Over the past few months when discussing life with friends, it seems we’ve all been in somewhat of a pickle. We’ve come face to face with the feeling of stagnation or maybe even back pedaling – difficulties in careers, school, and relationships have surfaced- but we don’t know what to do to be free from this trap we are mentally stuck in. Not being able to keep a job or even obtain your dream job. Not getting accepted into grad school after you spent weeks or months on the application. Losing a connection with a friend that you cared about. Often times these trails may result into learned helplessness – a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. I’ve realized, all of these scenarios have one thing in common. We don’t know how to move forward from rejection. Rejection leaves us feeling incompetent and unfit. Even neuroscientist have proven that rejection sensors activity in your brain that emulate physical pain. So how exactly do we master such an affliction? While checking my email this morning, I received notification of a TED podcast by Adam Grant about bouncing forward from rejection. The timing couldn’t be any better, so I decided I should share what I’ve grasped.
The Blame Game. Everyone has played this game at some point in their lives and trust me some are better at it than others. Imagine getting fired from every job you’ve worked at, applying to 6 different grad programs and getting denied by each one, or having every relationship end in the same hopeless tragedy. Some of us don’t have to imagine because it’s actually reality. For many, the natural instinct is to protect your ego. It’s not me, it’s you. We began to blame and belittle the other party because we are scorn from the rejection. After so many times of pointing fingers and reflecting the “It’s not me, it’s you” turns into “It’s not you, it’s really me.” You start the blame and question yourself. “Why does this always happen? What did I do wrong? What can I do to go back and fix it?” WE HAVE TO STOP DWELLING IN THE PAST. There is a difference between failure and rejection. Failure is more of your own control and rejection is in the control of someone else. But what we can control about rejection is how we analyze it. When rejected, the ultimate question is, who’s fault is it? Typically, there are two answers. Either blame yourself or blame others. However, blaming ourselves makes us frail and lowers our confidence. On the other hand, blaming others disables us from learning from our mistakes. Luckily, there is a third option. When majority of rejection occurs, the main reason is not individual specific but more so the relationship itself. The ‘fit’ between you and the other party involved. Rejection is not failure. It is a mismatch. When receiving negative feedback, if we attribute to the relationship rather than only the individuals involved, we won’t focus on who’s to blame or spitefulness. It will help us seek improvement.
Shooting your shot. You don’t know until you try. When you fear rejection before it happens you become vulnerable to yourself and everyone else. Instead, take it with a grain of salt which will allow you to become comfortable in your skin and help you realize it’s not the end of the world. Rejection hurts way more when you don’t seek it out and it comes unexpectedly. Especially when people reject what you believe is your very best. The goal is to become comfortable with rejections. Maybe take an opposite approach. Instead of making it a mission to be accepted, make it to be rejected. Yes, it does sound crazy because we all hate the “Although your resume was very impressive, we’ve decided to pursue other candidates at this time” or “I enjoy spending time with you but I don’t want a relationship right now.” No matter what rejections or how many you may face, there will be some acceptances out of those rejections. We have to alter our VSN and embody self-compassion. This will allow us to recognize that we are only human and everyone makes mistakes. Furthermore, to take responsibility for improving in the future without beating ourselves up about the past.
Identity Theft. Rejection hurts because it threatens our identity. Especially if the work you do is a reflection of your true self. It makes you feel that you aren’t cut to do certain things. We make a mistake of putting all our eggs in one basket. In reality we all have multiple identities/ social categories and can use that to our advantage. When one identity is threatened, we can lean on a different one. For example, one may be a mother, wife, historian, Atlantan, African American, and musician all in one. The characteristics and skills from each of these identities are transferrable. When people reject you it helps you to remember there is another you. When you are insecure in one aspect of yourself lean on the one that is doing better at the time. Resilience is key. You also have to consider who is evaluating you and your work? When you get rejected by an audience it doesn’t mean you’re not qualified for other roles or fields. Rejection also stems from steering away from principles or breaking away from expectations in a way that is unfamiliar or uncomfortable to the ‘norm’. Everyone does not have to love you and it’s okay.
“You live and you learn, I learned from my hurt.” Summer Walker basically describes post traumatic growth at its best. Yes, our sense of strength often results from success. However, hardships can manifest that as well and birth a greater sense of personal fortitude. So, anything you’re hesitant to do, do it anyway! Use it as an opportunity to learn, which will diminish fear and contribute to growth.