Rejection is something that we all experience from time to time. Some secretly believe they face it more than others, but it is actually quite universal.
The rejection I speak of is not limited to the heartbreaks of romantic liaisons. It is the message interpreted from a parent’s dissatisfaction with your grades(despite your best efforts), their unavailability, or their judgement of your friends. It is not getting an invitation to a classmate’s party or bearing the brunt of too much teasing/bullying. It is the aloofness of someone close or their constant reprimands.
Exclusion from a sports team, the job we didn’t get, the assignment we were refused, the book one couldn’t get published or that didn’t sell, or the entrepreneurial venture one was unable to fund – these can all add to our personal testaments to our secret sense of unworthiness.
Our reaction to all this is based on our interpretation of such events, and not necessarily the facts: The common conclusion being that who we are, or what we offer is unwanted, unloved or unacceptable.
Being rejected wounds. It hurts our self-esteem, creates self-doubts, and more often than not, leads to defensive measures such as attack or withdrawal. So we may end up criticizing, dismissing or arguing with what has come our way. Or we may end up contracting, judging ourselves (and the other), and sometimes even giving up. The last one can cost us heavily.
A decision to no longer offer of ourselves, or honestly request what we would like – out of the fear of rejection – can result in an inauthentic, disgruntled life, and a waste of potential.
On the other hand, when we becoming more willing to experience the discomfort of rejection, even welcome it, it makes us freer to be ourselves, to experiment, to learn, to adventure and to grow. It dissolves our indulgence in untested, unproductive fantasies – for now, we are willing to take our boats out to sea and test them in the waters, learn from trial and error.
How many dreams are you actually forsaking by your unwillingness to accept a ‘no’?
How much would change if you could receive rejection, criticism and failure,
just the same as acceptance, praise and success?
Without making any of these significant or definitive of who you be?
As is with most issues, the fundamental reason rejection seems so crippling is our tendency to take it personally. To let the rejection define us instead of seeing it as a temporary experience. It triggers our basic fears of ‘not being good enough’, ‘not belonging’, and the original wound of separation(from Source). All sense of objectivity, rationality and moderation can be lost. We end up feeling abandoned, isolated, and lonely.
What if you could view rejection as a pointer to a different route?
One more apt for you at this time?
So how can we reframe rejection ? Instead of trapping ourselves into a resigned or self-pitying state, reminding ourselves of the following can be helpful:
- This is neither permanent nor a definition of who you are. Who you are is simply experiencing this. You can choose not to see it as a setback but as an opportunity for change. And not receiving the love, validation or approval that you were seeking here does not imply that you are not worthy of it, nor that you will forever be denied the same. If anything, it is a check to remind us to be kinder, more forgiving and accepting of ourselves.
- What we are seeking may not be a match to what is in our highest interest at this point: Whether it be a relationship or circumstance, what we desire comes from our limited experience and understanding. In hindsight, we often find that what we mourned as denied to us turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Everything comes with its pros and cons and while we are busy fixating on what we missed out on, we may fail to see the price we were saved.
- One may not be ready: Receiving feedback, criticism or refusal objectively can provide us gems of insights. We may need to study/practise more, or need more exposure, or learn to be more accommodating, or set better boundaries, or be less clingy… being willing to accept such information and working on doing the needful can lead to our own evolution and growth. Self-acceptance and self-forgiveness does not imply stagnation. It means a more realistic and kinder approach. Then, what you were refused today may be yours tomorrow – when you are prepared enough.
- The other may not be ready: Sensing the potential in a partnership, situation or project, we may have offered or requested something that our targetted audience does not yet see, or sees, but is not yet ready for.
- It is not yet time: Even if you are meant to be with that person, get that promotion, make a difference with your NGO, or have that box-office movie success – things may simply be cooking yet. No seed transforms into a flowering tree before its time. Perhaps all that is required is patience.
The lessons we learn from being on the receiving end can also serve as pointers to kinder and truer ways of turning others down. The cliched “It’s not you, it’s me.” rarely rings true and can often seem condescending. At a deeper level, it is still making things personal – we are targeting the blame and invoking guilt in ourselves, if not the other. Bearing in mind points 1-5 above, we can do our best to communicate our rejection in a way that simply acknowledges the current mismatch of things. How it lands is in the recipient’s hands. But, we can at least ensure that we have not turned this into an intentional or accidental personal attack to the best of our abilities.
As always, I write from personal experience. Having had my fair share of rejections on both the personal and work front, I have found the above approach to have been useful and liberating. I find that the greater my comfort with facing rejection, the more authentic and explorative I have become. There is a lightness and ease that is not there when one is resisting rejection.
Drawing on this experience, I have helped many sensitive and artistic people address this subject. Here is a link to some clearings that I had recorded for one such client. Perhaps some of you, especially those in the creative fields, may find them helpful: Listen here.
If you find any of this useful, please share it on. The more of us singing our own song uninhibitedly, the more joyful the world becomes.
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