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As we lay bound by fear on the dusty tracks of destination “Rejectionville,” the flashes and replays that go through our head are our only companion.
Why me? Why wasn’t I good enough? But I loved them. I gave so much; why doesn’t anything work for me? Who did they choose instead? Maybe my work wasn’t good enough; what am I lacking? I am unlovable. I am ugly. I am undeserving.
Round and round those voices go—egging us further and deeper into despair—and situational blindness blocks our way out.
Rejection coats us in a heady mix of shame, fear, disappointment, and inner doubt. It sh*ts on our ego and drives us to a wasteland, where it then dumps us out on the road of self-loathing and leaves us there exposed and paralyzed, desperately trying to find our way home.
I have felt the sharp stab of rejection—we have all been there. Be it, literal or physical, each stab of rejection’s razor-sharp knife drains us of our own self-worth—strike by strike, bit by bit.
Whichever way rejection is manifested, at whatever time in our lives, it profoundly transforms our body, mind, and spirit in its wake.
There is no map, there is no clear direction, and the horizon is hazy, like a desert mirage—we know that somewhere out in that barren landscape there is a path. A route out of the dark tunnel, but the light at the end is not yet in sight.
Our friends offer compassion that we cannot swallow, well-meaning advice that doesn’t resonate: “You are a great person; it’s their loss.” These words do little but inflame an already dented heart. You listen robotically, but you don’t believe a damn word they are saying.
Rejection comes in many shapes and forms: social rejection, familial rejection, romantic rejection, and so on. Whilst it has many faces, it has only one intent—to knock us off course. And usually, it does. Whether we have been “friend zoned” by a boy we want more from or declined a promotion we thought we deserved, the emotions that are manifested attack us in the same way.
Whilst the rejection could come from any direction, our only way out is to open our compass and follow the arrow toward redirection (pack a bag because it’s a long road home).
A good thing to remember is that being rejected means you tried something. You played your cards, you put your neck on the line—you stood up to be counted. To be rejected you have: a) taken a risk and b) made yourself vulnerable. Both of which are marks of a true badass. There would be no rejection without both of these things happening, and therefore no redirection to greater things.
Our rejections are necessary to our future successes.
Brené Brown has said: “Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.”
Whilst other people’s acceptance and receptiveness are nice to have, they do not add any lines to our roadmap. Those lines are defined by us, in our reaction to rejection and the route that it sets us upon.
People may roll their eyes at this, but personally, I am a big believer in “everything happens for a reason.”
I recently read a book by Matt Haig, called the Midnight Library. It’s a bestseller, so I am guessing many of you readers have already encountered this treasure. Without giving away the plot, one of the key themes of the story gives the reader a view into the character’s situation in the future, should she have made different choices. How one change can affect so many things—remove one variable and so many different outcomes are possible.
I like to think of rejection as an inverted version of that. Instead of being rejected, you are simply being redirected onto the path that was meant to be for you. You were on the wrong road—and now you are on the right one.
When we focus our energy on the redirection instead of the rejection, suddenly our map starts taking shape—we can’t change the past, but we can have some form of control over what happens next. It may even feel quite liberating.
So you didn’t get the job, but maybe with all that spare time, you took up a hobby doing something you loved? This gave you the push to monetize your hobby. That passion project suddenly becomes a bona fide business—perhaps even a really successful one! Then one day when you are in the midst of running your own empire, you will look back and thank your lucky stars for that job rejection—because without it, you wouldn’t be where you are today.
That boy who you loved with all your heart who rejected your love and flicked you back into the friend zone: what if that heartbreak led you to a “let’s cheer you up” night out with the girls? On that night, the chance encounter with the cheeky guy at the next table led to a first date, which led to many dates—which eventually gave way to a mutually wonderfully romantic encounter that lasted a lifetime. When you are pushing your children on the swings, in your sunlit family home, daydreaming about your past (the love of your life getting the BBQ fired for another wonderful evening with friends), you remember the rejection that led to the redirection and the best days of your life—and thank it with all your heart.
It’s all a matter of perspective—but when we are staring the deep, dark abyss of rejection straight in the eye, it’s easier said than done to pull ourselves out of despair.
There is no magic fix, no plaster to apply to the sore, no miracle cure. We have to instead rely on time. Time to dwell, time to cry, time to sit with our demons and try to understand them better.
I am not a rejection expert but I have been rejected, and here are some things that helped me:
1. Separate the pain from your ego. A big chunk of my feeling was ego-based; once I gave myself space for some straight self-talk, I realised I was equally as pissed off by the audacity I believed that person had in rejecting me, as the actual emotional pain it caused me. Once I put myself back in my box, I could then do the real work in healing the second layer of pain.
2. Identify the root cause. What did this event trigger? Think about times you have been rejected before, in childhood or adulthood—is there a backstory to this that needs work or further soothing.
3. Lean on friends for emotional support, not advice (here is a great article that can help you understand that!).
4. Remember the potential behind the rejection—redirection, redirection, redirection.
5. Do not try to change their mind. You have to apply grace to the situation—why would you want to try and convince someone to do something they don’t want to do? That sh*t does not end well.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff—again, easier said than done—but being rejected can feel like a mountain when really, it’s more of a molehill. So, you have been rejected from one job, one relationship, one friendship—there are plenty more jobs, partners, and proverbial fish in that sea! Rejection blindness can happen; it can distort our vision and make us believe this is the end of the world—when in fact, it is the start of a new one.
Redefining ourselves when rejected is an opportunity—for opening us up to better things. Sometimes we gain when we lose.
What is ahead is better than anything we leave behind and rejection becomes our roadmap to better days.
See rejection as redirection, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get the hell outta RejectionVille.