How to deal with the sting of rejection
A few years ago I was riding high, feeling exhilarated about a job I was interviewed for. It was for Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for a large retail company. The company’s footprint was HUGE. And did I mention that they had a really irresistible “cool factor”?!
With each round of interviews, I got more and more personally invested and excited! The commute would take 10 minutes. The person who would be my boss seemed awesome, plus this was the highest-level position I’d ever interviewed for. I felt certain that I could stretch myself in this job and make a difference in an area I care deeply about.
Just as I found out I cleared all of the final interviews, the recruiter told me I was ready for the final step: to take an aptitude test.
“Oh craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap,” I thought.
Standardized testing has *never been* my strong suit. In fact, even writing about it now makes my pulse quicken. But later that night, after I put my twins to bed, I got out my computer and took a series of challenging, time-bound aptitude tests.
It was a disaster.
The next morning, I got a “thanks but no thanks” email from the recruiter, without any elaboration. Ouch.
Have you had a moment like this? Where you got really invested in an outcome, where momentum was building in a positive direction, but it didn’t work out?
In moments like these, plenty of us default to blaming ourselves for the 52 ways we are inadequate and lacking. I know I was tempted to do that.
But then I realized – just like in the Olympics – nobody wins all the time. We win some and we lose some. And every time, we learn more about where we do or don’t fit. And what skills or aptitudes we really want to flex.
We all have a choice of how to frame a painful situation, and to get back up and keep trying. Next time you face the sting of a rejection, try these methods for moving forward and moving on!
Quick Confidence Tips to Deal with Rejection:
Embodied: Don’t dwell with your body. The awkwardness of being seen for who we really are, flaws and all, makes it easy to want to hide. Or to flush with embarrassment! After all, our bodies are taking signals from our brains all the time about how to present. So rather than compounding a feeling of shame or embarrassment with messages like, “I better hide,” or “I better get out of here,” tell your body the opposite. Say, “I’m absolutely fine as I am,” or “I’m perfectly imperfect,” or “I love getting to show up authentically as me.” The beauty is, it allows you and your body to realize life does not depend on this one situation going well.
Interpersonal: Own your insecurities. When you own your insecurities, it’s hard for people to use them against you. I could have predicted that I wouldn’t shine in the testing portion of the interview. I could have raised that issue, owning that testing is a struggle for me and asking to explore other avenues. It doesn’t mean the recruiter would have agreed to an alternative, but being quietly ashamed and wanting to keep my insecurities a secret gave them more power. So next time you feel compelled to hide an imperfection for fear of embarrassment, try being honest and real about your insecurities instead. Own them and communicate them, so they don't own you.
Mindset. Put a time limit on your rumination. Rumination is proven to be bad for both our physical and mental health. And yet as humans, we practically have a compulsion to ruminate when we’re feeling vulnerable, rejected, and licking our wounds. (By the way, after my rejection, I also had a compulsion to eat nonstop Oreos and drink Rosé). The point is, give yourself a time limit - like 48 full hours - for steeping in your rejection and then commit to moving on. This allows you to process the real and true sting of what hurt you, but not get sidelined by it.
While rejection hurts, the pain is temporary. After all, who among us hasn't been doubled over from the pain of rejection in the moment, but found that after some months, it was "no big deal" any more?
Remember, rejection doesn't mean you aren't good enough. It means the other person failed to notice or value what you offer. So don't waste these moments. Use rejection to show yourself - and the world - how serious you are about going after your dreams.