How to handle rejection like a champ
In my line of work (gloriously creative weirdo), rejection isn’t just an occasional thing — it’s more like an annoying gnat that circles my head on a near-constant basis. I swat at it, scream obscenities under my breath, and sometimes, find myself in a ball on the bathroom floor. But, what I’ve learned from being told NO isn’t just how to get the YES, but also how to handle every rejection with grace, elegance, and ice cream (. . . Okay, who am I kidding? Alcohol).
The Career “R”
If you’re any sort of human doing any sort of job, chances are, you may know a thing or two about being rejected. Maybe you’ve applied for something corporate but aren’t quite what they’re looking for. Maybe you’ve been out of work and are looking to jump back into the employment pool but can’t seem to get that second interview. Or maybe you’re putting in the time at your 9 to 5 but your bigger-than-life ideas aren’t received the way you’d hoped.
How to deal
When you’re chasing a dream, maintaining a current dream, or plotting out a life plan, it’s important to remember in business, it’s not personal. You hear me? IT’S NOT PERSONAL! Being a writer, this was the hardest lesson for me to learn (aka I’m still learning), because what others see as subjective, I see as MY WORK SUCKS! I SUCK! Learn to separate the two — business and personal — or this whole rejection thing will kind of kill you. Trust.
If you’re on the job hunt
Use whatever resources you have at your disposal and ask them to take a look at your resume. Where can you spice things up? How can you get them to say YES? Get fresh eyes to help you highlight your strong points because you DO have some! Have a practice interview — put on your interview outfit, and go through all the motions you would with a potential employer. This will help shake the nerves so the real thing goes over without a hitch.
If you didn’t get the job, ask this very important question: “What could I have done better?” With specific feedback, like “you didn’t have enough experience” or “there were spelling errors on your resume,” you’ll have the tools to improve so you can totes rock the next one.
If you have the job:
Even in a set career, rejection happens. If you’re looking for ways to improve, all of the above still apply! Take a step back and re-evaluate, and find ways you can re-work ideas and goals so that the next rejection stings a little less. If you’re proactive, you’re more likely to succeed. Recruit a trusted friend, mentor, or associate to help you spot the places you can work on. It’s tough love and it can be brutal, but in the end, you’ll be stronger for it. You can do this.
The Relationship “R”
In general, you’re bound to get a “s/he’s just not that into you” a few times in life, no matter how rad you are. Sometimes people just don’t vibe, and that’s totally okay! Love is friggin’ hard. Even in the easiest relationships where all involved parties are skipping around singing Happy, people change and evolve and if you’re not changing and evolving together, well, you know where I’m going with this.
How to deal
Just because one other human doesn’t want to date you, doesn’t mean you should join a nunnery. Love is a weird, nonsensical journey. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do or how incredible you are, it’ll happen on its own time.
Call in reinforcements
No one will understand what you’re going through more than your BFFs; because chances are, they’ve been there (. . . can I get an Amen?). Lean on them for strength, laughter, and a place for your tears to fall. Binge watch every episode of New Girl and revel in how Jess and Nick didn’t make it, but, with the help of their BFFs, they got back on those proverbial horses. When you’re all cried out, put on your fav outfit that’s not a sweatsuit, and plan a “girls only” night. Raise the roof!
If going out isn’t your thing, find other ways to stay busy. Throw yourself into work, snag a new hobby, volunteer at a local shelter, start baking, do ANYTHING to keep your mind off this (for now). It’ll sting, but over time, you’ll feel stronger than ever. Pinky promise.
Treat yo self
So you only went out once and they never called again? Maybe they were so obviously not Mr./Ms. Right, but it still hurts a little. You can’t let it ruin you. Who cares what one person thinks? They say there’s more fish in the sea so grab your swimsuit and get back out there, STAT.
Not ready? As lameasaurous as it sounds, give yourself some love. Take yourself to dinner. Buy yourself a birthday present. Do absolutely anything to make yourself feel good. Put YOU first and love will come naturally. And remember: I’m sure even Ryan Gosling and Jennifer Lawrence were rejected in love at some point (though I have no idea who the heck would do that).
The Personal “R”
You asked a friend to hang out but they said no, and for some reason, your feelings are hurt. It doesn’t help that your other friend never returned your text and your cat is acting like a jerk (you had your one-minute window to pet; don’t push it).
How to deal
Breathe. Life can feel overwhelming pretty quick and what was once just a single rejection suddenly feels like a tidal wave of “nobody loves me!” When feeling out of control, take a moment to find the silver lining. Think of three awesome things another friend has done for you. It can be as obvious as a phone call when you really needed it or as obscure as an inside joke they’ve texted, but regardless, find something and cling to it like it’s the last piece of cake on your birthday.
If you’re feeling vulnerable, don’t be afraid to tell your friends you need them. If you’re like me, it’s hard to ask for help. Doing so takes a little (okay, A LOT of) courage. It’s possible your friend(s) didn’t even know they’ve hurt you.
Life can seem relentless at times, so take a walk, watch a funny movie, or immerse yourself in a good book. Take a warm bath, run until you can’t feel your legs (or your feelings), or call someone you know will pick up. Look for the small wins. This will give you the space to see things a little more clearly. Maybe the first friend already had plans and the second friend didn’t get the text. (But more than likely, your cat was just being a jerk.)
. . . And just because there are so many other forms of rejection, ere are just a few more tips that apply to all of them.
Don’t broadcast it
Whatever you do, don’t shoot off any type of email or social media post immediately after being rejected. It’s just a bad idea. Things will, inevitably, come out wrong, and it can’t be taken back (screen shots, everyone). Despite those times it may seem like it’s been deleted or unread, there’s a permanence to all of these forms of communication. Don’t put anything out there you wouldn’t want haunting you forever.
And the way you type something may not sound as nice when read as text. Misconstrued tone can turn even well-meaning words into a bad situation. If you need to talk ASAP, do it in person or over the phone so your words aren’t lost in translation. Like maybe you were being sarcastic when you said that employer/potential love interest/friend was a complete tool bag, but make sure it’s understood that way.
Don’t make any big life decisions
Seriously, because once it’s done, you’ll feel all kinds of bad.
- Now is not the time to decide a completely new career path. Give it a few days, at least, before jumping ship to take up miming.
- Don’t broadcast your dating rejections or breakup story to every last person in your life,. Can you blab to those you’re closest to? Absolutely. But if you find yourself talking a stranger’s ear off on the street or crying to the girl who makes your lattes, back the truck up and chill.
- Don’t start de-friending people on social media, puh-lease! Not only does this suggest you are too emotional in this moment, you may regret it later. Give it some time. I beg.
By finding ways to improve or different avenues to try, you’re not sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. It’s okay to allow a solid day of sobbing and/or ice cream eating after a rejection of any kind. BUT, and I say this with experience, it’s so so so important to pick yourself back up, wipe those tears, and toss that ice cream once the finality sets in. Sometimes even forcing ourselves to pretend everything’s cool actually makes you feel, well, cool. Don’t give yourself permission to drone on about your woes because a) we all have them and b) you might alienate everyone around you. Sure, you’ll feel better for a hot minute, but then what?
This is where you get to decide which kind of person you’ll be:
A quitter or a fighter.
Just remember that everyone has been rejected in some way at some point in their lives. It does not define you but what you do with said “R” kind of does.
(Image via Daniel Horowitz for NPR.)