How to Navigate Rejection Both Professionally and Personally and Not Let It Destroy You
Why Does Rejection Hurt?
Rejection is one of the most horrible feelings in life. In evolutionary psychology, the pain felt from rejection is explained. Basically, rejection hurts and tortures us because it's alerting us to alter our behavior to not stray too far from the "tribe." In prehistoric times, being "too different" and straying could mean death.
We do know that being unique isn't always bad and that mutations have led to evolution. In fact, that's part of the argument as to why we shouldn't terminate pregnancies if the future detection of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia is made available—we could be terminating the next Steve Jobs, even though it is at the expense of the comfort of the individual.
However, rejection still hurts, and I, more than the average person, certainly know so—as a woman who doesn't adhere to gender norms WHILE pursuing a career in writing. My love life and career certainly lead me to feeling pangs of rejection every day. So then I'm faced with the choice: Do I change my behavior and choices that feel so instinctive and intuitive to simply have an "easier" life, or can I develop resilience as the rejection continues to layer on?
How to Handle Rejection Professionally
Depending on what kind of job you have, you may be more open to the possibility of rejection than those who have more conventional occupations, such as teachers, waitresses, mechanics, etc. If you are in a commission-based field or in the arts (the two are not mutually exclusive), you may be more prone to rejection.
It all depends on your own wiring and if you have what psychologists call "rejection sensitivity." Do you tend to take rejection to heart, or are you one of those individuals who have an easier time seeing the bigger picture and not taking it so personally?
Take the poll below to see where you lie on the rejection sensitivity scale.
If you're in a position where your career does expose you to lots of rejection and you DO experience rejection sensitivity, this is what you need to do to persevere and maintain relatively solid mental health:
- Have a therapist or at least someone you can vent to on a weekly basis. When it comes to rejection, therapy can be useful, because your therapist, a totally objective third-party, can give you insight into your blind spots. A friend could be helpful when it comes to letting you vent, but they may not have an unbiased truth to offer you.
- Have more stress-relief outlets than the normal person. If you get rejected more than the average person, you need more outlets to let go of that stress. Try a consistent fitness routine, writing in a journal, taking photos, making gifts, or going out more than usual. Don't see yourself as splurging. You're merely balancing out your lifestyle so that you don't completely deplete your serotonin levels.
- Always try to keep things in perspective. Remind yourself gently that you are in a rejection-prone field, and so millions, like you, struggle to maintain. The difference between those who become successful and those who don't are those who keep going and going despite being rejected. Convince yourself, even if you don't see it, that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel!
Where do you lie on the spectrum of "Rejection Sensitivity"?
How to Handle Personal Rejection
Speaking from personal experience, rejection among friend groups and/or lovers sucks! If you're a novice at these kinds of rejections, your impulse may be to totally curl up into a ball and not want to face the world anymore. This is also true if you're a veteran of rejection, like me. You may have gotten the short end of the stick so many times that you've completely deconstructed yourself and gotten stuck in the trap of wondering "What the hell is wrong with me?" over and over again.
I'm going to tell you the very simple solution that comes with social rejection. First of all, ask yourself what you're being rejected for. Let's say that it's because you're a woman who comes across as "too aggressive." Now that you've identified what sets you apart from the norm (and thus, makes you vulnerable to rejection), you have a choice. Will you change your behavior, or do your inner values trump your feelings and will you stay the same? Once you make the choice, move forward, don't look back, and feel some semblance of harmony knowing that your fate is in your hands.