Recently, while doing research on what distinguishes successful people from unsuccessful ones, I came to realization that most people who achieved something great in their lives had a chance to face this “horrible monster” called rejection. And, they not only faced it and dared to look into its eyes. They learned how to embrace it and turn it into the tool for growth.
Life's blows cannot break a person whose spirit is warmed at the fire of enthusiasm. - Norman Vincent Peale, Preacher and Author
Rejection is something we can’t actually eschew in the course of life. Whatever we do, earlier or later we will face the moment when rejection knocks on our doors. But, the key isn’t in avoiding it or hiding somewhere within our comfort zone cherishing hope that it will somehow pass by without causing any storms. The truth is that it won’t pass by, rather it will prefer to stay and hit us. So, the key is to open the door, graciously welcome it and make it your best friend.
We will not allow rejection to beat us down. It will only strengthen our resolve. To be successful there is no other way. - Earl G. Graves
It might sound ridiculous, but that’s true – the moment when you learn to handle rejection is that exact moment when you start growing and become stronger. Unfortunately, most people fail to realize it. They’d better refuse from their dreams, rather than hear that endangering “no”. But, refusal from our dreams because of the fear of rejection may equal to failure itself. In most cases situation isn’t that hopeless as we tend to portray it. A few “no’s” shouldn’t actually change the course of our actions. As well as thinking that “no” is something that we should take personally is also a wrong way of thinking. That fact that you didn’t get approval from someone, because your views differ, doesn’t mean that you’ve been put on the deck of losers. And, being rejected doesn’t mean the end of life or opportunities.
Real life actually begins where our comfort zone ends. Rejection is simply an obstacle that prompts us to train our muscles harder to be able to move forward towards greater achievements. If we didn’t face those obstacles, we wouldn’t know how strong we could be, how far we could go and how much we could achieve.
Sometimes rejection does us a favor by re-directing us towards better things, sometimes it opens our eyes on things we haven’t noticed before. The key is to realize that it brings something positive too, and it doesn’t serve as an evidence or a sign that you should quit doing something or that you don’t deserve to be successful. Quitting something worth fighting for only because of the fear of being rejected can be one of the worst decisions you’ve ever made. At a first sight, it might seem logical to avoid situations that cause disappointment, pain or which increase the likelihood of being rejected. But eventually we will only regret things we weren’t able to accomplish or chances we didn’t take. And pain of regret might keep haunting us for the rest of our lives.
But, why do we fear rejection? There are several reasons for it. The most common reason sounds like this – rejection rises our fears and doubts to the surface, reinforces the pain caused by disapproval and criticism. For example, before starting a project we keep in mind all the positive aspects of doing it and we already imagine ourselves at the helm being successful, rich and famous. Yes, deep down we realize that the odds of failure exist, but, of course, we switch to an optimistic mode. But when we start collecting feedback, which includes negative reviews too, or taking actions that aren’t praised by others for some reasons, these small odds of failure acquire the size of a huge elephant. It's like a punch in the face to wake us up from a beautiful dream. ‘Who knew that it would look so bad?’, ‘Why can’t I achieve it so quickly?’, ‘Why others don’t see it the way I see?’, ‘Why do they call me a crazy one?’, we might ask ourselves. And that’s that same moment when our doubts, even if they were insignificant at first, come up to the surface. They aren’t hidden deep down anymore. They are visible and they are backed by disapproval from others.
At the moment when we were seeking for validation of our idea or some other thing we invested our efforts and money in, we got a validation of our incapability to do something well. Things we worked on have been rejected. Consequently, we feel humiliated, lost in despair and whirl of doubts. We didn't anticipate it and we weren't prepared for it to happen in reality. By allowing ourselves to dwell on it and cursing our bad luck, the sting of rejection will only grow stronger. As a result, it will sharpen our focus on our imperfections and diminish our belief in our greatness. And the only way to cope with rejection is by becoming immune to it. And that’s the moment when we have to realize that truly worthwhile things don't come with ease. We need to be patient. We have to learn to feel comfortable about being uncomfortable, we have to be prepared to hear “no”. And the most important, we have to accept that not everyone is going to praise us, understand us or like what we do.
I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat. - Sylvester Stallone
The way rejection affects us has a lot to do with our attitude towards it. Rejection will either prompt us to double our efforts and keep working on things, or will hold us back from getting closer towards our goals. By embracing reality the way it is (including possibility of failure or rejection) and developing the right growth mindset we will be able to push ourselves towards greater achievements.
Here are some tips to consider that will help you to develop a right attitude to handle rejection and turn it into the tool for growth:
- Think in the long term and focus on the ultimate goal you want to achieve.
As Donald Trump once said, “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” Therefore, take rejection as a part of the process and keep in mind that the ultimate outcome doesn’t depend on a single interaction or action. The ultimate outcome is the sum of all actions we take, interactions and decisions we make. Therefore, stop wasting your time worrying about every single gaffe or misstep you make. Instead, focus on learning from each of them and how you can make it work better next time.
- Face rejection
One of the best ways to handle our fears is by doing what we are afraid to do. The more we expose ourselves to the things we fear, the stronger we become and the easier we are able to handle them. Rejection isn’t fatal. It happens to everyone, even the most successful people have faced it at least once. (see infographic)
- Take rejection as an opportunity to learn and get feedback
Rejection can also become our best teacher. If you’ve been rejected by someone whose opinion you find important then it makes sense to talk to that person and ask what exactly you did wrong. Listen very carefully and you’ll be surprised at what you can learn.
- Realize that at times rejection re-directs you towards things that fit you better
We can’t please the whole world. Since tastes differ, we can’t make everyone like or admire us. Sometimes rejection doesn’t mean our defeat, it just shows us that the time has come to rethink the way we live, change our environment and look at other door that is open for us. If you get stuck in front of the closed door for too long, it might result in the numerous missed opportunities.
- Don’t take rejection personally
We often tend to take rejection as an outright display of someone’s dislike, however, in most cases rejection has nothing to do with us personally. You have to do a thorough analysis of their statement to understand why your idea or product doesn’t resonate with those people. Remember, that they reject your product or idea, not you. And the reasons behind rejection can be numerous: you chose improper timing for the pitch, your customers don’t have enough money at the moment, your customers lack information about your product, your business partners don’t plan collaboration in this field etc. Once you understand the reason, it will be much easier to tweak your plan/strategy accordingly.
- Accept yourself the way you are
Perfectionists tend to be more vulnerable when they are being rejected. They raise high standards and strive for excellence in everything. And they equate rejection to being a loser. People who are immensely dependent on the opinion of society and find themselves worthy only in that case when they get approval from others, also tend to become victims of negativity and depression.
While people who accept themselves the way they are, with all their flaws and weaknesses, tend to demonstrate resilience and healthier attitude towards rejections. They find making mistakes normal, even human. They believe that they have full control over themselves and that they have enough power to change their life for the better. Therefore, working on your self-esteem will pay off in the long run and will help you to handle rejection effectively.
Cover image credit: Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Written by Natalie Myhalnytska