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September 12, 2017 > Get Better at Rejection!

Get Better at Rejection!

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

Have you ever been (a) turned down for a job; (b) rebuffed when asking for a date; (c) denied a promotion; or (d) rejected in any way, shape, or form?

Welcome to the wonderful condition of being human if any of the above apply to you. Take heart in knowing that you are in terrific company. Many of our most gifted and admired fellow human beings have been rejected multiple times. J. K. Rowling received ÒloadsÓ of rejections (IÕm quoting the exact word she used) before a publishing company agreed to publish the first Harry Potter book. Theodor Giesel was rejected 27 times before his book was finally published. If Giesel had not been persistent, millions of children would have grown up without the Cat in the Hat.

We like to laud and celebrate the success of people like Rowling and Giesel. However, what is more amazing than their success is their ability to withstand rejection. Rejection is not fun, to put it mildly. In fact, neuroscientists have shown that the human brain processes rejection in a way very similar to how it processes physical pain. Further, our brains release the same painkilling chemical when we stub our toes as well as when we experience rejection. IÕll put all of this neuro-speak in simple English: rejection hurts. You are not imagining things if you feel like youÕve been punched in the gut after you got dumped.

The good news is you can learn to be more resilient in the face of rejection. Think of it as exercising a muscle to make it stronger. It may sound strange, but you can practice and become better at dealing with rejection. Here are some things you can do to exercise your rejection muscle:

First, acknowledge the pain and hurt you are experiencing. As a therapist, I have worked with so many people who have not been allowed to express or even feel their emotions. DonÕt do this to yourself! Give yourself the space to recognize how painful the rejection is.

Next, look at your situation as objectively as you can. If you were unsuccessful in getting your dream job, bear in mind that tens, perhaps even hundreds of people wanted that exact job. Even if just ten people applied for the job, you had a 90% chance of being rejected. Moreover, if thereÕs an inside candidate angling for the job, your chances of getting the job might have decreased to zero. Educate yourself about the odds of getting rejected so that you can be more accepting of the rejection and not take it personally.

One technique I use to prepare myself for rejection is to have a Plan B, a Plan C, and even a Plan D. This means that if Plan A fails, I am already prepared to activate Plan B. One writer who submits her work to journals has a second envelope (her Plan B) all set and ready to be sent to another publisher in case her first attempt fails.

It isnÕt trite to say that when one door closes, another opens. Rejection does not mean the end of the entire world or universe (even if it feels like it). Yes, the door to one possibility might be closed for now, but this does not mean that all doors to all opportunities are forever closed. Look for other opportunities and keep in mind that there are always other opportunities. They may not be the same types of opportunities but they can nevertheless be just as fruitful. Sometimes, rejection can even lead to bigger and better things!

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