Rejection is a gift that comes in many different packages:
Vague: “We’ve decided to go in another direction.”
Polite: “We are moving forward with another candidate.”
Fake: “I’m just not looking for anything serious at the moment.”
Slap: “No, thank you. You’re awful.”
But either way, the end result always feels the same. Horrible.
What’s wrong with me? Who is this other candidate that’s so much better? I’m PERFECT for this job. What do you mean you’re not looking for anything serious? You told me literally the opposite last week.
Being a creative person trying to navigate through life, I experience plenty of no’s. I think what’s gotten me through quite a bit in life is my belief that rejection isn’t real. Or at least it isn’t what people make it seem. Anything that has a direct impact on you can seem like a much bigger deal in your mind, but someone saying no isn’t always necessarily what you think it means.
Rejection, in theory, is difficult because it feels like an attack on your insecurity. We’re trained to think that not getting something/someone that you want, directly correlates with something being wrong with you. In reality, there are so many things in life that are outside of your control. The sooner that you accept that you can only control the controllables, the happier you’ll be.
What are controllables?
There are very few things in life that are truly controllable:
How much you prepare for something.
The way that you present yourself.
Your reaction to an end result.
But what I just mentioned are questionable at best as being truly controllable. Being prepared for something depends on both personal effort and knowing what to expect. Let’s say you’re going into an interview. You can read about the history of the company. You can practice answers to questions that you will likely get asked.
But what if they ask if you’re familiar with software that you’ve never heard of before? Or what if they expect you to have a ton of experience and you just graduated? Not being exactly what a company is looking for is not something that is in your control. How does it benefit you to be stuck at a job where you won’t be a good fit?
Or let’s take the way that you present yourself. The only thing that you really are able to control is making sure that you put your best self forward. What you can’t control is the way that you are received. Communication travels in two different directions. (1) The message you’re trying to convey and (2) The message that people perceive.
For example, let’s say you’re talking to a new guy that you’re interested in. You pride yourself in being extremely upfront and direct so you tell him that you like him a lot and that you would love to go out on a date. Your direct confidence can be perceived as coming on too strong. But at the same time, is that necessarily a bad thing? Do you really want to be with someone that can’t handle someone who is strong, powerful and direct? Whoops.
Even your reaction is not something that is truly a controllable. You can do your best to mitigate a response. If you receive a rejection letter, you can go about it several ways. You can totally ignore the letter and never speak to them again. You can politely say thank you. You can cuss them out and send them an angry response. You can even ask for feedback on how to improve for your next interview.
But any of those reactions can be taken the wrong way. By ignoring a rejection, it can seem like you never cared in the first place. If you politely say thank you, that can be perceived as being insincere. When you cuss them out, you can seem like a psycho (ok, not too many different ways to receive this particular message). By asking for feedback, you can come off as desperate. You just never really know.
Rejection does not correlate with your self-worth
The reason why rejection is so difficult to handle is because we are trained to believe that there’s a connection between acceptance and value. It’s human nature to want to be desired and accepted by others. Try turning the tables.
Let’s say an ideal world would be where every job you apply for extends you an offer. How would you choose which one is best for you? You would consider multiple factors:
Is this something that you can see yourself doing longterm? Is there a lot of growth opportunity there? What kind of commute are you going to have each morning and evening? What are the benefits? How much money are they offering you upfront and how much potential income will you be making?
Many different factors go into making a decision like this until you finally decide what’s best for you. When you decide on the perfect job, does that necessarily mean you hated all the other places that made you an offer? Or was something horribly wrong with every other company? While each option had their strengths and weaknesses, you ultimately choose what will be most compatible with your long term goals.
It works the same way when companies are choosing among different candidates or when people are looking for a significant other. When being faced with rejection, we have a tendency to beat ourselves up over it and get into a mindset that suddenly we’re not good enough.
But the real question should be what makes that company or person better than you? What factors put them at a level that is higher? The answer is nothing. Compatibility is the most important aspect of a business/personal relationship. If that isn’t there, then neither of you will benefit. The only person who can determine your self-worth is you. We are all special and unique. You should only work at a place that really wants you on their team and you should only be with someone who truly wants to be with the real you. The sooner that you’re able to accept that and yourself, the sooner you’ll be able to move beyond rejection as a whole.