Rejection is never fun. No one wakes up, reaches for their oolong tea and gender-neutral slippers and thinks, “Can’t wait to be turned down today!”
It’s not just in the realm of dating either. We face rejection at work, with friends, and with random people we encounter throughout the day. That douche-kangaroo who didn’t hold the elevator for you even though you were clearly running for it? The boss who said you couldn’t work from home once a week? The friend who canceled on you because she needed a “self-care” night?
All forms of rejection.
And, like the ex who won’t move out of your apartment even though you broke up months ago, rejection is not going anywhere anytime soon. So we might as well learn to deal with it.
How do we do that? How do we make rejection feel less scary and overwhelming and stifling? How do we learn to take calculated risks so that we’ll grow and not shrink in the face of adversity?
Here are seven strategies that help.
It’s not me, it’s you
Perhaps the most obvious, yet under-utilized solution is to learn how to not take rejection as a personal affront.
When someone says “no” to us, we tend to blame ourselves. We feel inadequate and ashamed and say things like, “I’m unattractive.” Or “I’m so awkward and shy, no wonder no one wants to date me.”
But rejection is entirely subjective. It’s one person saying no one time in one particular instance.
Think about it this way. Let’s say your roommate brings home a couch. You think the couch is hideous and don’t want it anywhere near you. But your roommate loves it. Is the couch hideous or beautiful? Neither. It’s just a couch. Only when we ascribe meaning to it does it become good or bad, pretty or ugly, worthy or unworthy.
In a similar way, hearing a “no” doesn’t make you a loser or a reject. Though it may not seem like it at the time, rejection is actually an opportunity. A chance to assess what went wrong and how you could approach it differently next time.
As a freelance writer, I get rejected all the time! I’m constantly pitching places and being told no—or being ignored completely. And each time I do, I take their feedback, hone my pitch, and send it somewhere else. If I thought my worth as a writer or a person had anything to do with all the no’s I receive, I would have quit YEARS AGO.
Hearing a “no” doesn’t matter. What does matter is what we tell ourselves about it.
Tell yourself a different story
Rejection doesn’t “say” anything about us as people or our intrinsic self-worth.
In Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning, he discusses the differences between entity and incremental theories of intelligence. Stay with me, it applies to rejection, I promise.
People who are entity learners attribute their success or failure to an ingrained and unalterable level of ability. (“I aced that test because I’m good at math,” for instance.) Incremental folks don’t view their success as fixed. They grasp that with hard work and patience, difficult concepts can be grasped. (“I studied hard for this math test, and my work paid off with an A.”)
Research by developmental psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck has also shown that incremental learners are far more likely to succeed than entity learners, regardless of intelligence levels.
So when looking at rejection, it’s far better to view it with an incremental mind. When we tell ourselves generalized, entity-based things like, “I’m bad at flirting” we’re setting ourselves up to fail, and also excusing that failure because we’re telling ourselves that’s “just the way I am.”
It’s not. You are like the universe. YOU CONTAIN MULTITUDES.