Handling the Stress of Rejection

Rejection can cause a particularly deep form of anger, because rejection seems to carry with it a heavy load: loss of self-esteem, and even of identity. Rejection can also result in depression.

Sometimes it takes this shock of rejection to make you realize that you may have been asking for too little in life and to get moving to do something about it.  You may have settled for what you thought you could have, not what you really wanted.
Or you may have convinced yourself that you really wanted a situation or a relationship in order to escape the uncomfortable ambiguity of not having a settled future.

You have, in fact, made a poor choice.

I first learned how to turn the anger of rejection into useful energy some years ago, after being rejected three times when I tried to transfer to a nearby state college from the community college.  As an older returning student, this rejection played into my fears that I was somehow inadequate.

After the third rejection, I took a deep breath and took stock of skills and abilities, then said to myself, “How dare they reject me!  Why, I’m good.” I then shot off applications to two prestigious universities, one public and one private, that I would never have dared approach before – and got accepted at both, with scholarships.

The energy of anger, racing through my body, shocked me into looking at the situation very differently.  And that energy forced me to take constructive action.

You may feel that you’ve been rejected because you’re inferior in some way, but it may be that you and a given situation just don’t match.  You may have been deluding yourself that you do match, or will match in the near future if you just hang in there long enough.

Very often, you, and what you offer are rejected because another person is just too busy and involved in his or her own life to pay attention now to you and what you offer.

And you can be rejected because someone else sees you more clearly than you see yourself:  as powerful and destined for something better. And it threatens that person.  It’s as if they have recognized that the cocoon conceals a butterfly, and you are the potential butterfly.

To take some of the sting out of rejection, try the following steps:

Pause, take a breath, and release your fantasy about what might have been in that situation.

Recognize what you may have been going for is a feeling of safety rather than what you really want, as in  “this person or job wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s safe to ask for because it isn’t too far out of my reach.”  Is safety an important enough reward to settle for when you yearn for excitement and appreciation?

Sometimes you don’t get a flat “no.”  Instead, you get a situation that drags on and on, leaving you feeling a little drained, a little demeaned, and a little … well, “little.”

Our brains are great at storing negative information, which we can access immediately when we are feeling low. Combat this negativity by keeping a file of all your successes and triumphs, large and small, to review when you need reminders of your true worth. Include notes, cards, and awards.  Pull it out whenever you are low. Ask your friends to contribute (positive points only, please) to the same list.

Take action: reach out for more contacts of all kinds.

And when you do, celebrate diversity! Don’t just look for a mate, a client – or any other kind of match – in the “right” category: gender, age, appearance, income, etc. Do show interest and kindness to people of all different kinds, not just the ones you think can lead you to your goals.

Take up activities you’ve kind of wanted to try, but never did before.

Anyone you meet and connect with can open your eyes and connect you to exciting situations of which you had never dreamed.

Remember, if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.

To settle for a better-than-nothing relationship, to get stuck doing “okay” work, or to live in a place where you are uncomfortable, to keep applying to the same people, whether they are bosses or clients, for recognition of what you have to offer, is to tell yourself that you’re not deserving of anything more.

Maureen Dowd, the columnist once wrote, “If you settle for less than you think you’re worth, you’ll get even less than you settled for.”

Think about it. Then reach for the stars.  Hey, all they can say is “No,” but at a much higher level than you have been experiencing.

And, when you reach your level – the one where you are energetic and enthused – you just might find “yes” is a frequent occurrence.

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