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How to Build Resilience in the Face of Rejection

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

Like a toddler who wants to stick a finger in a light socket, or taste a cricket, or help drive the car, sometimes life says "no". To live is to experience rejection, and there's no way around it, only through it. It's the great equalizer, indiscriminate and pervasive, planting seeds of self-doubt in people's professional and personal lives. At best, repeated rejection can make you feel unworthy or unloved. At worst, these feelings can cannibalize, turning you against yourself leading to anger and self-loathing.

Although some handle it better than others, there are general rules for keeping a level head, even for those more sensitive its sting. The first starts with prepping the mind prior to a situation in which the probability of rejection is high or relatively high. Examples might include joining a dating service or applying for a job. Before going in, make a list of all your positive qualities. Are you a good listener? Do you prioritize the feelings of others? Do you work well in a collaborative environment?

Studies have shown that consistent reminders about self-worth can build resilience and make rejection less likely to send you down a spiral of negative self-talk. Think of it like stretching before a workout. Preparing the appropriate muscles before activity helps prevent injury. The same concept applies to emotional health.

Another solid tactic can be taking yourself out of it and remembering it's not always about you. Many times, all parts of an equation must line up perfectly for things to work out. If you're one of hundreds of job applicants, for example, even with the necessary education and experience, you may be up against dozens of others similarly qualified. In fact, sending in online applications has been studied. When it comes to advertising positions, about two percent of applicants get a response. The rest hear crickets. Understanding probabilities like this one might help you disengage from a negative outcome.

In this same vein, remembering that everyone--say it again, everyone--gets rejected can serve to lessen feelings of unworthiness. Twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter manuscript before Bloomsbury picked it up. Jack Handey, a prolific humorist who's written books and worked for SNL (remember "Deep Thoughts" and "Fuzzy Memories"?) recently reported in an interview that fifty percent of his submissions to The New Yorker got rejected. Someone tells Jack Handey "no" half the time. Let these statistics fall over you and provide perspective.

In conclusion, avoiding rejection won't help; it's inescapable. The best thing to do then, is prepare yourself by practicing resilience-building techniques like these. Put a reminder in your phone if you have to. At 3 p.m. every day, let that beep in your pocket reaffirm your value and the universality of refusal. And whatever you do, never give up. The more noodles you throw at a wall, the higher the chance one will stick.

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