Don’t Take Rejection Personally

Posted on June 8, 2022

Are you that kind of a person who takes rejection personally? Well, don’t expect to grow! That’s right, and this post is for you; try digging in to the end.

Of course, the emotional pain that comes with rejection can damage our self-esteem, moods and affect our well-being. Yet, as you shall see in this article, the biggest damage caused by rejection is actually self-inflicted.

Three months into the year of 2021, four of my major clients backed out of our contracts almost at the same time. In no time, my monthly income plunged from $15,000 to $1,200. My world crushed insultingly; so unbelievable how all the four could leave at once. And honestly, the rejection I felt run deep.  

Whether you experience a slight inconvenience or major happening, the emotional pain of rejection really hurts. When you decide to pursue a promising opportunity only to be met with the stings of denial, it hurts even more. 

Yet, being rejected doesn’t spell the end neither is it innately negative. Actually, it’s how we interpret it that turns it into an opportunity or impediment. For me, losing the four key clients was just a setback that set me up for a greater comeback. I’m glad it happened that way.

But why does rejection hurt so bad? — and how should we internalise it? 

We cannot sugarcoat the agony, shame and embarrassment that come with rejection. According to fMRI studies, feelings of rejection are associated with the same neural pathways that trigger physical pain.

As a matter of fact, one study discovered that swallowing Tylenol reduced the emotional pain caused by rejection.

Scientific research aside, our society today looks at rejection and failure as two sides of a coin. If you’re not considered for a promotion, you’ll inform everybody around you that your boss “rejected” you or that you “failed” to meet what was expected for promotion.

Eventually, we start thinking that the reason we didn’t get the promotion is because we lacked something. That explains why we get fussy over rejection—since it caresses our ego to make it focus on itself. What didn’t I do? Why did they give him the promotion instead of me? Was I not qualified enough?

Rejection taken personally inhibits your growth 

Look at rejection as a chance to reflect, make changes, grow and become successful. Unfortunately, our reactive perception of rejection swathes it with negativity making it difficult to look at it otherwise.

For instance, when you keep telling yourself that….

  • Rejection must be avoided → That’s pre-rejecting yourself. The state of pre-rejection will make you stop applying for jobs, shy away from taking up new challenges at your workplace, or you will stop making proposals and asking someone out before they even say no.
  • When rejection hits us → The world is against you. When we see rejection as unfair, we end up feeling like the victim. Yet in reality, life isn't out to intentionally harm us—it's totally mediocre. Such a neutral mentality plays a key role in helping us make bold decisions.
  • Rejection is permanent → It stops you from trying. When we keep telling ourselves that rejection would last forever, we shut ourselves from making the most of future opportunities. And just because you were denied a particular opportunity such as a role at your dream job doesn't mean you’ll never have chances. Steven Spielberg is a living testimony of this. 

Why rejection has little to do with you 

Not taking rejection personally can be hard but the best way to overcome it is by applying reason. Here are some reasons which prove that rejection isn’t always as serious as it seems.

1. It's a way of communication

Looking beyond the emotional hurt you will realise that rejection passes a message.  According to blogger Amy Tang, this message "is simply information regarding compatibility between you and what you were rejected from." 

So, what you do with this information is entirely up to you. But again, rejection has a lot to do with information relating to compatibility.

For example, the MIT's announcement explaining the reason as to why they were forced to re-institute the SAT/ACT (no, ACT isn’t Advanced Card Tricks) requirement after taking a short break: their research revealed that standardised tests were more accurate in predicting student academic success at MIT.

Here's their explanation about the change: 

​​When we talk about evaluating academic readiness for MIT, that doesn't mean we are measuring your academic potential, or intrinsic worth as a human. It only means that we are confident you, at this specific moment in your educational trajectory, can do well in the kind of hard math and science tests demanded by our unusual education.

MIT announcement

If you find yourself rejected by your Tafe or university owing to your exam scores, the message is simple: your quantitative skills couldn’t match your theirs. Period!

2. Our inner narrative doesn’t say the truth

In our minds, the world is all about us. Every interaction is filtered through our perceptions. When we are rejected by someone, then they have poor thoughts about us. But hey, we have NO idea what others think about us.

Brianna Wiest, the author of 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Thinkexplains:

We assume that people think the way we do—because our internal narrative and process of the world is all we know.

Brianna Wiest

In reality, there are a million and one things going on that we can’t see. 

From the face value, we’ll only see the job rejection but won’t see the company considered an employee who has been working with them for years. We’ll focus on the “Read at 7:55 p.m.” pop up. But won’t see how the recipient of the message is driving and can’t respond right away.

3. Rejection takes up only a splinter of our identity

Rejection can prompt us to re-think our attitudes and re-evaluate our self-worth. However, rejection only highlights a very small portion of who we truly are. Imagine yourself proposing a fresh idea at work and your boss ignores it. It’s your initiative that gets measured up and assessed, not your whole self worth as a person.

How to turn rejection into opportunity—not a barrier 

It’s surprising that rejection can end up being the most constructive thing to ever happen to you. Even when that means losing all your best clients within a week.

Look at rejection as a sign of growth 

Have you been rejected lately? Great! This is an indication that you’re on your way forward. Since, if you’re not facing any rejection occasionally, it could mean you are evading change hence stagnant.

Keep in mind that rejection is a sign that you’re taking up new opportunities. The world will never throw opportunities at you—you have to take yourself out there and go for them.

When I lost four of my biggest clients at the beginning of the year, it had to do with the fact that my business depended more on these four clients. As an entrepreneur, I needed to increase my client base to achieve more stability.

Sure, this was a setback. But it was a sign that my business had grown to a point of attracting such serious clients that could sustain my business.

Just a reminder that rejection is also an indication of healthy resistance. For instance, if customers reject your rates for your products or services, it could also mean that your prices are great. You can’t appeal everyone.

Take rejection as an opportunity to learn

You may not see it right away, but rejection gives you a great opportunity to learn.

You can use it to gather information about a given situation. For example, during a job search you may send your resume to 30 companies and only hear from two.

What if you improved your resume instead of lamenting over the 28 unresponsive companies? Would the results change? Consider rejection as a data point and make relevant adjustments, then continue with your race to greatness.

Rejection gives you a chance to enhance your skills. You can start by asking yourself, “why not?” And this entails understanding the reasons behind a specific decision so as to enhance it in the future.

If you’re a digital marketer, then you will be familiar with the ‘split testing’. Use method this in everyday life. You will be surprised at how much faster you will excel professionally and personally.

Rejection was a blessing in disguise

After my four clients dumped me, I took time to analyse the reasons that led to the situation. This happened in the thick of COVID-19 when lockdowns were the order of day and people had to work from home. Managing employees virtually put a strain on my ability to deliver services effectively in the way that I use too. Past this shame of burnouts and rejection, I felt something else, relief.

Being a seasoned sales professional, rejection is built into my professional identity. I am still human though, holding my clients close to my chest. This aside, I still had to go through the motions.

I took a break just to revitalise and recover from the pain of rejection. I gained the courage to ask my clients what exactly had happened and to my surprise, it was nothing personal—two were experiencing similar challenges as I was, another’s budgets dwindled along with staff moral while another closed down operations shortly after. And even if their reasons could have been personal, for example, negative feedback on my services, this would still have been an opportunity to learn and improve my solutions.

Clearly, none of my ex-clients pinpointed my inherent self-worth. Yet the situation of the rejection gave me the opportunity to cold-pitch new clients, find new ways to provide solutions virtually and become more forward-thinking.

And finally, the rejection got me writing this article.