I used to think that the way to deal with rejection was to not get rejected. I’m starting to reconsider.
Over the past few years, I’ve had to face lots of rejection. It’s been humbling, to say the least, and also painful and disheartening. Because of the pain associated with rejection, I always thought it was a) bad but also b) avoidable. I’m beginning to see that neither is quite true.
What makes rejection so bad (and something you so desperately want to avoid) is the psychological damage it does to you. Many times, when we’re initially rejected, it’s because of ourselves. Either some boy in school doesn’t like you because he says you aren’t cute or you didn’t make the basketball team because you’re not as good as you thought or you didn’t get invited to a party because you’re not cool. Rejection reminds us of our inferiority, it plays on our insecurities and it is the most effective way to deter us from trying. It’s a constant nagging force in our lives.
But rejection isn’t always bad, and I don’t think it’s always avoidable. Sometimes, you’ll get rejected. It happens to the best of us. It’s just a matter of how you deal with it.
Usually, the way I deal with rejection is crying. Intense sobbing. And beating myself up. And thinking of all the reasons I was rejected and convincing myself that all of them are valid (in some cases, like being rejected from a sports team, the reasons may indeed be valid. In some cases, they’re not). That technique can be pretty self defeating. It’s the technique that looks at success based on outcomes. The way to deal with rejection is to think of success as effort.
This may sound like a feel-good, inspirational, self-help way to view success and I guess it kinda is. But even more than that, I think it’s a Biblical way to view success. If we think of effort as obedience (which in some cases it is), the result of the obedience says nothing about you but rather the fact that you were obedient. Now, I know, effort isn’t always obedience. Sometimes it can be disobedience. But even in cases where it doesn’t perfectly translate and there isn’t some sleek Biblical principle you can apply to rejection and failure, I still think it’s helpful. It humbles us, it teaches us, it matures us, and in a lot of cases, it reveals our true desires to us. Because most times, after dealing with the emotional turmoil of rejection, I’m able to clearly see what it is I actually desire. Maybe I didn’t actually want to play that sport, or that guy wasn’t so cute, or (for a more affirming realization) I do actually want to pursue this career.
So yeah, the way to deal with rejection is to feel the pain you feel, because pain is part of what makes us human, learn from your experience, because every moment is a teachable moment, and remember that this – all of this – is ridiculously temporary.
PS. Part of the inspiration for this post comes from my decision to ask a guy out and me waiting for his response, which may very well be rejection (if he even responds at all). Such is life, homies!