As a married mother, a therapist, and a novelist, I’d like to think my worst rejections are behind me. (Wouldn’t we all like to think that?) But small rejections abound every day.
We can feel rejected by our kids who, despite our best efforts, only want Daddy; we can feel rejected at work, where we’re not in with a certain clique, or where our contributions are not recognized; we can feel rejected by our spouses, who miss our cues or overlook our offerings; we can feel rejected by friends who get busy, or by people we wish would be our friends.
Most of us shake these off, most of the time. But how to handle the ones that prove unusually sticky?I’m not writing this from some distant, clinical perspective. I spent five years writing novels that no literary agent wanted to sell. This past year, I broke through and found an amazing agent who connected me with an equally amazing publisher. My novel will be out in July (more details to follow! forgive the shameless plug)!
But those five years, and all that rejection–it stung. And when I try to befriend a parent at my daughter’s daycare and she’s either too busy or not interested–it stings. And when my daughter screams bloody murder to be let out of my arms–that stings, too. And when I write what I think is a perfectly good post and no one “likes” it or “retweets”–well, you get the point.
So this is my deeply personal list of suggestions for how to handle life’s small (and big) rejections. Feel free to disagree, or chime in with your own.
1) Figure out why it stings so bad.
That’s always the place to start. We teach our kids they’re going to get knocked down in life and need to brush themselves off and get back up. We do it all the time ourselves. So why this, and why now?
It could be all about the timing. Maybe we’ve had too many rejections in a row, death by a thousand paper cuts. Or maybe we’re not feeling so great about ourselves and whatever the rejection is seems to confirm our worst fears.
Being curious about your own feelings is the first step.
2) Once you’ve got more information, think through your options: namely, can you change it, or do you need to accept it?
For example, maybe you want to send one more e-mail to the person you’d like to befriend before giving up. Or maybe it’s time to hold onto your pride and just let that one go.
Maybe you want to write one more book, and see what happens. Or maybe you want to use your energy toward other things–say, take a class, or learn a new skill, or practice a hobby. (Not that I have any personal experience grappling with this…)
3) Think whether you were mistreated, and whether you need to speak up.
Some rejections are just about other people’s personal preferences (the cool mom from daycare doesn’t HAVE to hang out with us, alas). But in some cases, if we’re being ridiculed or disrespected, we may need to speak up. If it’s a work situation in particular, we might want to file a complaint or take some other recourse. (See my archived post, Assertiveness for Beginners, for more on this.)
4) If you’ve experienced rejection from someone you feel close to, you should almost certainly speak up. Your spouse might not realize it felt like rejection, and you want to share that information as it could guide his/her future choices of how to handle situations.
5) If you’re feeling rejected a lot, from all different fronts, you have to ask yourself: Is it them, or is it me? Because you’re the common denominator. It might mean you’re under high levels of stress that have overtaken your resources to cope.
You may need to make some changes externally or internally, possibly with the help of a mental health professional.
Rejection form image available from Shutterstock.