How to Deal with Rejection
By Ladies Get Paid Founder & Author Claire Wasserman. Follow Claire for more career tips, or purchase The Ladies Get Paid book. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.
9 Ways to Deal With Rejection
We’ve all been there: how to deal with rejection. I recently experienced the worst professional rejection of my life. Financially, it sucked. Emotionally? Let’s just say I was in a fetal position for a little while. But then I did something that surprised me. I got out of bed, took out my journal, and started writing all the ways I was going to make this “failure” work for me. I decided I wasn’t just going to “get through it” but would actively use it to learn how to deal with rejection. I reminded myself of a Kristin Neff quote, “we can think of failure as part of life’s apprenticeship” and got excited. These 9 tips will help you learn how to deal with rejection in a healthy way, and how to make failure work for you.
1. Feel your feelings
This may sound counterintuitive, but the first step to learning how to deal with rejection is to just let yourself feel whatever it is you’re instinctually feeling. Blame yourself. Go down the self-berating spiral for just a bit. Why? If you try to avoid or ignore your feelings, they won’t go away. In fact, they’ll inevitably pop up at an inconvenient time, and most likely in an inconvenient way. Feeling your feelings is an important step in moving on from rejection. When emotion is triggered, chemicals released by your brain surge through your body and activate bodily sensations. Then, within roughly 90 seconds, they’re flushed out of your bloodstream. As Jon Kabat-Zin says, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” So get that surfboard and hang ten for a bit.
2. Pretend you’re an elite athlete
The ability to handle difficult emotions might be the most important thing you can learn in life, and the only way to learn is by going (or should I say growing!) through it. Like a muscle that gets stronger with use, the brain changes itself when you struggle to master a new challenge. And how do muscles get bigger? You have to break some fibers, and yes that will be painful. When a shitty thing happens, see this as an opportunity to get stronger. Have faith that you can handle the weight, as crushing as it might feel at first. One way to do that is by reminding yourself of the heavy things you’ve lifted in the past. You might’ve been bruised and bloody, but you got through it, and it will help you learn to deal with rejection.
3. Keep a reminder near you
That rough experience you went through in the past? Keep a reminder of it near you. This can be a photo, a printable quote, a post-it note, or anything that will remind you you’re way tougher than you give yourself credit for.
4. Seek more information
We often get things wrong. We misremember, misread, make assumptions, and because we’re wired to focus on the negative (our ancestors had to survive out there!), we often assume the worst. So before you go down the rabbit hole of self-flagellation, confirm that you have the evidence to back up what you’re feeling and if you need to gather more information.
5. Protect yourself
So many of us define our identity and worth through our “output”: how accomplished we are, what others think of us, and this can make it incredibly hard to deal with rejection or failure. That’s a dangerous game to play because it requires us to continually prove ourselves, over and over, and makes it that much harder to deal with rejection. How exhausting. Plus, it involves so many things that are out of our control; for example in my case, what my publisher is focusing on. When rejection or setbacks happen, remind yourself that you are not what happens to you, and that protecting your mental health is the ultimate priority. One way to do that is by creating a shield of armor through visualizing gold, molten lava, poured all over your body. Might sound funny, but it works!
6. Find purpose
Whenever crappy things happen, my default is to immediately try and find the silver lining. While that sounds like a good thing, turns out it was just a way of avoiding my feelings (which always come out later, usually at an inconvenient time and in an inconvenient way.) Now, after I’ve sat with the suffering, I seek purpose, not positivity. Namely, what can I learn from this? How will I grow? And then, how can I make this work for me? Can I use it to my advantage in any way? Finding something that will improve your life out of a bad experience will help you deal with rejection.
7. Develop self-compassion
This goes beyond just “being nice” to yourself. It requires active comforting; seriously, as corny as it might sound, say out loud: “This is really difficult right now. How can I care for and comfort myself in this moment?” Also, remind yourself that you’re not alone. When we experience something difficult, we often feel like we’re the only ones going through it. The word “compassion” literally means “to suffer with ”; and so tapping into something larger than you – whether it’s talking with a friend, joining a community – like Ladies Get Paid – can be extremely helpful. Also don’t wait to give yourself self-compassion when you need it. Start a daily practice where you check in with yourself; I highly recommend trying a Loving Kindness meditation.
8. Watch it like a movie
When we’re watching a movie, whatever the character is going through, we know it has to happen in order for them to get to the next scene. Same thing for you. You just don’t know its purpose because you haven’t seen the end of the movie. This has to happen for the next scene to happen. Balance of driving the narrative but also allowing the story to unfold. Speaking of story, whatever this shitty situation is, how often do these become funny stories that we tell to our friends later?
9. Celebrate yourself
Our lives are only as big as the risks that we are willing to take. And getting a rejection means you took a risk! And by going through the rough stuff, remind yourself that your future wins will be that much sweeter because you know how hard it was to get there.
Want to learn more about how to deal with rejection? Watch “How to Respond to Critical Feedback” with Claire Wasserman on the Ladies Get Paid YouTube Channel.