How to Overcome the Pain of Rejection and Come Out Stronger

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At an early age, we learn that we don’t get everything we want. When I was a child, I thought it would be a great idea to have a unicorn for a pet. Besides the fact that my request is impossible to fulfill, my parents were not interested in adding another mouth to feed. I was heartbroken for a minute, but I was able to move on to my next want: A dolphin! We learn to be resilient and move on to the next desire. However, despite these experiences, as adults, many people have trouble dealing with rejection.

People react to rejection in many ways.

One way someone may respond to rejection may be demonstrating anger or resentment toward the person they view as rejecting them. Conversely, others may embrace rejection as an incentive to push themselves until they obtain what they want. For instance, a family member applied to a graduate school he thought would be great for his career. He was rejected. Several months later, he received an invitation to apply again and so he did. He was rejected a second time. Undaunted, he applied to another school and was accepted. He understood that rejection is a part of the process and he did not allow that to deter him from his goal of attending graduate school.

Another instance where you may face rejection is during a job interview. Many candidates may blame their rejection on the incompetence of the interviewer. In some cases, this may be true. However, it’s important to consider there may be other reasons why you were not selected. Interviewers won’t typically volunteer this information, but you could ask the interviewer for purposes of improvement, you would appreciate any outlook on areas you could strengthen your opportunities for employment.

So, How Do You Overcome Rejection?

  1. Allow yourself to feel disappointed. It’s natural to feel hurt. Suppressing your emotion can have a negative effect. Once you have acknowledged your feelings, let it go. You want to use your energy to find alternative solutions including improving and trying again.
  2. Don’t take rejection personally. There are many reasons you may have been denied. You may not have the necessary skills when seeking a job, have enough experience, or you were not a good fit for what is needed. Many times, the denial has nothing to do with you. It could mean that timing was off, or the budget was cut for the position.
  3. Find the wisdom in the denial.
    I believe that every experience is designed to make us better. Rejection is no exception. Ask yourself, what is the lesson in this situation? How does this make me stronger? Maybe you could have been more prepared. Chalk it up as learning “what not to do” and now you can try another solution. This may be an opportunity to become better and stronger. Ask yourself, what is the lesson in this experience?
  4. Don’t allow that one rejection to define who you are.
    What one person rejects; another person accepts. You know you better than anyone else.
  5. Don’t give up.
    Use rejection as motivation to achieve your goals. Remember, every “no” leads you closer to your “yes”.
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When Rejection is Personal

In some cases, rejection may be somewhat personal.  But it may be in your best interest to get rejected. For instance, if you don’t have an aggressive personality, do you want to pursue a career that requires one? You may have also dodged the bullet of a company that has a toxic culture or a toxic boss. Life is too short to work where you are tolerated. That denial could be a blessing in disguise.  It may take a rejection to get you to success.

There’s no doubt that rejection can be painful.  But, use rejection to your benefit. People who accept rejection and don’t give up are usually the ones who eventually get that acceptance.   Sometimes, the very fact that you are persevering is what turns the tables from rejection to acceptance. What can be a setback in your career can be a setup for success. Who knows? The next opportunity may be an excellent fit for you. You won’t know unless you keep going!

So Don’t Quit!

Founder | Phenomenal Image
Nancy Gettridge is founder and principal of Phenomenal Image.  Her passion is helping aspiring women achieve their dream careers (Her guilty pleasures are playing Design Home, reading and suspense movies).  Nancy frequently writes about gender bias in the workplace. Key topics include career development and strategy, leadership, and overcoming workplace issues.
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