is a possible outcome – that we can make progress.
Rejection is an unforgettable teacher, one that can motivate us to be better and stronger. If we step back and take an objective look at the possible reasons we were rejected, we may come up with areas to work on, or smarter approaches to use in the future. Over time, we’ll be able to detach more easily from the pinch of our ego being punctured and focus faster on the positive lessons available.
Nonetheless, being rejected is never easy, and short pity parties (you know, where your only guests are Ben & Jerry) are okay. Ride the anguish, humiliation, even obsession…but then move on. The only way past something is through it. The feelings won’t last forever, I promise. Getting back to healthy self-care is the best remedy for any disappointment.
Lastly, think of rejection as the Universe’s way of protecting you from harmful situations, a friendly guide toward exactly what, where, or with whom you should be. When you understand this, you’ll fear rejection less and be more excited about putting yourself out there on your uphill path to success.