How to handle rejection

How to handle rejection

Have you ever felt betrayed by a friend? Have you dropped a friendship, only to realize that you over-reacted–that perhaps your hurt feelings hadn’t come from rejection but from an incorrect perspective? Rejection is a double-edged sword, I think. While it’s swinging, it’s taking out people on all sides.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You’ve introduced a friend to another friend, and before long, they’ve moved on without you, BFFs together.
  • You’ve collaborated on a team project that another member takes the credit for—or worse yet–cites you as a problem participant.
  • You’ve invested deeply in a relationship, only to experience betrayal or ejection from the other person.
  • You’ve labored over your calling, your craft, your art, or your sport, but you are criticized, dismissed, or passed over for opportunities, even by people you trusted.

People will hurt and reject you. You will hurt and reject people. Severing a relationship will always feel like an amputation, but healing is always possible (although it will hurt like heck to mend).

If any of this rings true to you (a.k.a. you’re a normal human being), here are a few suggestions for handling rejection so you don’t become a hermit, a snob, or a psychopath. (Is that a bit dramatic?) Maybe at a base level, we’re just talking about preventing bitterness and prolonged pain:

  1. Assess: What are your expectations with people? With work? With God? Are you putting your emotional responsibilities on others? (i.e. “My job/my spouse should make me happy.”) Perhaps, your feeling of rejections aren’t rejections at all—just responses to someone else coping with life the best she can.
  2. Designate: Put your relationships and responsibilities into the appropriate circles. For example, most people have only “five to eight really close friends.” (How many intimate friendships are you trying to maintain?)
  3. Own: Take ownership for your part in relationship break-downs. How has your communication, attitude, perspective, demands, or approachability contributed to the rejection you feel? Perhaps you have pulled away emotionally from a person or a job long before it pulled away from you. If you’ve been victimized, you should get help to take charge of your recovery.
  4. Apologize: It’s a horrid feeling to all of a sudden recognize that you are responsible for something you’ve previously assigned to someone else. Say you’re sorry and make amends. You’ll be surprised how forgiving people are if you just confess and apologize.
  5. Move forward: Rejection can immobilize you emotionally, spiritually, or physically. Choose to “get back on the horse.” You got overlooked for a promotion? Apply for two more. Your proposal was rejected? Pitch it to someone else.
  6. Learn from it: Whether your hurt and rejection was warranted or not, you can learn from it. The temptation is to never venture out—never trust again—never be vulnerable. Many offenses have obvious perpetrators, but even in the worst situations, you can grow wiser and make different choices over time because of what you learn during hardship.

Don’t hide. Don’t ignore or excuse issues. Never choose a life of fear or avoidance over courage and victory. You will only lose the fight.

Check out this interview by CBS of social scientist Brené Brown: “Why echo chambers breed loneliness” or my blog reviewing her book Daring Greatly.

Because rejection isn’t just middle school drama. It’s real life, and the emotional shrapnel that follows rejection does serious damage if it’s ignored. Beauty and success come by practicing resilience.

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