Everyone gets rejected. I don’t think there’s a person out there that doesn’t hate the idea of losing out whether it’s a job, a relationship, an idea. It’s a very painful experience.
And rejection is something I deal with each and every single day as does each and every person on this crazy planet.
I want to better understand how I deal (or do not deal) with rejection and why I find it so terrible to experience. I don’t believe that it should be so painful or so horrible, and it’s a goal of mine to lessen the pain of the experience, to accept it and move on. It doesn’t mean I have to like it. It doesn’t mean it won’t be a disappointment now or in the future.
Rejection is an unfortunate reality for each and every one of us and to believe that I experience rejection in some fantastically different way from anyone else is just ludicrous. Still, why is rejection such a sharp, unrelenting emotion that I can’t seem to just accept and then move on?
Let’s Take A Look at Reality
It took quite some time for me to understand that what I must cultivate is a ‘blended’ reality’: my own observations and feelings and the quality of those observations, seen without bias and in correct proportion. As cold, hard fact. And, oh, how cold, hard facts can be very, very disturbing and unhappy things. On the other hand, how can you know and grow if you don’t acknowledge them?
For example: I can’t find work. There are a variety of reasons. Does this mean that the rejections of my hard work to find a job make me a bad person? No. Does it mean that the idea of a positive outcome is mostly beyond my control?
And what, pray tell, can I do about outcomes that are out of my control?
Not a damn thing. Not one.
I’m quite capable of doing a great many things, and some of those things I do well, indeed. But is that enough? Why don’t things go my way more often? I’m a good person. A person of value. A person that can change, grow, bring something to the table. I can be effective. Yet I am (like millions of others) rejected time and time again when I am more than qualified — even overqualified — for a position I could do and in which I could thrive.
The Reality Check: it turns out I’m not very good at dealing with rejection. What a surprise. But this is exactly where I most need my good qualities, my strengths and understanding to shine because I must be able to ask: Why should I succumb to the pain of rejection when I could be doing something positive for myself?
Just Let Go of the Rope
Dealing with rejection isn’t so much dealing with the immediate outcome than screwing up my thinking about what might be coming my way. And since my crystal ball doesn’t work (and never did), I’m left to imagine all sorts of horrible outcomes. I will never get a job. No one takes me seriously. There is no place for me in the world. No one understands me or my many positive characteristics. Everyone hates me. I should just completely stop living and suffer.
Do you see the spiral? That horrid, out of control spiral of negative thinking?
Well, let me tell you, there’s nothing like the nightmare of being a person whose out-of-control negativity comes barreling down and crushes him beneath massive steel wheels. A big ol’ train wreck. Rejection is just one of the many triggers that can cause someone without good working psychological tools to fail to deal with negative emotions and perceptions. It’s vital that I trust my counselor, because I need to let go of the rope and let rejection happen. I can’t shy away from this reality and refuse to look at rejection from a healthy viewpoint. I’ve done it. It’s not a solution.
My mental health professional suggested the following tools to keep me aware and hopefully out of that nasty spiral of negativity:
Distance yourself. You can’t banish negative self-talk forever, but you can take a step back from it. When you notice negative self-talk occurring, Address it like you would an opinionated third party. You might say, “Thanks for sharing,” or “It’s interesting you feel that way” and move on.
Distract yourself. Over-thinking involves focusing on a train of thought that goes around and around. You can stop that train of thought by focusing on something else. Try any activity that fully engages your mind.
Call them on it. Give your negative thoughts the third-degree and they could crumble. You might ask yourself, “Is that really true?” or “Is there another way to look at this situation?” You may also look for benefits. If you missed that job promotion, are there any lessons for the future you can take from the situation? Or could another opportunity come out of it?
Save them for later. Set aside a time of day for negative self-talk. If you hear yourself doubting, blaming, or comparing yourself to others at another time of day, tell yourself you will come back to the conversation later. When the appointed time arrives, your negative thoughts may have lost most of their oomph.
Paradigm Shift? My, That Sounds Painful
So if I learn to take this advice and use it, will it work? Many people seem to agree that it does. Even my mother thinks it sounds like a good idea. Will it move my thinking away from the rut it is in and help me make a success out of dealing with rejection?
Got me. Who the hell knows? Well, I think I know, anyway.
I’m just beginning to take these suggestions to heart. I’m only four months into a new medication regimen, and thinking with any sort of real understanding or perspective isn’t a sure bet. Even then, my perspective may not be fully formed or particularly reliable. A paradigm shift could take an awfully long time but I believe that with practice and patience my thinking will change for the better and allow me to withstand rejection more effectively.
Dory’s Got a Point
Acceptance of rejection takes practice. And the ‘just keep swimming’ motivational speech is one that I have always laughed at — until now. Now it means something very real to me. It defines the motivation for what I have to do every day, all the time. I have to keep swimming toward my goals. Swimming toward a better understanding of my reality. Seeing the big ocean as a help, not a hindrance, because if I don’t like where I’m at, I can swim in another direction. As long as I just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, just keep swimming …
Rejection, Put Up Your Dukes!
That’s right, rejection. I reject you! I don’t need to cloud my life with worry over rejection. It’s going to happen and I don’t have to like it but it’s a reality and there ain’t a single damn thing I can do about that. Others might reject me for just about any reason but I understand my self-worth even if they don’t, won’t or can’t. I will do my best even if others never recognize my worth. My response to their ignorance of my abilities is to do my very best and say, ‘Oh, well, let’s move on’.
Do I think this will happen overnight, that I will somehow magically and instantaneously be impervious to rejection? My reality meter points to Hell, No. Could I be hurt and sometimes even devastated by rejection? Hell, Yes. But like most temporary moods the pain of rejection will eventually deflate and fade over time. It can’t have any power over me if I don’t allow it that power. So, take that, rejection!
When I think about it, it’s not the rejection that hurts, it’s my response that’s killing me.
Go This Way. No, Not the Other Way, THIS Way.
One foot forward and then another. Making sure I’m watching where I’m going so I’m not sideswiped by a manufactured emotional crisis. Making sure I’m looking ahead to a time when I get what I need or want. Ensuring my journey doesn’t have the impediment of a million sharp rocks in my shoes.
I decided that if I can’t work for others, if others won’t value my opinions, hard work and capabilities, then I will spend the time working on myself. Hey, I’m valuable and besides, maybe I can use that time to get to work and spiff myself up a bit. Always nice for my attitude to look its best.
For those like me who are bipolar or suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, it’s a true and good thing to remember that keeping yourself going means one step at a time. That’s what a journey is made of: starts and stops, detours, forging new paths are all part of it and perhaps it’s best to enjoy rather than resist them. As long as I keep moving forward that journey is going to be a success. I’m going to end up somewhere anyway but perhaps the person I become along the road will rejoice instead of worrying that I didn’t do enough, or be someone who listened to negativity and rejection rather than find reality and happiness.
Most of all I believe these words I’ve written and the sage advice of my mental health care providers. I’m nowhere near perfect but if I listen and learn from those that want to help me to perfect my tools I just might reach my goals one step at a time. So hey, what the hell, better give it a shot. I need to get those damn pointy rocks out of my hiking shoes.