We’ve all been there. That crushing feeling of rejection when you don’t get what you hoped for:
- You missed out on the dream job
- Your event plan got ripped to shreds in a meeting
- An exciting new client declined your project proposal
- You submitted a paper that didn’t make the cut
- All your prospecting / sales calls have been ‘no’s’
Or in a social situation your messages or invitations were ignored or dismissed.
Your personal relationships were broken by the other party.
No one is exempt from rejection in their career and/or life.
But this fact doesn’t stop it from hurting.
It also doesn’t stop us from taking the negative emotions from rejection at work to home and vice versa.
What’s worse is that it can have a lasting impact on our self confidence and self esteem. Because the painful memories stay with us for a while…
What happens in your brain when you experience rejection?
A 2011 study highlighted that:
“The same regions of the brain that become active in response to painful sensory experiences are activated during intense experiences of social rejection.”
Source: Science Daily
That’s right, our brains are firing in the same way that we respond to physical pain. That’s why rejection feels like it hurts us.
Rejection can also trigger a bout of Imposter Syndrome, because being rejected can make you feel unworthy, undeserving and shame.
Rejection can send you into a spiral of negative thoughts:
They don’t like me > I’m not good enough > I don’t deserve to be here
And that’s just to name a few.
What’s worse is that FEAR of rejection can hold us back too.
The fear can stop us from putting ourselves out there, applying for a dream job, picking up the phone, sending the email or trying something new.
We can, in fact, SELF REJECT first. So it can be a double downer!
Women take rejection personally more often than Men do
We THINK rejection is about ‘us’ but actually it’s not. It’s situational and not personal.
The person saying no has their own reasons for their decision. But we fall into the trap of overthinking it and then blaming ourselves.
It’s easy to get caught up in our own heads for too long. Blaming ourselves for doing something ‘wrong’. Or thinking that our idea, business, or even ourselves are not good enough (hello inner critic).
Berating ourselves for trying in the first place, for choosing that person to speak to, and the list goes on.
But the truth is, rejection is often not even about us, it’s about the other person.
Perhaps they just can’t see your vision.
They had a bad day.
The timing is not quite right.
They have unrealistic expectations.
Or there is no current budget.
So don’t waste too much time or energy thinking about the reason for the rejection, unless there is a learning to take out of it, or actual constructive feedback.
But if there’s nothing to be gained, we need to move ourselves to action quickly…
So how do we actually NOT take rejection personally?
Step 1 – Remind yourself that rejection is part of the process.
Yep we want to lean into rejection. This helps ‘normalise’ the disappointment or negative feelings because no one escapes rejection when building a career, business (or in life).
Step 2 – Confidently reframe rejection into ‘redirection’.
For every ‘no’ you get, you’re closer to a ‘yes’ or the breakthrough you’re seeking. You should pat yourself on the back when rejected because you’ve had the Confidence and courage to put yourself out there. It’s actually a mini win!
Step 3 – Remind yourself of WHY you started.
You’re passionate and driven. You took the action, the career step, launched the business or side hustle, or asked the person on a date because you followed what you wanted. You had value to add or a difference to make. You were Confident and Brave.
Don’t lose sight of this and don’t let someone else derail or delay your future actions simply because they didn’t see what you needed or wanted them to see right now. You are worthy of your dreams, goals and success, so dust yourself off and get back out there because you’re now one step closer to your goal. And each time you try again you’re building another important thing, resilience.
Now I know some of you may be thinking “Well, it can be easier said than done Alison”, you’re right, because rejection is painful. Our brains feel that pain.
But here’s how to start the process today…
Give yourself time to process the emotion. It’s OK to be upset, you just don’t want it to drag you down for too long. Take an hour or day off if you need to, do a big workout, speak to a loved one who has your back or simply cry or scream it out, do whatever you need to do but give yourself a deadline 1-24 hours max.
Start tomorrow (and every day) on a high with positive affirmations or what I call Affirmations to Action. Choose 2-3 positive statements that start with (I am, I can, or I will) and make sure the statements drive an action or outcome. Example – ‘I will speak up in today’s meeting because my voice has value’. Say these Affirmations to Action statements out loud to yourself every morning. Affirmations evoke positive emotion and are a great confidence booster too!
Revisit your goal(s)/targets. When hit with rejection we can lose sight of what we were doing or what we need to do ‘next’. The sooner you can get back to taking action, the sooner your Confidence will fire up to silence your negative self talk.
Choose one key action you can take today/this week that aligns with your goals/target or the new direction you’ve been given. Even if you consider this action small or ‘easy’, each step counts and each step builds momentum. The key is to get moving again as soon as possible.
You’ve probably noticed I have mentioned ‘Confidence’ a few times – that is because:
Confidence is key to helping you not take rejection personally
The higher your Confidence, the easier it is to deal with rejection. As I mentioned, no one is exempt from rejection. In fact, confident individuals can experience more of it because they are taking more action. But there is joy and advantage in failing fast or being redirected more often, it gets you to your goal faster.
Committing to daily affirmations and other self care practices as well as having a clear set of goals and daily actions is a great way to build momentum and keep your Confidence and mindset in growth mode.
Confidence is also a key ingredient for managing Imposter Syndrome and those pesky Automatic Negative Thoughts that can appear after a rejection.
Your Confidence helps you practice separating the story you’re telling yourself (about why you’ve been rejected) from the indisputable facts:
- Another candidate had more appropriate experience
- Your boss likes to make a show of control over other people’s ideas
- The client can’t afford to work with you or lied about the timeline / budget
- Your paper now has constructive feedback and version 2 will be better!
- The person or relationship doesn’t align with your values or needs
And in many cases, it turns out that NO actually means “not now” or “not in this format”.
More often than not, the rejection isn’t personal
- They rejected your solution to the problem, rather than you as a person
- They’ve provided (or you can seek) feedback and try a different approach next time
- They were dishonest in the process – the issue is them
- It could be timing – so the rejection might turn into a yes later (provided you stay in the hunt if appropriate, like in a business dealing)
There really are so many variables.
And while rejection is hard (and painful at times) you will learn something from each experience, which makes you more resilient, experienced and better equipped to deal with future rejection. There are many silver linings.
Keep putting yourself out there, each small step builds confidence, even if you don’t realise at the time, your brain does.
And remember – there’s no such thing as rejection, only REDIRECTION.
You’ve got this.