We like to be liked—it’s a fact. Humans want to be accepted; we have an innate desire to feel part of a group. According to the Association for Psychological Science, our quest for acceptance stems from our need for survival. In ancient times, people relied on their tribe to help guard against threats. Tribes also offered a sense of pride—a feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves; today we still feel comfort when people accept us.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always grant us with acceptance. Instead, it’s often laced with rebuffs, refusals, and everything in between. The possibility for rejection spans through every aspect of life: applying for a job, talking to someone you’re interested in, pitching an idea to your boss. Almost every significant life choice holds the potential for refusal.
Admittedly, a rejection-less life sounds great on paper. But rejection is actually necessary for your well-being. If you can get beyond the initial sting, it's a chance to reevaluate yourself to your advantage. It forces you to think about how others perceive you, and that can be empowering. Make rejection a positive experience by shifting your thinking away from what you lost out on. Instead, focus on what lies ahead.
01. Rejection is a chance to regroup and refocus.
When you’ve set your heart on something, whether an idea or a job opportunity, being rejected is an absolute bummer. Afterward, it’s easy to focus on what went wrong. If only I said this, if only I did that.
Here’s the thing: Hanging onto these questions is a foolproof way to turn rejection into a roadblock. Granted, replaying a situation is crucial to understanding it. However, bathing in the “should haves” inhibits your potential to learn as growth opportunities morph into a pool of regrets.
Regrets are exactly what hold you back. The American Psychological Association shares that individuals who hold onto unresolved regrets exhibit more depressive symptoms than those who let it go. Apparently, Frozen’s Queen Elsa had the right idea.
It’s all about perception. Dennis Merritt Jones, author of the The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love it, sums it up perfectly: “If you’re willing to look, you can know that in every crisis lies opportunity.”
Look at rejection as a stepping stone. When you do, you realize that those difficult experiences helped lead you to other successes in your life. Specifically, it highlights habits, actions, or thoughts that you can improve on. It helps you shift your focus from how you messed up to how you can become better.
Of course, refocusing doesn’t mean changing yourself according to someone else’s standards. A rejection isn’t a reflection of your abilities, talents, or self-worth. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re inadequate.
Use rejection as a prescriptive moment for yourself. It places a sticky note on a page that you might not have read closely otherwise. Jones explains that each crisis reveals the dynamics and tools we need to jumpstart self development, proving that rejection can be an amazingly empowering thing.
02. See rejection as a way of getting on the right track.
Rejection happens when you try for something and it doesn’t work out. This can be anything from a networking letdown to an ignored email.
However, it is actually a favor in disguise. According to the other person, something was missing. Maybe it was certain qualifications or specific vibes they wanted to feel. Again, this doesn’t speak to your character or abilities; instead, it displays the standards that they are using to make a decision.
So, how is that a favor? It increases your chances for finding a situation that is better in line with your own views and values. In this way, you work with someone who sees your potential and appreciates all that you do have to offer.
03. Regardless of the outcome, you’re putting yourself out there. And that’s always good.
Rejection becomes easier the more you experience it. Continuously running into it means that you’re seeking opportunity—that’s a courageous thing! And every time you rise from a rebuff, you come out a little bit stronger.
It’s comparable to muscle development. Repetitive workouts, such as Pilates and squats, create tiny tears in your muscle. The muscle regenerates itself, becoming more powerful each time. The more you exercise, the more your muscle regenerates. The end result? Something to flex about.
Rejection operates in a similar manner. The more times you hear “no,” the easier it becomes to handle it with grace and poise. And then you’ll try for something else because you know that you’ll be just fine if you get rejected again. Soon you’ll be less likely to skirt away from challenges and risks. And you’ll give yourself more shots at achieving something awesome.
Some people actually strive for rejection. Jia Jiang, speaker and author of Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Trough 100 Days of Rejection, launched 100 Days of Rejection to overcome his fear of hearing “no.” Business and branding coach Tiffany Han runs 100 Rejection Letters, a yearly coaching program to push creative women to relentlessly get their work out there. Both approaches demonstrate how rejection fuels bravery and courage.
Getting rejected means you’re trying something new. It might take a few tries before something works out, and that’s all right. Hardly anything works out well the first time around. Remember, perception is key. Everything changes when you view at it as part of the process, not the outcome.
04. Remember, occasional letdowns make celebrations that much sweeter.
It’s not uncommon for a bout of rejection to harvest a jumble of unhappy feelings. But if everything always worked out, the good would just become the ordinary. There wouldn’t be anything to celebrate or savor.
In Choose the Life You Want: The Mindful Way to Happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., reminds us that the most successful people have experienced the most failures. Need proof? Walt Disney was turned down by 302 bankers before he finally got funding for Disneyland. J. K. Rowling had twelve publishers scoff at Harry Potter. Steve Jobs was fired by his own company before being asked back years later.
How grateful each one of these people must have felt when they finally experienced acceptance. Every single “no” will make that one “yes” more meaningful. Without a string of rejections, we’d fail to see the real value in the ultimate goal. It proves how every little thing we do to achieve our greatest desires adds up in the end.
By adopting these healthy thinking habits, you can transform the way you handle rejection. It will take time and practice, but it will be worth it. Rejection may have once been about surviving, but now it’s also the key to thriving.
Photo Credit: Ryan Flynn